OFT on deck after trader swims off with deposit

A Gold Coast trader has been fined $5000 and ordered to pay $3000 in compensation after being taken to court by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for accepting payment but failing to carry out the work.

Aaron Christopher Sykes, who trades under Gold Coast Maintenance and Construction, was found guilty of breaching the Australian Consumer Law in the Southport Magistrates Court on 14 November 2022.

The court heard that in September 2021, a consumer paid a $3000 deposit to Mr Sykes for the supply and installation of decking, lighting, and a pool filter lid cover. This job was due to commence in October 2021 but was delayed due to severe weather.

Between October 2021 and January 2022 Mr Sykes provided multiple reasons why the work could not commence. Mr Sykes later advised he could begin work on the 27 January but failed to arrive.

A refund or payment plan was not offered to the affected consumer, leaving them $3000 out of pocket.

Commissioner for Fair Trading Victoria Thomson said traders need to honour their commitments to consumers.

“We understand material costs for tradesman may have increased during the pandemic, but there are no excuses for tradesman to hold onto consumers money if they are unable to provide goods and services,” Ms Thomson said.

“If a contractor is asking you to pay the total amount before even starting the job this could be a red flag.

“You can ask the business if they will accept progress payments so that if the trader does not undertake the work, you are not left severely out of pocket.

“The OFT will continue to take up issues for consumers who do not receive what they have paid for.”

If consumers have paid for goods or services they have not received, they should raise the issue with the trader. If they are unable to resolve the issue with the business, they are encouraged to make a complaint to the OFT either online at www.qld.gov.au/fairtrading, or by calling 13 QGOV (13 74 68).