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Fencer fined for gatekeeping deposits

24 February 2020

A Wavell Heights fencer has been ordered to pay $19,099 by the Brisbane Magistrates Court (21 February 2020) after charges were laid by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for breaching the Australian Consumer Law.

Jon Paul Lewis, operator of the business JPL Fencing, was found guilty of three counts of failing to supply goods and services within either a specified or a reasonable period of time.

Mr Lewis was fined $15,000, ordered to pay a total of $3,997.50 compensation to four affected consumers, plus court costs totalling $101.80. A conviction was recorded.

Mr Lewis did not appear in court and the matter was heard ex-parte.

The court heard that between August and December 2018, Mr Lewis accepted deposits from the consumers totalling nearly $4,000 for the removal and construction of gating and timber fencing on three properties on Brisbane’s north side.

In some cases before the consumers paid their deposits Mr Lewis advised the work would be undertaken in a matter of days. However, he did not commence any of the work, stringing some consumers on for a number of months.

Despite Mr Lewis agreeing to cancel some of the jobs and refund deposits, none of the affected consumers received any of their money back.

Subsequently Mr Lewis’s website and social media advertising pages were taken down and all further attempts by consumers to contact him for refunds were unsuccessful.

In sentencing, Magistrate Stephen Courtney noted Mr Lewis demonstrated a course of conduct over a period of time of not performing services for one consumer while continuing to take deposits from others.

Fair Trading Executive Director Brian Bauer said traders risked consumer confidence in the marketplace when they failed to supply goods or services that had been paid for.

“Under the Australian Consumer Law, businesses must not accept payment for products or services if they are not able to supply them,” Mr Bauer said.

“It is important for traders to understand and abide by their legal obligations.”

If consumers have paid for goods or services they have not received, they can lodge a complaint with the OFT online at www.qld.gov.au/fairtrading or by calling 13 QGOV (13 74 68).