Avoiding Being Ripped Off

AN30-4-Maint_Sense-ToolsDaily we hear or read about people who have been ripped off or have purchased inferior products.

Even our government departments have got it wrong with the home insulation and now the solar hot water installations are being questioned.

With so many businesses to choose from, which one is best suited for the customer is an ever challenging nightmare.

The first steps in finding a credible and qualified person to suit you needs are:

• How long has the company or person been in business especially in your area?

• Can the business provide you with reputable customer references?

• Check out the person's qualifications and ABN number.

• Is the business that is selling you the goods qualified to install them or do they subcontract out to other persons and who are they?

• Does the business have the expertise to design an installation and supply quality equipment that will do the job and not be undersized?

Refurbishment and maintenance is usually the most costly item in any resort's annual budget.

It still amazes me that some body corporate members and building managers still outsmart themselves trying to save money by engaging cheap labour or purchasing inferior products. We are constantly reminded through the media about con artists and shonky tradespeople. Whether choosing an accountant, solicitor or purchasing something from eBay or, in fact, any product or service you should carry out your own investigation and be satisfied that your choice is the correct one.

Let's look at the tradespeople: Most of us are aware that tradespeople require some sort of qualification or be licensed to carry out certain works. In Queensland some trades must have a Building Services Authority licence to perform work no matter how small the job may be, whilst other trades only require a BSA licence if the work value exceeds $1100 (labour and materials inclusive).

In NSW the laws are much the same however to familiarise yourself with the requirements you may wish to visit the Building Services Authority (QLD) at www.bsa.qld.gov.au or the Department of Fair Trading (NSW) at www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au.

Some tradespeople lead their clients to believe that they are licensed with the BSA using a trade qualification number or a licence number from another recognised body. On both websites above you can also carry out your own licence check.

Remember if your handyman is not licensed to perform certain repairs like changing a power point etc don't risk your livelihood or assets by trying to save money. If an accident evolves from illegal work then your public liability policy will not cover you.

Hourly rates can vary considerably and although the cheapest rate is not always the best rate neither can be the dearest rate. Like you, tradespeople are also businessmen and have certain overheads to base their charge out rates on. Some businesses can operate at a lower overhead rate due to the minimal services that they can provide while other businesses provide a far greater range of services that require more expertise or training in their field creating a larger overhead cost.

To protect yourself you should have on file:

• The full names of the proprietors

• Their registered place of business (not a PO box number)

• Their ABN number

• Their licence number and what the licence qualifies them to do

• Their public liability policy number and date of expiry

• Their work cover policy number and expiry date

• Their work place health and safety schedule

• Their blue card registration number

If your tradespeople can not provide these details then remember that if something goes horribly wrong with the project then you may leave yourself open to litigation.

We can all relate to bad experiences in some form or another but here is a most recent heartbreaking problem a client experienced.

The client bought a new refrigerator with a cold water dispenser and ice maker; they engaged a plumber to connect the refrigerator to the cold water line. The plumber completed the job and was paid, however a short time later the connection to the refrigerator burst flooding the unit. The client contacted their insurance company and an investigation was carried out, the result was the plumber was not licensed so the insurance claim was rejected.

Choosing a product: Many entrepreneurs have flourished selling products that are either inferior or not made to Australian standards. Although not all products fall into these categories please ask these questions before purchasing.

• How long has the company selling the product been in business?

• Do they operate from a proper business premises?

• Does the product comply with local authority standards or Australian standards?

• Does the product carry a warranty?

• If the company selling the product goes out of business who do you contact for warranty?

• Check the warranty agent out and give them a call.

• What spare parts range is available and where can you purchase spare parts?

• Does the unit have an instruction manual or maintenance schedule?

Another case of buying cheap over quality arose when a client asked to have a new flick mixer installed in their sink. The contractor quoted $90 for a mixer that had a five year warranty on the cartridge. The client had recently seen a flick mixer on special for $38 and decided to save money and purchased and installed the new sink mixer. After some months the client went away for the weekend and you guessed it the flick mixer came apart and flooded the house and of course had no warranty.

Analysing a quote: Usually building managers gather the necessary quotations required for repairs or projects but have little or no say in their final decision. It is again unfortunate that to be a body corporate chairman or a committee member no formal qualification is necessary. From experience a larger percentage of quotations are accepted because they are the cheapest and no consideration is given to dollar value.

We have found that reminding the body corporate on how to analyse a quotation has done wonders for our success rate. Maybe you as a manager could offer the following advice to your body corporate members by presenting them with a quotation guideline form.

Some of the important questions are:

• How long has the tenderer been established in business?

• Is the tender fully itemised and all parties are clear on what the works entail?

• Does the tenderer hold the current qualifications and licences to perform the works?

• Will the tenderer subcontract the works out and to whom? Are subcontractors also qualified to carry out the works?

• Does the tenderer have a current public liability policy (minium $10 million dollars)?

• Does the tenderer have current work cover insurance?

• If required can the tenderer supply a work place health and safety risk assessment schedule for the project?

• What warranty is offered by the tenderer and or manufacturer?

• Do you have an itemised list of what the quotation includes?

• Do you have an itemised list of what the quotation excludes?

• In the event of a problem with the works can the tenderer be contacted to rectify the problem?

• Does the tender have the expertise to commission or fine tune the product?

• Will the tenderer on completion do a handover and supply manuals and warranty information for the products?

• Is the tenderer required to leave the premises tidy and debris free?

• Who will inspect the works prior to the final payment being released?

When asking for a quotation on certain works it is a good policy to prepare a specification of what you require for the tenderer to quote on. This keeps the tenderers on a level playing field.

Good competition is always healthy for you and your tenderer providing everybody understands fully what the project requires and that everyone is fully qualified to complete the scope of works.

Ken Adams
Adams Commercial Plumbing & Gasfitting

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