TWO 'bitumen bandits' have been hit with fines and made to pay restitution after being charged by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for ripping people off and breaking door-to-door trading laws.
William (Bill) Allen of Doncaster, England and Paul Salmon of Newark, England were each found guilty of 13 offences including failing to provide consumers with a written agreement, failing to provide consumers information about their cooling-off period termination rights, and making false and misleading representations in the Nambour Magistrates Court on Thursday.
They were each fined $50,000 and jointly ordered to pay $14,440 in restitution to two affected consumers. Convictions were recorded against both men.
The men were not present at the court case and the OFT understands Mr Allen and Mr Salmon have both fled the country, and OFT will now inform the Department of Immigration and Border Protection of these convictions in an attempt to prevent their return to Australia.
The court heard Mr Allen and Mr Salmon went door-to-door in the Sunshine Coast hinterland offering to lay and repair bitumen driveways.
The driveways laid were of very poor quality and the consumers were charged more than they were quoted. Mr Allen and Mr Salmon also failed to notify the consumers of their rights under the Australian Consumer Law.
In sentencing, the court considered the calculating nature of the offending and the expressed intent of both Mr Allen and Mr Salmon to deceive consumers, and handed down substantial fines to deter other traders from similar offending.
Mr Allen has twice been found guilty of similar offences, for which he was fined $27,000 and ordered to pay $6,234 in restitution on 10 March 2015 and fined $30,000 and ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution on 18 March 2015.
Fair Trading Executive Director Brian Bauer said bitumen bandits were notorious for travelling from place to place and ripping off Queenslanders.
"These con men approach consumers at their homes with offers of cheap bitumen driveways, usually saying the bitumen is left over from another job or needs to be used up," Mr Bauer said.
"They will use stand-over tactics to secure payments and often they simply take your money and run.
"If they perform the work at all, it is of such poor quality the driveway will begin to break up almost immediately and most consumers are forced to pay a reputable tradesman to clean up the mess.
"Be very wary of any trader who approaches you at home, and certainly don't hire any without doing your research. "Travelling con men are usually unable to produce proof of Australian building qualifications, and will often use fake business names and addresses."
The OFT encourages anyone approached by suspected travelling con men to take note of any identifying details including vehicle registration numbers, and immediately report them on 13 QGOV (13 74 68).
More information on avoiding itinerant traders is available from www.qld.gov.au/fairtrading.
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