The trader also quoted a significantly lower fee than he subsequently charged for the substandard works and failed to provide the victim with cancellation rights which is a legal requirement.
In a case brought by the Department for the Economy’s Trading Standards Service (TSS), Damien McCaughley (35) of Castle Lane Mews, Lurgan, County Armagh, trading as T/A Ground Force Contracts Ltd pleaded guilty to five charges under The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
At Laganside Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, March 21, he was given a conditional discharge, suspended for two years and ordered to pay £10,000 in compensation. The compensation must be paid within six months.
The victim engaged the services of the trader having obtained his contact details through an online platform which connects consumers with local tradespersons. The victim was initially quoted £8,000, however, an additional £4,500 was soon requested. The victim paid the £12,500 reluctantly. It quickly became apparent that the work was substandard and flawed.
As part of the investigation, the TSS commissioned an expert report on the works completed. This concluded that the contractor’s claim for an additional £4,500.00 was unjustified. It states that the entire concept of forming a car parking bay to this property is a fundamentally flawed concept. The construction work would not obtain the necessary statutory approval from DfI Roads Service, nor would the work comply with Permitted Development requirements of Planning legislation.
The report further states that “there are a number of inherent defects and deficiencies in relation to the design and construction of the retaining walls and the resurfacing work to the drive way and car parking bay”.
John Childs of the TSS said: “This is another example of a trader carrying out substandard and overpriced work, leaving his victim with huge remedial costs. At a time of rising prices and the increased cost of living, it is hugely important for consumers to have confidence in local tradespeople and to receive good quality workmanship and professional services.
"My advice is to never engage traders through an online intermediary and reputable traders do not cold call. TSS remains committed to investigating those traders that take advantage of consumers and do not comply with the law.”
The TSS offers the following advice for consumers seeking a reputable tradesperson:
- Ask your neighbours, family or friends for personal recommendations of tradespeople who have worked for them and carried out a good job.
- Speak to previous customers for references and view the work, where possible.
- Check that they are a member of a trade body with an arbitration scheme.
- Get everything in writing and agree a price.
- Never pay up front and never pay cash.
- Get at least three quotes.
- Always say no to doorstep sellers and be wary of online advertisements.
- Always get a detailed written quotation/contract and agree a price
Anyone who believes they have been similarly affected should contact Consumerline on 0300 123 6262.