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Advice Please Plumbers bill

Advice Please Plumbers bill

Old Mar 8th 2009, 8:23 am
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Unhappy Advice Please Plumbers bill

Hi I am after some advice as to where we would stand legally.

I phoned a plumbing firm a few weeks ago after asking around friends who they had used etc and one name kept coming up as good so I called said firm.

Explained what it was that I nedded doing. Installing a uv filter and 2 filters by our water pump which is in the back of the garage and install another filter under the kitchen sink. Explained make of filtration system to which their reply was 'yeah I know which ones you mean. Will be about $300 - $600.'

I had a quick discussion with hubby while he was on the phone on hold and agreed to his quote asking when was he available to fit.

Could fit first thing in the morning, or a date late the following week.

I agreed to the following morning.
Phone rang at 8am he was running late will be with us about 9.30.
On arriving he looked at what is was that we needed fitting took it all out of the box, he could also see the water pump etc He just took a quick look at filtre that we wanted fitting under kitchen sink. (He knew pluming of house as he was the one who plumbed it as a new build 12 months previously.

He then explained he wont be completing the work but an employee will be along shortly.... Turned up job completed etc etc no issues nice work. Dragged his feet a littel but nowt major.


I got the bill on Saturday morning for nearly $1,100. Nearly double the top end of estimate.

He has written a little note on the bottom stating he knows he gave a quote on the phone and this is a lot more than quoted. It is what it took to complete the job and the job was alot bigger than what I had said.

Where do we stand legally should he have not said when he saw the job first thing in the morning that I had grossly under stated the job? How I can do that I'm not sure. I know that I am not the only person in NZ to have one of these water filters fittedso surely he has fitted a few prior to me to know exactly what is involved with fillting a full filtration system.

Should they have not told me at some point through the job that it was costing more than estimated?


Any advice greatly appreciated.
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Old Mar 8th 2009, 10:46 am
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Default Re: Advice Please Plumbers bill

I don't know how you stand legally but have you got a breakdown of that figure..if the increased amount is all mainly parts and you can verify those costs are reasonable, then you may decide it's an honest mistake.
If it's all labour, then I think he's just trying to take a 'cashed up Pom' for a ride.

I know there is supposed to be a difference between a quote and an estimate but as it was verbal who knows which yours was, an estimate I think is the one which they are allowed to exceed but you could have expected sth to be said when he sized up the job for real.

Lesson for future to get a broken down quote in writing I suppose.

http://www.consumeraffairs.govt.nz/c...fo/quotes.html Some good suggestions in there such as getting someone else to price the job up and compromising in the middle.

Last edited by luvwelly; Mar 8th 2009 at 10:53 am. Reason: add link
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Old Mar 8th 2009, 11:09 am
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Smile Re: Advice Please Plumbers bill

Originally Posted by Newfies View Post
I phoned a plumbing firm...Will be about $300 - $600.'

I got the bill on Saturday morning for nearly $1,100. Nearly double the top end of estimate.
No written quote = .

However with his admission of guilt (did he give his quote figure on his note as well?) you may have some comeback. First ring him and offer to pay him the $600 but say you're a little unhappy to pay more and that you may seek legal recourse if you can't come to some arrangement. Hopefully he will be reasonable and drop it by at least $300.

Or just do what I did when the toilet I bought from <Something that rhymes with humming> world sent me my bill after cocking up the order which would have cost me hundreds to put right. I wrote them a firmly worded letter and sent them a copy of the plummers bill for his extra time with a check for the outstanding amount...less the bill . They sent me a receipt which said the outstanding amount was $0. Good stuff .
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Old Mar 9th 2009, 5:17 am
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Default Re: Advice Please Plumbers bill

The bill should be within 20% of the estimate. Checked on the consumer website and this is what it said:

Disputing an estimate
[Date]

Letter disputing an estimate

Dear ...

[Address and estimate number if there is one]

On [date] you [describe work] for me.

You will remember that I asked how much the work would cost and you gave me an estimate of [amount].

I was shocked when yesterday I was told the charge would be [amount]. This was almost [half as much again or whatever] as the estimate you gave me.

I pointed out the large difference but you said I had to pay or else you would hold my [item if it is the repair of a product].

Under duress I paid, but I have now taken advice from [name] and am told that in law a final price should be close to the estimate - certainly no more than 20 percent above.

I ask that you refund [amount] within seven days. As you will see, I have allowed what I consider to be a reasonable margin for unexpected costs you may have failed to include in your estimate.

I look forward to receiving your payment.

Yours sincerely
Point of Law

Estimates are approximate prices. Nevertheless they must be close to the mark. Tradespeople and professionals are experts in their field of work and they should give figures that are close to the true cost of jobs. In our opinion you can challenge an account that is more than, say, 20 percent above an estimate. Always ask to be contacted if unforeseen problems crop up during a job.
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Old Mar 9th 2009, 1:58 pm
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Default Re: Advice Please Plumbers bill

Originally Posted by Newfies View Post

I got the bill on Saturday morning for nearly $1,100. Nearly double the top end of estimate.

He has written a little note on the bottom stating he knows he gave a quote on the phone and this is a lot more than quoted. It is what it took to complete the job and the job was alot bigger than what I had said.

Where do we stand legally should he have not said when he saw the job first thing in the morning that I had grossly under stated the job? How I can do that I'm not sure. I know that I am not the only person in NZ to have one of these water filters fittedso surely he has fitted a few prior to me to know exactly what is involved with fillting a full filtration system.

Should they have not told me at some point through the job that it was costing more than estimated?


Any advice greatly appreciated.
First of all: welcome to New Zealand! This kind of situation is what has helped to 'break' us, we are just far too tired after 6 years here of having to keep fighting the constant being ripped off, the more-than-estimated or quoted fees, the appalling workmanship from tradespeople that costs us even more to rectify ,,,, over and over and over again. You can fight these people at disputes tribunal, but even if your case is clear cut you still too often walk away having to pay half of the disputed amount, as judgement almost always goes along the lines of 'well, the 'fairest' (yea right) thing to do is to split the amount in dispute between the disputing parties'.

What you can do is to pay the guy the maximum that you think you should pay (the estimate was for $300-$600. They've put you on the spot now, haven't they, with such a whopper of an amount OVER the estimate, so that you will now feel thankful to end up paying 'just' the maximum estimated amount of $600! ). So say you decide that $600 is what you're willing to pay (i.e. the 'fair price'). So pay that amount, but accompany the payment with a letter stating that you dispute (use that exact word) any further amount they are charging, and explain why. For instance:

a) that they had quoted you a price range of no more than $300 to $600, and
b) that they did not inform you at any time before or during the job that the price would not only be more, but would be substantially more, than what they had originally quoted in their estimate ($1100 is more than 3 1/2 times the low end of their estimate to you!). They denied you any opportunity to decline having the job done at an unexpectedly high price, and/or a price that you may not even have the money, or be able to afford, to pay!
and
c) that even their bill to you has a note that clearly states that the actual price they are billing you for is much more than what they quoted to you (NB: because of this note, by the way, you probably don't have to worry about lack of 'proof' about the original verbal estimate.)

You might also want to point out and emphasize in the letter that the $600 you are paying is already the very maximum amount in the price range that they quoted to you, and that based on their quote you could even have expected to pay possibly much less than this!

So here's how it works in NZ:

When a customer does not pay the full price billed, a company has three choices:
1) to pay a collection agency to pursue payment from the customer, or
2) to submit a complaint to the disputes tribunal, forcing customer to a tribunal hearing where an enforceable judgement will be made, or
3) To just 'leave it', as pursuing it will risk further money 'lost'

Now, if you write a letter ASAP to the company 'disputing' (again, you must use the exact word 'dispute') the amount charged, they can't go to a collection agency, as if a bill is disputed by the customer, it can only be sorted at disputes tribunal (and only then if the company still wishes to pursue the matter).

Once you've paid the most you're willing to pay, and written to the company explaining that you dispute any further charges, the onus is now on the company (and not YOU) to take matters further. If they go to a collection agency (highly unlikely as they have to pay the agency no matter what the outcome), the collection agency will then contact you and you will immediately tell them that "the charges are in dispute", at which point the collection agency cannot legally take matters further. If the company chooses to go to disputes tribunal (which also costs them some money in fees), their only other option, you will get notice from the tribunal to attend a hearing where you will give your (hopefully well-prepared) case against the company - and as you have a very good case, the worst you should lose is either an extra $120 (20% of the top end of the estimate quoted), or possibly $250 (half of the disputed amount).

One other thing you should do: contact as many plumbing firms as you can ASAP and ask them for an estimate of cost for the job that you've just had done (don't tell them your situation, or that the job has already been done. If they know that, they might give you a different 'story' altogether). Be sure to note down the name of each firm you speak to and their estimated price, for future reference, as this could help back up your case. Oh, and while you're at it.... ask each firm you call how they deal with situations where the actual cost turns out to be higher than their estimate!! Ask them if it's (their) common practise to go ahead and do a job and then only let you know the higher actual cost after the job is done!!! ANd then please report back here as to what they reply!!

Last edited by Black Sheep; Mar 9th 2009 at 3:11 pm.
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Old Mar 9th 2009, 5:11 pm
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Default Re: Advice Please Plumbers bill

We paid a roofer half of his bill, and told him he could have the other half once it rained and we could see the roof no longer leaked.

He never got the rest of his money, and was quite happy with that once he popped back to re-rectify the leak.

Seen him in the pub since, and he's never mentioned it.
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Old Mar 9th 2009, 9:39 pm
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Default Re: Advice Please Plumbers bill

Hi Newfies

As a tradesman in NZ I see this all the time. I'm quoting for stuff, only to be undercut with prices that I can see can't do the job, and guess what I don't get the job(s). Then I hear that the job cost has jumped more to what it should be, (and closer to my price).

I wouldn't be at all surprised if you were 'quoted' this price to get the work. Would you have used him if he told you the proper price, or would you have said, "oh I'll get some other prices as well". Human nature - we all want a bargin.

Black sheep's advice is spot on if you are the consumer. (on the other foot by the way as the tradesperson I ALWAYS go after all debts).

Sadly for you a verbal quote is just as good as the famous promise "Cheque's in the post";

Was this plumber a member of the master plumbers association. If so report him.

Or try Fair go (TV) they love this sort of thing.

It's a nasty lesson but learn from it
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Old Mar 10th 2009, 12:22 pm
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Default Re: Advice Please Plumbers bill

Originally Posted by Black Sheep View Post
First of all: welcome to New Zealand! This kind of situation is what has helped to 'break' us, we are just far too tired after 6 years here of having to keep fighting the constant being ripped off, the more-than-estimated or quoted fees, the appalling workmanship from tradespeople that costs us even more to rectify ,,,, over and over and over again. You can fight these people at disputes tribunal, but even if your case is clear cut you still too often walk away having to pay half of the disputed amount, as judgement almost always goes along the lines of 'well, the 'fairest' (yea right) thing to do is to split the amount in dispute between the disputing parties'.

What you can do is to pay the guy the maximum that you think you should pay (the estimate was for $300-$600. They've put you on the spot now, haven't they, with such a whopper of an amount OVER the estimate, so that you will now feel thankful to end up paying 'just' the maximum estimated amount of $600! ). So say you decide that $600 is what you're willing to pay (i.e. the 'fair price'). So pay that amount, but accompany the payment with a letter stating that you dispute (use that exact word) any further amount they are charging, and explain why. For instance:

a) that they had quoted you a price range of no more than $300 to $600, and
b) that they did not inform you at any time before or during the job that the price would not only be more, but would be substantially more, than what they had originally quoted in their estimate ($1100 is more than 3 1/2 times the low end of their estimate to you!). They denied you any opportunity to decline having the job done at an unexpectedly high price, and/or a price that you may not even have the money, or be able to afford, to pay!
and
c) that even their bill to you has a note that clearly states that the actual price they are billing you for is much more than what they quoted to you (NB: because of this note, by the way, you probably don't have to worry about lack of 'proof' about the original verbal estimate.)

You might also want to point out and emphasize in the letter that the $600 you are paying is already the very maximum amount in the price range that they quoted to you, and that based on their quote you could even have expected to pay possibly much less than this!

So here's how it works in NZ:

When a customer does not pay the full price billed, a company has three choices:
1) to pay a collection agency to pursue payment from the customer, or
2) to submit a complaint to the disputes tribunal, forcing customer to a tribunal hearing where an enforceable judgement will be made, or
3) To just 'leave it', as pursuing it will risk further money 'lost'

Now, if you write a letter ASAP to the company 'disputing' (again, you must use the exact word 'dispute') the amount charged, they can't go to a collection agency, as if a bill is disputed by the customer, it can only be sorted at disputes tribunal (and only then if the company still wishes to pursue the matter).

Once you've paid the most you're willing to pay, and written to the company explaining that you dispute any further charges, the onus is now on the company (and not YOU) to take matters further. If they go to a collection agency (highly unlikely as they have to pay the agency no matter what the outcome), the collection agency will then contact you and you will immediately tell them that "the charges are in dispute", at which point the collection agency cannot legally take matters further. If the company chooses to go to disputes tribunal (which also costs them some money in fees), their only other option, you will get notice from the tribunal to attend a hearing where you will give your (hopefully well-prepared) case against the company - and as you have a very good case, the worst you should lose is either an extra $120 (20% of the top end of the estimate quoted), or possibly $250 (half of the disputed amount).

One other thing you should do: contact as many plumbing firms as you can ASAP and ask them for an estimate of cost for the job that you've just had done (don't tell them your situation, or that the job has already been done. If they know that, they might give you a different 'story' altogether). Be sure to note down the name of each firm you speak to and their estimated price, for future reference, as this could help back up your case. Oh, and while you're at it.... ask each firm you call how they deal with situations where the actual cost turns out to be higher than their estimate!! Ask them if it's (their) common practise to go ahead and do a job and then only let you know the higher actual cost after the job is done!!! ANd then please report back here as to what they reply!!
Excellent advice, Black Sheep
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Old Mar 11th 2009, 1:13 am
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Default Re: Advice Please Plumbers bill

HI Thanks for all advice.

I have called a few plumbers today one of wich was willing to give me a rough estimate over the phone and at an extreeme price top end would be $500-600 also got some others calling me back!

Hubby has also made an appointment with some free legal advice centre for tomorrow but we have composed a letter in preparation to send to the plumbing firm as per black sheeps advice first scentence being we are writting to dispute the final cost of the bill ref no..........

All being well he will fax this tomorrow and I guess we will await response. He may tweak it following this legal centre advice

Will keep you all poosted.
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Old Mar 11th 2009, 1:16 am
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Default Re: Advice Please Plumbers bill

In the event you manage to win the day, I would also suggest that you complain to the PGDB.. They are s'posed to be the regulatory board and operate a disciplinary procedure.
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Old Mar 23rd 2009, 9:21 am
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Default Re: Advice Please Plumbers bill

Newfies, may I suggest on your behalf that from this point on, anyone who might have advice for you please send it to you via private message (PM). Probably best not to discuss this any further on an open forum. Whether you like it or not, this is now a 'game' and you're a player and you need to hold your cards real close to your chest now...

I will try to PM you myself, but have no time right now- but meanwhile, you can get free legal advice tomorrow on the phone, just give the gist of the situation and see what suggestions the legal help people might come up with about what options you have and what you might have to be careful about in regards to the 'invitation' to their offices afforded to you by the plumbing co (but BTW, don't always accept ALL legal advice that you're given here. Sorry no time to explain, just suggesting you not alway accept as the final word advice from even so-called 'legal experts', especially when the advice is that 'there's nothing you can do'!!)

P.S. I'm sending you a P.M in a minute, so check your messages...

Last edited by Black Sheep; Mar 23rd 2009 at 9:37 am.
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Old Mar 23rd 2009, 6:26 pm
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Default Re: Advice Please Plumbers bill

Originally Posted by Newfies View Post
Hubby saw free legal advice place and as per black sheeps advice the letter that was written was ok to send. They just advise us to state that the cheque that we are sending is for full and final payment. If he cashes cheque he can not therefore take us to a tribunal for the remainder of said bill.

He can not take it to collection agency as the matter is in 'dispute' etc so just playing the waiting game now as to whether he will cash the cheque.

If he does then that will be the end of the matter.

So we are just sitting back and waiting in anticipation checking online banking regularly.
If it is cashed I will do as you suggested Bev and report him with a view to getting his license revoked. No more mrs nice gal from now on.

Thanks everyone for very sound and knowledgeable advice.

We had problems in 2004 in UK with new bathroom. Original price £4200 (we provided suite/mirrors/fitments/flooring. He took old suite out (roll top bath and loads of lead piping). Quoted max 4 weeks. lasted 11 weeks and created a flood in downstairs after new carpets laid! Finally left property 3 days before new tenantswere arriving and 3 weeks after I had come out of hospital.
We received an final invoice for £5980 having already paid £2100 up front.
I sent a letter disputing this invoice and asking for a detailed break down in costs. He added things to the materials section which we had provided. He made rediculous labour charges which were double the going rate and he double billed numerous items. All this we were able to prove.
Did that stop him harharassing- No way.
He then set a firm of debt collectors on to us.
We insisted it was a disputed debt. Made no odds.
Phone calls in the night- threatening letters. What would happen if 'self employed collectors' had to be sent round???
I was a hairs breadth from a total breakdown and my usual strong OH was suffering the same.
We instructed a solicitor, who advised us that this 'builder' a member of FMB ( which means sod all) hadn't got a leg to stand on.
He contacted the debt collection agency- told them to stop the harassment and start court proceedings, if they wanted the dispute settled. He explained he had seen all our evidence and considered K's accounting dubious and imaginative.
2 more threatening letters to us personally (not to solicitor as he had requested) Then the big wammy 'seeking CCJ for Bankruptcy!!
Office of Fair Trading, Trading Standards and FMB were all contacted and were absolutely useless.
The OFT expressed horror at the letters we received from D Cs and said they contravened all the guidelines they would be contacted to remind them of guidelines!
FMB notified me the builder had changed his name! Still a member- had been spoken to!
We arrived at bankruptcy court to find they hadn't. Never turned up!
Judge sympathized with us and awarded us costs and £3000 damages.
We had to pay our solicitors costs because the B*st*rd changed his name again! It would cost us more to try get costs and damages from him!
As for the debt collecting agency -it's still going strong and still scaring the sh*t out of law abiding 'citizens' of good standing.
They wouldn't dare mess with those who couldn't give a damn about the law or decent behaviour.
Now this occurred over a 20 month period- it was hell but it was in the UK, which is famed for rogue traders and builders from hell! but also clients from Hell, which I hasten to add, was not..
If Kiwi trades people are known/thought to operate a rip-off -brit system are there not enough ex-pat brit trades people who could band together under one umbrella name-
Pipes Rusted? Get a plumber who's trusted!
[then list members]
Naff I know- but something like that.

Sorry for going on, but reading your posts brought it all back. Needed to get it out of the system!
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Old Mar 23rd 2009, 6:30 pm
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Default Re: Advice Please Plumbers bill

Originally Posted by jennifer45 View Post
If Kiwi trades people are known/thought to operate a rip-off -brit system are there not enough ex-pat brit trades people who could band together under one umbrella name-
Pipes Rusted? Get a plumber who's trusted!
[then list members]
Naff I know- but something like that.

Sorry for going on, but reading your posts brought it all back. Needed to get it out of the system!
Thought of another!

Somethings Busted?
We can be trusted!

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Old Mar 23rd 2009, 7:52 pm
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Default Re: Advice Please Plumbers bill

Jennifer yours is a very sorry tale indeed and I feel for you, and that's because in 20 years of running a business I have been in a very simular situation, oh about 30 times. Only difference is all mine were customers! I can assure you that there are more bad customers than there are trades people.

The difference is no-one is worried about the trades person. His problems with customers doesn't make good telly programs. When he goes under because of bad debts it doesn't make the newspaper.

With only 2 exceptions all of my bad customers were people who through their own decisions caused the problems. That is after the job had started they moved the goal posts.

As I mention before I go after EVERY debt. and I did so with all of these. In 30 odd cases I never lost one. But did I get my money in all 30 odd. No. There are scumbag people out there who know every way there is in not paying and sadly I've worked for them.

When work goes bad everyone loses. All I can suggest, and this is for everyone, have a contract of works in place BEFORE work starts. Set out what is expected and to what standard work is to be done and when payment is to be made.

I used to do this and we'd get stuff signed off as being completed and the customer satisfied and then they'd not pay because, oh the cat had to go to the vet, the car needed tyres, electric bill was bigger then they expected - what ever. Not my problem. They'd signed a contract - I'd kept my side and now I was expected to give them time to complete their side !!!!!!! Wonder what they'd say if the boot was on the other foot?

Finally and this is for everyone in kiwi land.

Coming from the uk I have a UK work culture. That is - Here's the price for the job. Now if I can get that job finished in under expected time and get on to my next job I make more money. However some of the people I work with work so much slower because they are on an hourly rate. They have morning and afternoon smoko, lunch and wander around a bit and YOUR bill just keeps on going up.

I've been on so many sites where I've been there two days for a full 1st fix and the plumbers have taken all week. You are being ripped off!!!!!!!
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Old Mar 23rd 2009, 10:25 pm
  #15  
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Default Re: Advice Please Plumbers bill

Ahem ! Some plumbers are jolly good sorts who work their socks off for an honest crust .

I'd concur with Black Sheep. I'd be very careful about any 'invitation' to go and verbally discuss this with the company. It's a verbal agreement that got you into this mess. If that were me, I'd be shying away from any further verbal negotiations. I also agree that sometimes , even when someone with legal knowledge says there is nothing you can do , that it isn't always the case.

I was once told by a solicitor that there was nothing I could do about a tenant who defaulted and then did a bunk. I ignored that , held them accountable and had my day.

Good luck . I hope the firm come right for you.
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