Consumer watchdog turns up the heat on Ballarat solar and wind power business

Victoria’s consumer watchdog has commenced legal action against a solar and wind energy business for failing to supply paid for goods and services.

Consumer Affairs Victoria is alleging Ballarat-based Bailey Designed Engineering also provided people with goods which were not of an acceptable quality. 

The business sells wind turbines and solar systems and has previously appeared in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal and was found guilty of similar allegations.

Consumer Affairs Victoria is seeking orders which prevent the company from taking deposits or other payment until it supplies the promised items or services, as well as orders which restrain the company’s director, Mark Bailey, from aiding or abetting the company in such activities.

The watchdog is also seeking that Bailey be disqualified from managing a corporation for three years.

SmartCompany contacted Bailey Designed Engineering but received no response prior to publication.

In online forums and review sites there are a number of comments from people who claim they haven’t received goods or services they’ve paid for. 

In May last year Bailey Designed Engineering was ordered to pay Emma and Adam Ellis $12,900 by VCAT member Elisabeth Wentworth after goods they paid for were not of an acceptable quality and incurred a major failure.

In August last year, local Ballarat newspaper The Courierreported the story of Bailey Designed Engineering customer, Bruce Bull, who said he had paid $28,500 in October 2011 to the company for a five kilowatt wind turbine, a solar panel and an off-grid batter bank and inverter.

He alleges the system was not installed until almost June 2012 and does not function as he was told.

“We ordered our system in October 2011 and were told delivery would take six to eight weeks. It wasn’t installed until June 2012 and it doesn’t do what he (Mr Bailey) said it would do,” Bull told The Courier.

“Once there is any issue, he doesn’t want to hear from you again. If something breaks down or you ring up to complain about why things are taking so long, he ignores you. We want him shut down.” 

At the time The Courier said it had spoken with seven other Bailey Designed Engineering customers who were also in disputes with the company.

Hall and Wilcox partner Ben Hamilton told SmartCompany consumer guarantee laws say goods and services must be delivered in a “reasonable time”.

“There is no prescribed time period which is classified as reasonable. You have to look at the nature of the goods, the nature of the business and the price you’re paying,” he says.

“That is a challenge with the consumer guarantee, this concept of reasonableness. The goods also have to be of an acceptable quality, but similarly there are no strict rules for what is and isn’t acceptable.”

Under Australian Consumer Law it is an offence to accept payment for goods or services and fail to provide them.

Hamilton says fines for this conduct can be up to $1.1 million per breach for companies and $220,000 per breach for individuals.

“There is generally a lot of activity in this area of the consumer guarantee provisions. There have been substantial fines for companies, particularly those which have misrepresented the rights of consumers in regards to refunds,” he says.

Hamilton says if a business is in a position where it’s unable to provide paid-for goods or can’t fulfil a service, its responsibility is to contact the consumer as soon as possible.

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