Western Australia’s Consumer Protection Department has warned small-business owners in the state about a food truck and van seller who has allegedly scammed SMEs out of more than $70,000 after failing to supply them with trucks they had purchased.
The department claims the seller had taken on deposits and some full payments from business owners for trucks but had provided them nothing in return. In one case, a business owner replied to the man’s Gumtree advertisement and paid a $15,000 deposit, but was left empty-handed.
The seller is the sole director of CLC Group Pty Ltd, which trades as CLC Fabrications, and has a “dubious track record” according to WA Consumer Protection commissioner Lanie Chopping.
“[The seller] has history with our Department, previously operating as a painter without being registered, and now ripping off hard-working small businesspeople who can least afford to lose such large amounts of money,” Chopping said in a statement.
“The purchase of the vans or trailers was part of a desire by people to expand their existing business or to start a mobile business, but now their dreams have been shattered by trusting the wrong person.”
The seller had been prosecuted by Consumer Protection in the past after carrying out unregistered painting work and demanding excessive deposits for the work, with a $20,000 fine issued for the offences in 2016. The department has issued three warnings relating to the seller in the past.
“We strongly recommend that, considering [the seller’s] behaviour over many years, people should not do business with him and they should contact Consumer Protection if they encounter him. In the past, he has operated under various business names and has used many aliases.”
The department also warns SME owners away from making significant purchases on platforms such as Gumtree or Facebook, saying there should be extensive and “essential” due diligence, such as checking if the supplier has an ABN and doing a Google search for their name.
Public statements such as these from the country’s fair trading and consumer protection bodies serve as a warning to dodgy or disreputable business owners who are found to be doing the wrong thing, with departments such as New South Wales’ Office of Fair Trading issuing regular warnings about suspicious operators.
The department also maintains a monthly up-to-date list of the most complained about businesses in the state, which can lead to action from the office or from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Currently, online technology and white goods retailer Kogan is topping the list, with 56 complaints in March, followed by car rental business Atlas with 42 complaints.