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Dirty robbing b@st@rds

half diminished

Senior Member
Central Heating boiler broke down on Wednesday. I had a pretty good idea of what had caused the fault. Local supplier had a new PCB unit in stock (£236) but I really needed a plumber to confirm that was the problem. Only issue, it's now 12.30pm and the supplier closes at 3pm!

I found a plumber and explained the issue.

"We can't get to you until about 2.30pm" says he.

"Hm, you'll not have time to diagnose and fix the problem then as the suppliers are shutting early" says I.

"Don't worry, our supplier shuts at 5pm and he's open tomorrow" says he

So the plumber arrives at 2.40pm, in 10 minutes he's confirmed the issue is as i suspect and he's off to get the part.

3.10pm he arrives back but with no part.

"Supplier is shut, they shut at 3pm so I'll have to come back on Saturday"

"What, I discussed this before I booked you to come around" says I

"Ah you need to speak with my boss, I didn't take the call" says he.

After a degree of shouting I am now stuffed and have to wait until Saturday. He denies the original conversation about suppliers being closed/open. So no heating and no hot water for 3/4 days.

So at 10am today, the plumber arrives. By 10.22am - some 12 minutes later it's filled and in another 5 minutes the CH has been checked and is confirmed to be working properly.

The bill, 2 hours labour at £69 per hour plus VAT. The plumber was on site for 20 minutes the first time, 10 of which I was arguing with his boss and today the work was completed in less than 17 minutes at a cost of £162.15. Plus of course the part which he no doubt gets at a discount price, non of which is passed on to me.

So I refuse to pay, it gets nasty and he threatens me with the police and forceable removing the part so I say "bring it on". Wife gets stressed so I decide to pay by cheque.

So, what do I do. Cancel the cheque, and fight him in court. Will I win? Speak to Watchdog/Rogue Traders and Trading Standards? Am I going to get anywhere with this.

I am not keen to let this lie on a matter of principle. Suggestions welcomed.

Pete Thomas

Chief of Stuff
Commercial Café Supporter
McLean, Virginia
If you cancel the cheque you are in a dodgy legal situation, as writing the cheque could be construed as acceptance of the contract.

If you do cancel the cheque, I suggest at the very least you write another for the cost of the part and 1 hour labour as that is what the job is actually worth (unless their terms mention a minimum 2 hour charge in which case you are stuffed). Also say, in writing, that you wrote the first cheque under pressure, that the fitter was rude and threatening. In the letter explain the reason for not paying for the first callout.

Unlikely they will go to court over £69. If they do it will be your word against theirs about the closing time of the supplier.


Milford Haven, Pembrokshire, Wales
Ian, I write as a tradesman (Carpenter/joiner) who also undertakes a lot of contract locksmithing work.

I am not for one moment condoning either the plumbers bill or attitude - and do not wish to get involved as such with that. But I would like to explain and clear up one point of confusion surround bills such as yours. Please do not think I am in anyway sticking up for your actual tradesman in this instance.

Firstly, whilst I appreciate to you, he was only on site for 10 mins or whatever the first time. The trouble is it's not that simple, by the time he has left the previous job, travelled to you, looked at it, probably spoken to his office by phone afterwards, and made his way to the next job, it will be well over an hour of time gone. That applies to the second visit as well, furthermore, there is the cost of diesel involved and the running of the van. You will almost certainly discover their terms are chargable by the hour - which means part hours are charged at full hour rates.

I know it may seem that is unfair, but believe me, the profit margin really is not great I do assure you - although I agree £69 ph is a bit steep but that also depends on where you are. Nowadays the CORGI (or actually Gasafe) certification and insurence costs for gas fitters is horrendous!

If I do a day of emergency callouts, I can only fit 4 or 5 jobs into a day. If I only charged for the time I was physically onsite, I would lose money, because I would only charge for 4 or 5 hours a day. In addition most of us start the clock ticking all over again on a second visit, for exactly trhe same reasons. Do you see?
ONe more point, I notice that it appears he hasn't charged you an initial call out fee, that is probably why the hourly rate is higher. Most companies charge more for the first visit/callout, and then a basic hourly rate for the second visit. In your case though it might not have made much difference to the bill.

Now, The fact that you explained the situation to him in the first place, and he broke that agreement, by not getting the part as he stated he could, can indeed be an area for argument in court. But unless you can prove that a) he did actually promise to get it fixed that afternoon, b) by writing the cheque you have agreed to his "demand" for charges - unless you stated in writing at the time, c) can prove the cheque was demanded with menace, I'm afraid your case may well be weak. Furthermore, it can be argued the company was actually trying to offer you a ggod service by finding staff free at that time to try and get you sorted.

It is very unlikely trading standards will get involved with this. I recently reported a local company for various breaches of trading terms (use of false logo, false qualifcations, poor workmanship, seconhand goods passed as new) and they didn't want to even take the ruddy phone call from me.

As I said, please don't think I am in anyway trying to stick up for bad tradesmen and companies, and I think you were treated badly, but If you look at it as a whole picture, money wise it looks slightly differently and no court in the land will argue those facts.

The best thing you can do is to make sure you tell as many people as possible, locally to you the name of the company and the way you feel about them. Word of mouth really is still the best way to make/break reputations. I speak as someone with 30 years in the building trade.

(Now I will do that typical tradesman's sharp intake of breath through the teeth and say Sorry Mate. LOL)

half diminished

half diminished

Senior Member
Thanks for the replies.

The clock starts when he is on site. In my view I was lied to specifically to ensure two visits had to have been made and they charge the same rate per hour whatever the circumstances.

I've done some checking and have a number of rights under various consumer legislation and am definitely going to cause these tossers some hassle at the very least.


Well-Known Member
In my view I was lied to specifically to ensure two visits had to have been made and they charge the same rate per hour whatever the circumstances.

Hi Ian

If that's the case, then it's a deliberate deception and you have grounds for action. Problem is, whether you can prove it. Also, is it worth the aggro over £69? Depends on how principled you are, and how much you value your own time, as making complaints is very time consuming and wearisome.

I hate the lottery of dealing with tradespeople. Some are great (such as the company which has just decorated my entire house, on budget, finished to agreed deadlines), others awful (such as the bodging numpties who did my kitchen a few years ago). What I've found is that the best people are always found by personal recommendation, which is where the decorator came in. The converse is true, particulalry in a rural or small town environment, and when I've received bad service I've always made it plain to others which firms are crap when I've been asked about them. If you do this though, make sure you don't lie or you can get into hot water yourself. What I do know is that successful local tradespeople live by their reputation.

A very considered and well balanced contribution from Woody, with some points to bear in mind for people like me who are not involved in, and don't really understand all the issues of skilled trades. I also don't think that £69 ph is particularly excessive, especially where there is no call out charge. It's less than the garage which services my car charges, and I have to go to them.

Still, if they did deliberately lie to get two hours' business, then your description in the thread title stands good!

Can I suggest a large glass of malt is in order?:)
Saxholder Pro

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