Liability and legal troubles?

Public news

How many times have you undertaken work for a customer knowing that you were unlikely to be paid on time or at all? Have you ever taken a job over at the request of an already disgruntled and dissatisfied consumer? What about making throwaway comments when looking at another person’s work such as, “what clown did that?” Or, “no self-respecting person would let that leave their workshop”.

Any of those circumstances are likely to lead to unpleasantness, conflict and the possibility of legal action or involvement in court proceedings, and that ought to be avoided at all costs.

First, avoiding potentially unlawful activity is an absolute. That does not mean you can’t deal with a person who has been convicted of an offence-everyone is entitled to have their car serviced or to buy new tyres. It does mean that if there is the slightest hint of any serious criminality that will be furthered or assisted by what you are being asked to do, don’t do it.

Secondly, think long and hard about taking over a job that has been commenced by someone else, especially if there is a chance that your customer is coming to you because he or she is unhappy with the work of your predecessor. To be blunt, most work carried out by modern and reputable tradespeople is good, and if there really is a problem, most people will address it in a reasonable and professional manner. If the relationship has broken down so badly that a customer deposits a half-painted car on your doorstep and implores you to finish it, do you really want to be involved?

Thirdly, don’t unnecessarily denigrate any work has already been done. We’ve all heard something similar to the below example:

“That’s a terrible prep job. Whoever did that is an idiot. Sorry mate but that clown ripped you off, and I’ll need to spend at least 10 hours fixing mistakes is virtually guaranteed to land you right in the middle of a legal dispute, not to mention destroying relationships within a close-knit community.”

This also leaves wiggle room for a customer as to exactly how long will be required to rectify the work.

“On the other hand, I do the prep my own way, so that’s why the additional 15 hours is on the quote. I know you want the best job possible and I don’t want to rely on anything I haven’t done myself is honest, safe and congenial.”

This does not mislead the customer, it does not criticise your predecessor and it does not contain the horrible “at least 10 hours”, where all the customer heard was “10 hours”.

A few more “rules”:

  • Don’t let customers work on their own vehicles if they expect you to “work with them”.
  • Don’t let customers into your workshop unless it is absolutely unavoidable.
  • Don’t take on work that you cannot get to within the promised time, or that you lack the expertise to complete.

There are many other simple tips for staying away from legal complications, and the MTA is here to provide you with any assistance you need in working your way through the legal minefield of modern business regulations:

  • Ensure your workplace audits are up to date. Evacuation plans, exit signs, testing and tagging, machinery inspections and certifications.
  • Have your policies and procedures readily available, and abide by them.
  • Ensure you are paying wages at the correct rates.
  • Have your documentation properly prepared. Plan for succession.
  • Insure against every reasonably possible risk.
  • Perhaps most critically, put everything you can in writing. Most of the consumer complaints that the MTA deals with relate, in some way or another, to misunderstandings on the part of the customer. Take away the room for confusion by a few words or lines on the documents, whether it is as to the problem that you are being asked to look at, the proposed time frame, the estimated cost or anything else that is likely to be contentious.
If you would like to speak with our new Workplace Relations Manager, Garry Coppola, click here or call 8291 2000.