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Chris The Lawyer
Chris The Lawyer, Lawyer
Category: New Zealand Law
Satisfied Customers: 23051
Experience:  38 years qualified as a lawyer; LLB, MMgt and FAMINZ.
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I recently called a plumbing firm and spoke to the receptionist

Customer Question

I recently called a plumbing firm and spoke to the receptionist to request that someone come to look at my hot water system due to a slight fault. An employee from the firm arrived the following week and had a quick (30min) look at the water system and suggested a possible solution. No work was undertaken. At this time, a verbal cost estimate was given, however, no contracts were signed and nothing was received in writing.
Following receipt of a number of other quotes, I decided not to accept the quote of the firm in question due to the price. The manager of the firm subsequently called and said that as a result of me not accepting his quote, he intended to charge me for a call out fee. Following this, i received a number of invoices requesting payment of the call out fee.
At no point during the initial telephone conversation with the receptionist was it made clear that a call out fee would be applied if the quote was not accepted, nor is there any mention of a call out fee on the firms website.
I have since received a summons to appear at a disputes tribunal and I am querying whether I entered into a contract with the plumber and whether you consider I am correct in not paying the fee, given that this was not discussed until a significant time after the call out and there was no formal written or verbal contract agreeing to work
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: New Zealand Law
Expert:  Chris The Lawyer replied 2 years ago.
If you were not told specifically that there would be a call out fee, then they should not charge this. However calling any tradesperson must carry a possibility that they would charge something for the visit, unless you made it clear you were just asking for a quote. If you state you want a quote for work, then that would not usually mean a charge. But a call out certainly implies some fee. So on the balance, the Tribunal may say you should pay. You will need to emphasise at the hearing, that you did not know a fee would be charged, and were surprised to get a bill. That would be your best defence.