Print Posted on 13/02/2017

New warning over ‘Bitumen Bandits’

New warning over ‘Bitumen Bandits’

So-called ‘Bitumen Bandits’ are once again operating in Western Australia prompting a fresh Consumer Protection warning. In recent weeks, reports of itinerant driveway layers have been received from north of Perth to the State’s South-West.

Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard advises home and business owners to say NO to on-the-spot deals offered by these travelling conmen.

“If you want an expensive job carried out at your property, such as a new driveway, shop around for quotes from reputable, local tradespeople who you know you could go back to if you had a problem with work once it had been carried out.

“Bitumen Bandits will try to tempt you with claims of heavily discounted prices but instead of a bargain you’ll likely end up with a sub-standard driveway, laid using cheap and low-quality materials. They may leave a mess or even disappear before they’ve finished. When you call the mobile phone number it will ring out or be disconnected.”

Gangs of travelling conmen, usually with English or Irish accents, come to Australia every summer. So far this year ‘bitumen bandits’, said to have strong British accents, have been touting for business in Gingin, Bunbury, Boyanup and Donnybrook.

Mr Hillyard says their tactics do change as they try to evade police, immigration and consumer protection or fair trading authorities.

“Previously Bitumen Bandits just knocked on doors and had their truck and materials with them but now they like to put up road-side signs, post flyers in letterboxes and hand out business cards face-to-face to appear professional.

“We’re finding they’re impersonating registered Australian businesses by copying names and ABNs. In Bunbury this week a travelling conman going by the name of ‘Bill’ has been pretending to work for a local business, much to the dismay of the true business owner who doesn’t want his reputation damaged.”

Under the Australian Consumer Law a ten business day cooling off period applies to unsolicited sales agreements over $100 and it is illegal to take money, carry out any work or supply goods valued at more than $500 during a consumer’s cooling off period.

Suspected travelling conman details, such as offender descriptions, vehicle types and registrations and personal or business names used, can be reported to Consumer Protection by calling 1300 30 40 54 or emailing consumer@commerce.wa.gov.au. Travelling conman warnings are posted on Twitter by @ConsumerWA using the hashtag #stopconmen