“If you want to sleep at night, don’t start the process with Metropolitan,” warned disgruntled customer Anthony Boril.
He’s not the only one talking about Metropolitan Plumbing.
Anthony said he mistakenly signed with Metropolitan Plumbing to repair a leak in the front yard of his mother’s house on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula.
READ MORE: Tracy Grimshaw leaves A Current Affair
“If they show up, run,” Anthony said.
Anthony and his retired mother Brigitta Boril, 78, owe Metropolitan Plumbing a whopping $27,131.90.
This is the cost they were offered to replace their main water main, which runs approximately 33 meters from the water meter in their front yard to the back of the house.
READ MORE: Australian tenants claim they are being evicted over tenancy complaints
The Borils paid an appeal fee of $141.90 and an additional deposit of $6,000 the day before work began.
But when they received the detailed invoice for the work two weeks later, the labor component was $18,828.
“As far as I know this is a theft and I would like this to be brought to everyone’s attention and put to an end,” Anthony said.
READ MORE: Biker fined for speeding after not riding in months
The work carried out has repaired the leak, but the Borils fear that they have been overcharged.
“The day you should be shown an itemized invoice. Then you can see where the labor is going and then you can say ‘well, go’,” Anthony said.
The Borils admitted they should have gotten at least three quotes, but were in a rush to get the pipe fixed.
“We thought copper must be expensive,” Anthony said.
To compare prices, A topical matter asked quotes from other plumbers for the same job at the same location.
The cheapest quote was $4,500, which is less than the deposit paid by the Borils.
“Definitely don’t use Metropolitan. I wouldn’t do it again, no,” Brigitta said of their experience.
The 78-year-old said she couldn’t sleep at night thinking about the huge bill.
“I think we could have done with the money,” she said.
Money aside, the pair say it was for their safety that they feared on the night of the works.
Bridget said A topical matter the Metropolitan plumber remained outside their home until 11:30 p.m. that evening, waiting to be paid.
“I came out and said to them, ‘You don’t have a home to go to’? He said, ‘Yeah, sometimes we even sleep in the truck’ and I said, ‘Well, what? are you waiting?’ And he says, ‘we have to get the money first or we have to find a collector,'” Brigitta explained.
Alone at home, Brigitta said she felt uneasy and worried for her son’s safety when he returned home.
“I went and put all the roller shutters on all the doors and windows and felt a little safe, but I didn’t go to bed. I sat here and waited for Anthony to come,” said Bridget.
The plumbers were gone by the time Anthony returned home from a football game in the CBD.
“I said, ‘They’re like two dogs with a bone sitting in front’…very scary,” Brigitta said.
The Borils’ story matches the experience of another pensioner.
Judy Schneider is an 83-year-old widow who wanted her nightlight lit in her gas log fire at her home in Bundoora, Melbourne’s northeast.
Her son Perry Schneider believes she was sold a package by Metropolitan for extras she didn’t need or ask for.
“What Metropolitan did was they sent a plumber. I guess he was a plumber, but he acted like a salesman,” Perry said.
“I don’t think he had any interest in solving Mom’s problem for that $141.90 appeal fee.”
Judy handed over $2,680 on site, with a worker coming later in the week to complete the job.
Perry said he went to his mother’s house to watch the Metropolitan plumber do the work and had to remind her when he forgot to do some of the work on the bill.
“We paid about $1,300 an hour. I’m an engineer in the aerospace industry with 44 years of experience, and my employer charges me a significantly lower fraction of that total value,” Perry said.
They said a compliance letter still hasn’t arrived.
A topical matter confirmed that several investigations are currently underway into allegations regarding Metropolitan Plumbing.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is investigating the company, as well as consumer and business services.
Consumer Action Law Center CEO Gerard Brody said: “If they claim something is 10 times what is reasonable, they may well be engaging in misleading conduct.”
Brody encourages anyone seeking the services of a tradesman to obtain at least three quotes.
“Unfortunately, there are no specific laws when it comes to trading prices. It’s a competitive market we live in and people have to shop around and get a certain number of quotes,” Brody explained. .
A topical matter also discovered that the ABN under which Metropolitan Plumbing operates is the same as that of at least 35 other companies, such as Mr Emergency, Upside Down, Cyber Plumbing Electrical and Plumbing and Book a Plumber Online.
In a statement, Consumer Commissioner Dini Soulio said A topical matter: “Consumer and Business Services (CBS) is investigating complaints it has received about businesses operated by Gas and Plumbing Australia Pty Ltd.”
“We are in contact with consumer regulators across Australia regarding our investigation.
“We cannot comment further at this stage.”
CBS advises that in all circumstances, if a consumer has concerns about the service provided by a provider they have engaged, they should contact the local fair trade and consumer affairs authority in their state or territory.
CBS urges consumers looking for plumbing and electrical services to get multiple quotes from different vendors before signing a contract.
“We also recommend that consumers do their own research to find approved and reputable merchants, including checking independent review platforms for consumer testimonials.”
The ACCC also provided a statement to A Current Affair.
“Australian consumer law is jointly administered by the ACCC, ASIC and state and territory fair trade and consumer authorities,” he said.
“The ACCC and other consumer law regulators are aware of the concerns raised by consumers regarding the services provided by Metropolitan Plumbing and related businesses.
“Before engaging services, consumers should first research and compare quotes from a number of different providers.
“Consumers should also conduct their own research on providers, including checking independent review platforms for consumer testimonials. If consumers have any concerns about the service provided by Metropolitan Plumbing, or its related businesses, they should contact their state or local territory fair trade and consumer affairs authority.”
Statement from Metropolitan Plumbing:
At Current Affair, yes we have received your correspondence, it is disappointing that these two jobs had this outcome.
Three times yesterday and today we tried to contact Anthony on his mobile … and Judith on her mobile … to advise of settlements.
On behalf of Client Anthony Boril … we will write off all outstanding amounts according to our records, being $20,990.00, which will make the outstanding balance $0.00.
On behalf of Judith Schneider … a full refund of $2,681.80, we will continue to make efforts to contact her to process this refund as we will need her bank details.
Hope this satisfies both parties.
In images, in pictures
Comforting results for those in dire straits
Aussie battlers contacted A Current Affair over everything from unfair bills to battles with bureaucracy in a last-ditch effort to get a fair trial and emerged victorious.
See the gallery