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Was conned by dodgy plumber- advice needed!

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Hi everyone, 

I've had a dreadful experience with a plumber and need help/ experiences with this sort of thing. 

All pressure was lost from our shower a few days ago. I googled plumbers in my area and looked through to find one that had good reviews. Found one with very good star rating and called them. Lady said would you like us to come out today? I said no it's fine, tomorrow will do. 

So, the guy comes out to have a look at what's happened. Starts taking the side of the bath off, messing about to find the source of the problem. Comes in and asks me to ok the hourly price and call out fee before he goes further- £50 call out fee and £290 per hour. Shouldn't be long, he says. 
Took a total of three hours before he announced the shower processor had broken and that he could get me a new one by the morning. He's telling me this with no bath or shower to use, bathroom in total disarray, I'm worried I won't get someone here quick enough and he's standing there with an over £1000 bill saying I must pay it before he can leave. I'm a woman on my own with this guy with nobody around to help so I buckle and pay the bill. It won't take more than an hour to fit this tomorrow, he says, and the part probably not more than £600. I query why his hourly rate is so huge and he says oh sorry, head office have been naughty there and put you on the emergency rate. I say to him that I never once said it was an emergency. He said I'll put you back on our normal rate for when I'm back tomorrow. I say ok and he leaves.

That afternoon I rang 'head office' to say I'd been put on the wrong rate as it wasn't an emergency. Woman on the phone says their line is an emergency line. What do you mean, I said, you never said that when I called. This is an emergency line, she repeats. I didn't google an emergency plumber, I said. This is an emergency line, she says again. Who is the manager, I ask? I can't tell you that, she says. Can you ask him to call me this pm please, I ask. Yes, she says. I don't get a call back. 

Guy returns next morning with the part. He shows me the hourly rate- £180. Shouldn't be more than an hour, he says. I'm working from home so it's difficult to keep track of what he's doing all the time. THREE HOURS LATER he says all done, shows me that it's working and presents me with the bill. I nearly died of shock- £2400. I just froze in place and lost my breath. How is it so much, I said. The part was just under a grand alone, he said. I suddenly realise I'm being scammed and have no clue what to do. I'm on my own with this guy and he's waiting to be paid. I feel really vulnerable and lost and fold and pay the bill. 

As soon as he leaves I call the head office again in tears. The woman on the phone is like a robot and wont help at all. I ask her to get the manager to call me in the next hour. 

Meanwhile I ring around to get the exact price of the part. The place where the plumber got it from charged him £450. By this time I'm feeling absolute rage and having a meltdown. I literally ended up in tears on the phone to the bank, trading standards, and the Samaritans as I had utterly fallen into crisis (I have PTSD and anxiety). 

At the end of the afternoon the manager of the plumber calls me back. He was the most horrible person I've ever spoken to. Admitted that they use multiple company names and that 'everyone should know' their number is an emergency number. I was billed from two different names and the one I rang was something entirely different which has since disappeared from Google. He's absolutely vile and tells me that if I take them to court I will lose and have to pay his expenses. 

I've followed everything that TS have told me to do. No reply to my letter yet asking for the company's complaint procedure and citing the Customer Rights Act. I keep trying to get through to my bank about raising a dispute but don't even know if that's possible in this situation. 

Two other plumbers have given me quotes for the same work between £750 and £1300. 

Do I have a leg to stand on here? 

Comments

  • Aylesbury_Duck
    Aylesbury_Duck Posts: 14,331 Forumite
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    Hi everyone, 

    I've had a dreadful experience with a plumber and need help/ experiences with this sort of thing. 

    All pressure was lost from our shower a few days ago. I googled plumbers in my area and looked through to find one that had good reviews. Found one with very good star rating and called them. Lady said would you like us to come out today? I said no it's fine, tomorrow will do.  Can you point us to the company so we can see if they are indeed "emergency plumbers"?

    So, the guy comes out to have a look at what's happened. Starts taking the side of the bath off, messing about to find the source of the problem. Comes in and asks me to ok the hourly price and call out fee before he goes further- £50 call out fee and £290 per hour. Shouldn't be long, he says. 
    Took a total of three hours before he announced the shower processor had broken  Sounds like you have a digital shower, yes? and that he could get me a new one by the morning. He's telling me this with no bath or shower to use, bathroom in total disarray, I'm worried I won't get someone here quick enough and he's standing there with an over £1000 bill saying I must pay it before he can leave. I'm a woman on my own with this guy with nobody around to help so I buckle and pay the bill. It won't take more than an hour to fit this tomorrow, he says, and the part probably not more than £600. I query why his hourly rate is so huge and he says oh sorry, head office have been naughty there and put you on the emergency rate. I say to him that I never once said it was an emergency. He said I'll put you back on our normal rate for when I'm back tomorrow. I say ok and he leaves.

    That afternoon I rang 'head office' to say I'd been put on the wrong rate as it wasn't an emergency. Woman on the phone says their line is an emergency line. What do you mean, I said, you never said that when I called. This is an emergency line, she repeats. I didn't google an emergency plumber, I said. This is an emergency line, she says again. Who is the manager, I ask? I can't tell you that, she says. Can you ask him to call me this pm please, I ask. Yes, she says. I don't get a call back.  

    Guy returns next morning with the part. He shows me the hourly rate- £180 Good, they've clearly taken you off the emergency rate. Shouldn't be more than an hour, he says. I'm working from home so it's difficult to keep track of what he's doing all the time. THREE HOURS LATER he says all done, shows me that it's working and presents me with the bill. I nearly died of shock- £2400 how is this broken down?. I just froze in place and lost my breath. How is it so much, I said. The part was just under a grand alone, he said Digital shower processers are expensive, I'm not entirely surprised. I suddenly realise I'm being scammed I don't think you're being scammed, but probably overcharged and have no clue what to do. I'm on my own with this guy and he's waiting to be paid. I feel really vulnerable and lost and fold and pay the bill. 

    As soon as he leaves I call the head office again in tears. The woman on the phone is like a robot and wont help at all. I ask her to get the manager to call me in the next hour. 

    Meanwhile I ring around to get the exact price of the part. The place where the plumber got it from charged him £450 It's fair enough for him to add a mark-up.  He's had to travel there, order it, collect it and take it back to yours.  No plumber is going to pass on the cost price of a partYou could order parts yourself but then you've got the tricky situation of liability if that part fails. By this time I'm feeling absolute rage and having a meltdown. I literally ended up in tears on the phone to the bank, trading standards, and the Samaritans as I had utterly fallen into crisis (I have PTSD and anxiety). 

    At the end of the afternoon the manager of the plumber calls me back. He was the most horrible person I've ever spoken to. Admitted that they use multiple company names and that 'everyone should know' their number is an emergency number What's the company and webpage you went to?  Was it clear they were an emergency outfit?  Are their rates published?. I was billed from two different names and the one I rang was something entirely different which has since disappeared from Google. He's absolutely vile and tells me that if I take them to court I will lose and have to pay his expenses. 

    I've followed everything that TS have told me to do. No reply to my letter yet asking for the company's complaint procedure and citing the Customer Rights Act. I keep trying to get through to my bank about raising a dispute but don't even know if that's possible in this situation. I think you'll struggle there because a) you paid willingly twice, and b) you've received a service that's worked.

    Two other plumbers have given me quotes for the same work between £750 and £1300. Be wary here.  It's easy to get competing lower quotes after the event.  Unless those two plumbers understand exactly what set-up you have, how easy/hard it is to access, etc. then their quotes are meaningless.

    Do I have a leg to stand on here? 
    In summary, yes you perhaps have a leg to stand on.  See my comments inserted in your text.  I suspect you've been overcharged, but without knowing the exact details it's difficult to be sure.  There's no lawful limit to an hourly rate or parts mark-up, but there is a degree of comeback if you can demonstrate it's unreasonable.

    If those two other plumbers haven't actually been out to properly assess the job, it would be helpful for them to do so, so you have a proper idea of what might have been a reasonable price.  As it is, just those two plumbers' quotes are miles apart, so either or both may be as credible (or not) as the price you actually paid.

    My guess, based on your description, is that the plumber should have diagnosed the fault much faster.  I have a digital shower and once it's clear that there is water pressure to the unit (i.e. the hot and cold feeds are 'live' as they should be) and that there aren't blockages in the hose or shower head, then the mixer and processor are the obvious places to look.  That wouldn't normally take three hours, unless everything was completely tiled in and the loft was particularly inaccessible.  Similarly, replacing a processor and testing the unit is normally a quick job, it's simply a swap-out-swap-in job that shouldn't have taken three hours.
  • Debbie9009
    Debbie9009 Posts: 260 Forumite
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    The time to have stopped this was when the plumber asked you to ok the £290 per hour, in your position (also a woman on my own) I would have said no that isn’t acceptable please don’t do any further work, I would then have asked him to leave, and if he had refused I would have then called the police.  

    I have been in a similar situation where a tradesperson sent me an email following work carried out and tried to bill me for work he hadn’t done, when I refused to pay for the extra work he hadn’t done he came round banging on my door demanding to speak to me, he soon left when I told him I would call the police and report him for threatening behaviour.  I resolved it by paying him for the work that he did, and telling him I wasn’t prepared to pay for work he hadn’t done, I had photos proving he hadn’t done the extra work which helped, and he decided to accept the payment.

    Did you have a quote for any of the work before it was done ? And did you sign anything agreeing the costs ? If not you could try getting a couple of other quotes from other plumbers and see if you can get them to agree to that.  If they have a social media presence you could try shaming them on there.

    I’m sorry that you have had to go through this, for any future issues as you consider yourself vulnerable it might be a good idea to have a friend with you, you shouldn’t have to do this as companies shouldn’t con people, but much easier to prevent this type of situation that to have to deal with it afterwards.
  • mark_cycling00
    mark_cycling00 Posts: 608 Forumite
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    Are you in south west London?

    There's a nasty guy who does this all the time. 
    He tried to blow up an airplane, went to prison, came out and became a dodgy plumber. You can find news articles about it. 

    Keeps creating new companies, giving them fake reviews and closing them down when enough people give angry 1star reviews after being ripped off.

    I think that by forcing you to pay before leaving, and probably being aggressive about it, it's difficult for authorities to get involved because technically you've accepted the work. 

    A "good" plumber will send you an invoice probably at the end or start of the week.

    Sorry this has happened to yiu
  • MoneySavingBunny
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    Are you in south west London?

    There's a nasty guy who does this all the time. 
    He tried to blow up an airplane, went to prison, came out and became a dodgy plumber. You can find news articles about it. 

    Keeps creating new companies, giving them fake reviews and closing them down when enough people give angry 1star reviews after being ripped off.

    I think that by forcing you to pay before leaving, and probably being aggressive about it, it's difficult for authorities to get involved because technically you've accepted the work. 

    A "good" plumber will send you an invoice probably at the end or start of the week.

    Sorry this has happened to yiu
    South London, so it's possible it's the same guy maybe. I wondered whether 'accepting the work'- albeit while in a very difficult, intimidating position- might go against me. 
  • mr_stripey
    mr_stripey Posts: 714 Forumite
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    It's a pretty unpleasant situation for sure so I can see why you have been so upset about it.

    Hopefully there is some recourse as there seems to be some pretty sharp practice here.

    As an aside, maybe worth talking to friends and neighbors for some recommendations for tradespeople and save their numbers for the next time you need a plumber, sparky, roofer etc.


  • the_lunatic_is_in_my_head
    the_lunatic_is_in_my_head Posts: 7,887 Forumite
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    edited 12 July at 7:31AM
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    Sorry to hear OP

    The time to have stopped this was when the plumber asked you to ok the £290 per hour
    Obviously hindsight is 20/20 but this really is the main point. 

    You are going to have decide whether to write this off as a bad and expensive experience or look at small claims. The invoice should have the company name and LTD number on, you can search this on Companies House and see if the director's have been associated with other companies in the past to get an idea of how likely it is they will fold.

    Even if you won and they didn't fold is this just a small office with some phones and computers in, they'd need to have assets to be taken in the event of non-payment (should you win). 

    You can report your experience to Citizen's Advice who will pass it along to Trading Standards. 

    Not a pleasant experience to go through but as above if you ever need a tradesperson again avoid Googling if you can and even if you do Google avoid the sponsored ads on the search results, recommendations from friends, family or even a local Facebook group you may be a part of would hopefully end up with a better recommendation :) 

    One thing to add, when Googling for "in your local area" pretty much most services now have companies that cover the entire UK and they just find someone local to do the job. 
    In the game of chess you can never let your adversary see your pieces
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