Facebook post lands tradies in trouble
When hail stones the size of golf balls were falling in Sydney yards in December last year, roofer Mark Burtenshaw had a bright idea.
"I think this latest storm is the perfect opportunity for the roofers of Sydney to increase pricing across the board as a standard that doesn't decrease!" Mr Burtenshaw, a director of Sydney roofing company ANZ Roofing, wrote on Facebook.
He posted in two separate groups used by thousands of roofing providers in the greater Sydney area to discuss jobs and industry issues.
Others joined in on the discussion.
Brent Kerkenezov, sole director of Ivy Contractors Pty Ltd, claimed an insurance company told him they would only pay $55 per square metre to remove, supply and install a new roof.
"If any roofers go in and do this work for that kind of square metre rate you need an uppercut," he commented under Mr Burtenshaw's post, before suggesting new standard prices.
"Let's agree that we start from $65 and go up," he commented, suggesting that would be a good per linear metre price for the installation of quad gutters.
The two roofers and their companies have now accepted a ruling from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission that their Facebook interactions were a concerted attempt to fix prices.
"The ACCC was concerned that competing roofers in Sydney attempted to use the Facebook groups to share and seek to agree on minimum rates for various roofing services," ACCC chair Rod Sims said.
"The roofers acknowledged that messages of this kind were likely to amount to an attempt to fix prices, and acknowledged that in some circumstances the conduct could raise concerns under the new law which prohibits concerted practices which have an anti-competitive purpose or effect."
Mr Sims said the price discussions were particularly concerning given the context they occurred in.
"Any attempts to take advantage of people whose homes were damaged in natural disasters like hailstorms is something the ACCC takes extremely seriously. The community will not just find this outrageous, it is also anti-competitive, and illegal under Australian competition laws," Mr Sims said.
This is the first case the ACCC has enforced relating to concerted anti-competitive practices which were made illegal in new laws introduced towards the end of 2017.
Mark Burtenshaw and Brent Kerkenezov, as well as their companies, have accepted a court enforceable undertaking which includes admitting and acknowledging the ACCC's concerns, committing to make sure the same thing doesn't happen again, and both men undergoing competition law training provided by a trained legal professional.
Mr Burtenshaw will also have to make a post on one of the Facebook groups his original post appeared on regarding the prohibited, anti-competitive conduct.