CHOICE membership

What Is a Reasonable Labour Charge?

I recently had the extractor/heater fan in my bathroom replaced when the old one stopped working.
A firm called Service Today did the job.
My issue is that I priced the exact replacement unit they used at Bunnings and it was $79. I found it new on Ebay for $69. I would imagine that the serviceman would have got it for a trade price and less than I could have bought it for.
He arrived, looked at what had to be done and went away to collect the new fan unit. Altogether he would have taken about 80 minutes to do the job and this includes travel time to go and get the new unit.
He had to slightly widen the existing hole in the ceiling with a hand Gyprock saw, but apart from that all he had to do was replace the existing unit with the new one using the same wiring and the same duct to the outside.
The cost for the job was $725.18.
This means that if you deduct the Bunnungs retail price of $79 for the new unit the labour costs were $646.18. Not bad for about 80 minutes work!
When I complained Services Today contacted me and the lady told me that the manager reviewed my job and said I really should have been charged MORE!!!
However they offered me a $50 refund which I accepted because I had no choice.
Is it just me or do other people think the price I was charged was outrageous.
By the way, I found this company on a website called Oneflare, which Choice has on its recommended list of sites to find tradesmen.

6 Likes

I agree that the rate for labour seems excessive on the face of it. Did they provide any breakdown of the bill? Did you ask for and obtain any kind of quote or basis for charging before you engaged them? Did you get estimates from anybody else beforehand?

7 Likes

Did you ask for a quote or estimate before the work was done from Services Today? This can usually be done either over the phone or when the tradie first arrives.

In Australia, most electricans charge around $80-100/hour. The chargedvcan time included travel time to one’s house, travel time to collect (replacement) parts and time taken to carry out the repairs. The amount charged seem a little high for 80 minutes work, but could be dependent on where you live and time taken to get to your house.

Also, don’t go off a Bunnings price or eBay as this could be a very cheap imported product which a electrican may not use. The replacement coukd have been a higher quality, more expensive item. If one wanted the cheap replacement, one can always buy the item oneself and ask for an electrican to install it.

6 Likes

Tradies can and often do charge more than Bunnings or even RRP for supplying hardware, like restaurants charge a 2.5X to 3.5X premium for a bottle of wine - more than Dan Murphy’s or First Choice, and even more than BWS or Liquorland. They need more than an hourly rate plus actual costs to fund a business and charging more for supplying hardware seems more common with larger companies than with individual tradies since businesses have higher overheads and their tradies may not always be working 100% of the time. Allow him double for the fan for argument.

Lets give him a $140 call out fee to include the first 15 minutes of work, $100 per hour for additional time. Make it 90 minutes for rounding. Did the tradie need a sparky to dis/reconnect the wiring or did he have a license/arrangement of his own? For this exercise I’ll assume no additional cost but a sparky would have their own callout fee. I’ll not consider if they charged mileage to/from the shop to buy the fan, but it is possible.

part $160 <- fan
callout $140 <- attendance and 15 minutes
time $125 <- 1:15 additional time

total $425 seems a reasonable upper limit

Seems so if there is no more to the story.

You did get an estimate beforehand, didn’t you?

6 Likes

PHB - Remember I said I had found the exact replacement product at Bunnings, the same one the tradie used.
PHB & TheBBG - Yes, I did get a quote from the company and in a moment of complete stupidity I accpeted it because we needed the fan replaced rather quickly. Never again. The company told me that the call out fee was absorbed in the final price once I accpeted the job, so no, it was not extra. I will also add that the 80 minutes I estimated was a bit generous. From the time he arrived till the time he completed the job was probably closer to an hour. That includes the 25 minutes he was away getting the new fan unit.

5 Likes

So how is it that the final bill is such a surprise? Did they go way over the quote?

5 Likes

I detected no surprise, just curiosity whether ‘we’ agreed the amount quoted and agreed in the heat of the moment seemed ‘outrageous’ given the actual scope of work, known to the consumer only after it was completed.

3 Likes

No, the final bill was not a surprise. I knew it was coming. As I said, I should not have taken their quote but the problem is we had guests who would be using that powder room and I had advertised the job on two of the websites recomended by Choice. The first website gave ONE reply. I booked an appointment with him at a specific time. We made sure we stayed home for the appointment and … he never showed up and sent no message or phone call and I have not heard from him since. The second website gave a reply from Service Today and because I was now somewhat desperate I accepted it. So, no the bill was not a surprise but the more I thought about it the more unreasobale I realised it was.
I paid it on the spot as I always do. They have since given me a $50 refund as I said, but $725.18 to replace a bathroom extractor/heater unit worth $79 is ridiculous.
As I also said, I will not make this mistake again. So if anyone knows any website that directs you to reliable, honest and reasonably priced tradesmen I would be delighted to learn of it.

4 Likes

Rather than use websites I ring people I know for referrals. Over a few years I now have a sparky, plumber, hydronics expert, and carpenter who I just ring to get the work done, no formal quotes asked, just verbal ball parks. They have never done less than good work at fair prices and know I am not wasting their time when I ring and they treat me accordingly.

7 Likes

As others have said get referrals from local people about local trades. Also don’t allow yourself to be time pressured. Unless there is water damaging the house or raw sewerage running across the floor take your time and if the first quote looks outrageous call it for what it is and wait for another. I sympathise that getting tradies to return calls and attend when promised is a frustrating and thankless task but one has no choice. If you find a good’n keep him/her.

BTW, if the fan had a standard power plug it does not require a certified person to replace it. The cutting/fitting requires no certification that is only required if it has to be wired into the house circuit.

4 Likes

This is the best method usually - personal recommendation. However, I have had a number of instances when, for the particular job I need done, no friend or family has used an appropriate tradesman. In this cae I turn to hopefully reliable websites - however after my recent experience I will need to be even more careful.

4 Likes

It also appears that Service Today is a business which provides a number of trade services (electrical, plumbing, HVAC/airconditioning/heating). Often the one-fit-all type businesses like these tend to charge more as they have significantly higher overheads and may contract some work out to others (which mean one pays not only for the contractor’s work. but a premium for the principal contractor to manage the service).

We tend to use good, reliable, local, small specialised trades-person rather than the larger conglomerate type businesses (like Services Today). We find that the service is better and cheaper…and for regular customer they will bend over backwards to make sure their customer is happy.

3 Likes

Good point.

2 Likes

There has been another conglomerate type tradie business mentioned on this forum…

which also charges exorbitant fees.

I have knowledge of two elderly Brisbane residences (two I help out/ cared for) which commissioned the same business and were in effect overcharged and serviced (Fallons replaced a meter box on one house when it wasn’t required as part of a new storage hotwater install and then the other Fallons recommending the replacement/move of an older switchboard on another residence, during a AC install, for $7K. Another electrician engaged for a solar inverter replacement said the switchboard was okay and didn’t need to be moved and even if it did, should only cost around $1.5k…fortunately I was able to provide advice with the second one before the old lady being exploited by the Fallon sales tactics). Unfortunately there are some tradie business which focus on making money from their customers rather than providing good customer service.

4 Likes

These kinds of businesses are sometimes nothing more than fancy ‘appointment setters’ with no tradies of their own, just an on-call list. They get a call and they ‘publish it’ for an available tradie to take up just like a cabbie or uber driver takes a fare.

5 Likes

Which inserts another layer of profit that will be taken out before the worker comes in the front door. And you have to wonder about how much responsibility the aggregator takes for the subbies.

I don’t have much faith in web reviews because they are so easily manipulated. On Product Review Service Today gets a strange pattern that I have seen before, there are many glowing reviews that sound so wonderful and a significant number of very bad reviews and almost nothing in between. Is it really possible for the service to be either great or horrid? I know some clients are entirely unreasonable and cannot be pleased but this doesn’t look right to me.

Cost is a major source of dissatisfaction. It seems that the $50 rebate if you complain about cost is common. Complaints of job padding (overservicing) were also common including accusations of being lied to about how much work was involved. They seem to put much effort into thanking people for good reviews and trying to deflect bad ones.

5 Likes

That matches exactly with my experience. I too noticed a strange raft of “glowing” reviews. However, a woman from the company told me that the manager said, after “reviewing” the work that I had done, that he agreed that the unit was connected to existing wiring, no new switches were needed, and then went on to say that I should have been charged more! This was a ridiculous and patronising comment. Then she offered the $50 refund. None of this adds up. You may be right that this company is some sort of delegation team, who don’t do the work themselves but simply add a large extra layer between us and the tradie, a layer that eats up money.

6 Likes

I agree with others that word of mouth recommendations are often best. If you live in SA then the RAA also provides a kind of “find a tradie” service where all tradies are supposedly vetted in some way. I haven’t used it myself but I do rate RAA high up in my list of trusted organisations (along with Choice of course) and I would expect them to look after their own reputation as a consumer based organisation by taking consumer complaints on any referrals seriously. The catch here of course is that you accepted the quote, but the the price does seem outrageous and their behaviour predatory.

2 Likes

For Qld the RACQ has a service that provides trades 24x7.

There are reasons some of us might be critical of the motoring organisations and their marketing motives. It would seem unlikely members using these services would be exposed to shonky services or rorts. Value of course is relative.

https://www.racq.com.au/home-assistance

It is another option. It may be useful to Choice members if this and similar providers were assessed at some time in the future.

P.S.
Our local electrician

would have charged less than $200-$250 for a similar job including supply of a standard style extractor fan from their stock. Yes, there is a 3km trip from the workshop! No need though for a 60+km round trip and an hour to the nearest wholesaler or Bunnings. Items they cannot take off their shelf are ordered in and delivered from their wholesaler on a regular basis, providing you can wait a day or two.

1 Like

Fallons recommended the same to me, replacement of the switchboard at $5k. I’ve since had solar panels installed & whatever had to be done to the switchboard was included in the installation at no extra cost.

3 Likes