Shady tradies using online marketplaces to rip-off consumers

Published Sunday, 11 February, 2024 at 07:46 AM

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence
The Honourable Yvette D'Ath

  • Queensland consumers are being left out of pocket by dodgy marketplace tradespeople.
  • Consumers are reminded to check a contractor is licensed and read reviews before engaging anyone.

Consumers are being warned to be wary of shady tradies operating on social media or online marketplaces.

Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Yvette D’Ath has urged Queenslanders to do their homework before hiring tradies, especially when advertising online.

In 2023, the Office of Fair Trading prosecuted 14 tradies who accepted money but failed to provide construction services and didn’t refund consumers. 

In all cases, they were found to be operating through online marketplaces, service seeking applications or social media.

Social media and marketplaces can help consumers connect with local tradies, but users need to beware of swindlers posing as qualified tradespeople looking to make quick cash and disappear.

In the last two years, the OFT has received more than 720 complaints about tradespeople.

A large number of these complaints related to delay in services, failing to supply, or unsatisfactory services for renovation, plumbing, concreting, and fencing works.

Tips to know when hiring a tradesperson:

  • Do your homework by checking reviews and a general internet search of the business name.
  • Check they are licensed with the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC).
  • Ask to see certificates for public liability insurance.
  • Make sure you get a written quote or contract with business contact details.
  • Arrange an on-site inspection so both parties can meet and discuss details of the job.
  • Don’t pay more than the maximum deposit of 20%—for work priced at $3,300 or less.
  • Always get a receipt for the work, whichever way you paid for it.

It’s also a good option to pay by card as this may provide extra protection by offering a chargeback if the goods or services aren’t delivered.

If a consumer has not received the goods or services they have paid for, the OFT recommends approaching the trader in the first instance.

If this is unsuccessful, they should lodge a complaint with the OFT at or by calling 13 QGOV (13 74 68).

Quotes attributable to the Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Yvette D’Ath:

“The Office of Fair Trading last year prosecuted 14 tradies for failing to provide construction services without refunding customers.

“This is incredibly concerning and a reminder to everyone who is looking online to remain vigilant and do your research.

“It’s easy for dodgy operators to set up online profiles and hide behind the anonymity of social media, so be extra cautious when engaging a tradie to do some work.

“If you are asked to pay a large deposit, or the total amount for the job upfront, this should be a red flag.

“Ask friends and family for the names of traders they’ve used that they’d recommend. Ask traders for details of their previous customers and go and see their work.

“We will continue to crackdown on dodgy traders who are taking money from consumers and failing to supply.”

Quotes attributable to QBCC Commissioner, Anissa Levy:

“The QBCC urges home and property owners to get more than one quote for their building project, to use a contract, and to only use QBCC-licensed contractors regardless of the size of the job.

“Homeowners who choose licensed contractors have peace of mind knowing that they meet these important criteria – they are qualified and experienced and provide the QBCC with evidence of their financial stability each year. 

“In addition to these safeguards, QBCC licensees also know they are required to use contracts and take out insurance on work worth more than $3,300, which protects owners against incomplete or defective work through the Queensland Home Warranty Scheme – Australia's most accessible home warranty scheme.”