When 77-year-old Kambah pensioner Alex Ihasz hastily scribbled his signature on a personal device to agree to a plumbing quote, he later had the sinking feeling he would regret it.
"The drains were all blocked up; I couldn't use the shower or the bathroom. I was railroaded into signing so I could get the work done and have everything working again," he said.
He paid the company $1200 up front, then another $1500 on completion.
He's now in dispute with the plumber, not for the quality of the work but for the balance of the total cost: $4719.
This included more than $3000 in labour for less than two days work to install a new inspection opening and a bigger vent connected to the existing drainage system. A second, independent plumber who later assessed the work said the bill should have been no more than $2500.
"I understand that there are specialised skills and knowledge involved but I feel that I had been badly taken advantage of because of my age and situation," Mr Ihasz said.
"I was told there would be extensive new pipework needed under the house but basically all the work done was contained within a one metre square hole outside the house."
Master Plumbers ACT has been forced to defend its trade after receiving complaints of overcharging and in the wake of an ACT Supreme Court fine against a Canberra company, Your Local Plumbing Group Pty Ltd, for false and misleading representations.
The court found that between 2016 and 2018, the company falsely advertised that services were supplied by businesses unrelated to Your Local Plumbing Group.
The company had used nine different business names and the court found it had "made false or misleading representations that services were of a particular standard, quality, value or grade".
Your Local Plumbing Group's sole director and shareholder, Mr Shameer Khan, was ordered to pay a $30,000 penalty for being knowingly concerned in the contraventions. The court also ordered the company to publish corrective advertisements.
ACT Fair Trading Commissioner David Snowden said this type of conduct from a local business was unacceptable and warned that Access Canberra would step up its vigilance to protect consumers, as well as investigate breaches of consumer law.
The executive officer of Master Plumbers ACT, Leigh Watson, said the association supported the ACT government in its successful legal action and it took a strong stance against any members who were found to be "unethical, unreasonable, have a poor quality of work or have lost business registration or credentials".
She advised people needing a licensed plumber to check Access Canberra's list of licensed professionals, and seek online reviews as a guide.
"If [the plumbing company] is not registered here then they are not licensed," she said.
"We do hear instances of people employing handymen to do work, which is not legal and probably will not be covered by insurance."