Watch out for overstated emergency home repair bills, consumer watchdog warns

The city’s consumer watchdog on Wednesday warned people to watch out for overstated emergency home repair bills after receiving feedback saying the repair service companies sourced online charge not only widely varied prices but also provide vastly different standards of service.

The Consumer Council noted that consumers generally lack professional maintenance know-how and a grasp of what constitutes a reasonable fee, thus relying solely on the judgment and advice of technicians.

However, the council said some technicians would claim the problems were grave and could not be dealt with by simple repairs following their inspection, thus, proposing complicated works as follow-up arrangements which ended up with project prices far higher than the original quotation, exceeding the budget of consumers.

The watchdog noted that one complaint they received saw the complainant seeking emergency repair and electrical restoration services online after a short-circuit at home and was quoted a bill of HK$800 by Company A.

The complainant was then presented with an updated quote of HK$26,500 after a few minutes of inspections by a technician and was persuaded to rewire the whole unit with open wiring, which would take 3 days by 3 technicians. The complainant then paid a deposit of HK$5,000 to reserve the project time.

The complainant later considered the inspection to be sloppy and asked for a refund within 3 hours of paying the deposit but was rejected by the company and was requested to pay the outstanding amount.

It is understood the complainant later hired another company to carry out the repair work, which only required half a day and cost HK$5,000, a vast discrepancy from Company A’s quotation.

The council noted that Company A maintained its decision in the end, and the council advised the complainant to consider other legal recourse.

The council reminded consumers that although it has become a trend to search for urgent home repair services online, there are many pitfalls, and consumers may have no recourse against substandard services and unscrupulous business practices.

It also advised consumers to check after each transaction whether the receipts have clearly set out details of services and guarantees and should retain receipts as evidence.