Melbourne Magistrates Court has ordered a Victorian heating and air conditioning business to pay $20,000 in costs and $100,000 compensation to customers.
Consumer Affairs Victoria took civil action against Australia Heating and Air Conditioning Pty Ltd, company officer Mardi Angela Tovey and complaints manager Richard Francis Luke Tovey, for breaches of the Australian Consumer Law.
On 10 June 2014, the court awarded the maximum compensation possible ($100,000 is its jurisdictional limit) – and also banned the Toveys from managing corporations. Mardi Tovey was disqualified until 1 July 2024, and Richard Tovey until 1 July 2018.
The court found that they had:
- accepted money from consumers but had failed to supply goods and services within the agreed time
- engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct by requesting payments for goods and services when restrained by the court from doing so
- breached the terms of a 2012 enforceable undertaking, which required the company to repay money to certain consumers.
The court restrained Australia Heating and Air Conditioning and Richard Tovey until 1 July 2024, from requesting or accepting:
- deposits or payment for the sale, supply, delivery or installation of any heating or air-conditioning appliances or components
- any payment for supplying services related to heating or air-conditioning appliances, before completing those services.
It also restrained Mardi Tovey from aiding, abetting or being knowingly concerned in any such conduct by the company.
The Toveys have a history of poor conduct. In 2012, they operated a company called Worldwide Heating and Air Conditioning Pty Ltd, which was also the subject of complaints to Consumer Affairs Victoria. It went into liquidation before Australia Heating and Air Conditioning began to trade.
Consumer Affairs Victoria took legal action against Australia Heating and Air Conditioning and the Toveys in March 2012, and they were restrained from taking payments before supplying goods and services. They later breached those court orders, causing further losses to several consumers.
The compensation and costs awarded on 10 June 2014 are part of a settlement agreed on 2 June 2014, which includes previous amounts ordered on 30 April 2014.