Firewood scams burn unhappy customers

Central Coast residents are being warned to avoid dodgy firewood offers, following an alarming rise in complaints that wood-shysters are not concerned about the quality of the wood they supply nor whether customers are getting what they paid for.

Central Coast & Hunter Firewood who under-supplied firewood to the editor of the Grapevine. The firewood load as illustrated in the photograph was not what was delivered.

3 June 2022

ALAN HAYES

 

WITH more people working from home and a surge in demand for firewood as the cold winter arrives, many residents have been caught out by a flood of online selling on sites such as Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree, offering discounted wood. This has led to unprincipled quick-buck merchants insisting that orders placed with them are paid upfront for wood that is never delivered, while other people have only received half of what they have paid for.

 

Andrew, a Wyong area resident, who had ordered two cubic metres of firewood for $250, said that when stacked "there was barely one-and-half cubic metres of wood."

 

“I was lucky to get very much good burning hardwood at all,” he said.

 

“What was delivered consisted of about 20 per cent that was only good for kindling and another 20 percent that was old and rotted.

 

“Two cubic metres will usually last me two months, which I have to budget for. Ending up with less than a cubic metre of good burnable wood makes keeping warm at night expensive.”

 

Another resident said that three years ago he ordered four cubic metres of firewood from a business at Kangy Angy, who advertised the best price on the Coast and is still selling firewood from their premises.

 

“When the wood was delivered and stacked it measured out at two cubic metres,” the customer said.

 

“I immediately rang the supplier and complained that the correct amount of firewood hadn’t been delivered.

 

“I was told by the proprietor of the business that the load was correct because it was based on a loose cubic metre.

 

“I’ve never heard of a loose cubic metre before and was reassured by the Department of Fair Trading that there is no such thing and a cubic metre means just that. There are no exceptions for firewood."

 

The editor of the Grapevine also unwittingly fell victim to a firewood scam from an individual named Rob, who claims in his advertisement that he is located in Warnervale but in fact operates his business from Freemans Waterhole.

 

“I’ve been cutting and splitting firewood from fallen trees on my own property for forty years,” said Alan Hayes.

 

“This year, however, with the amount of rain that we have had made it impossible for me to access the seasoned timber on my property, so, I decided to order a load.

 

“Many of the local suppliers had no firewood because of the high early demand but one supplier, Central Coast and Hunter Firewood, said he could deliver – 3 cubic metres of mixed hardwood for $360. So, I placed an order.

 

“The firewood finally arrived, after numerous phone calls and excuses, after dark on a Saturday evening.”

 

Mr. Hayes has a purpose built woodshed that forms part of his residence to enable ease of access to the wood in inclement weather. He found that once the wood had been stacked that only 1.783 cubic metres of firewood had been delivered.

 

Mr. Hayes telephoned the firewood supplier and told him that the firewood order was short by 1.2 cubic metres.

 

“Rob blamed his staff for the mistake,” said Alan Hayes, “and promised that the shortfall that had been paid for would be delivered the following Wednesday. It never arrived!

 

“After numerous phone calls over the next few days, and continual promises that the firewood was going to be delivered, Rob finally said he was too busy to make the delivery – claiming that I got a good load.

 

“After much further discussion, Rob promised he would refund $120 if I texted my bank account details, which I did. Belief in the tooth fairy would be more credible than to believe in this scammer – the refund was not paid.”

 

After each telephone call Mr. Hayes confirmed his conversation with Rob via a text message to establish an accurate record of what transpired.

 

A search of the firewood suppliers telephone number revealed that the service provider is Telstra and that the number is listed as a mobile phone service for Sonic Detailing at Cardiff. Searches with ASIC revealed that Sonic Detailing was deregistered in 2019 and that ‘Central Coast and Hunter Firewood’ is not a registered entity under the Business Names Act or registered as a company.

 

Mr. Hayes made a trip to Freemans Waterhole and through thorough investigation by speaking with locals and employees at the old Oak Milk Bar was able to locate this individuals place of business.

 

Central Coast and Hunter Firewood’s supply activities have been referred to the Department of Fair Trading and to the NSW Police.

 

“It’s not the $120 that bothers me, it’s how many more people may have been short-changed and in their firewood delivery,” Alan Hayes said.

 

“Most people would just through a tarp over their pile of firewood and don’t realise that they didn’t get the full measure that they paid for.

 

“It’s only when you stack the wood and measure it that you find out what you have paid for. And when you ring up and politely complain, all you get is false promises and excuses.

 

“Firewood scamming behaviour needs to be stopped and this can only be done if people who have been scammed do something about it. These scammers work on apathy, believing they will continue to be able to rip people off!”

 

It is an offence under Australian Consumer Law to retain payment for goods that you cannot or do not supply. It also an offence to retain monies for goods that you haven’t supplied under the NSW Crimes Act.

 

If you think you have been scammed by a dodgy firewood supplier, tell the police, and report it to the Department of Fair Trading. Under the heading “Have a Problem” you can use the sample letter for “Goods you bought” to send to the Trader and the complaint form for “Buying goods and services” to lodge your complaint.

 

You can also report a scam to Scam Watch.

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