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Queensland Judgments
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  • Unreported Judgment

Tweedie t/as Local Electrical v Massey

 

[2016] QCAT 201

CITATION:

Tweedie t/as Local Electrical v Massey & Purnell; RNL Constructions Pty Ltd v Tweedie [2016] QCAT 201

PARTIES:

Christopher Tweedie t/as Local Electrical

(Applicant)

 

v

 

Lee Massey

Roman Purnell

(Respondents)

PARTIES:

RNL Constructions Pty Ltd

(Applicant)

 

v

 

Christopher Tweedie t/as Local Electrical

(Respondent)

APPLICATION NUMBER:

MCDO2174-15; MCDO2830-15

MATTER TYPE:

Other minor civil dispute matters

HEARING DATE:

19 January 2016; 23 February 2016

HEARD AT:

Brisbane

DECISION OF:

Adjudicator Bertelsen

DELIVERED ON:

20 June 2016

DELIVERED AT:

Brisbane

ORDERS MADE:

In MCDO2174-15:

  1. Lee Massey and Roman Purnell pay to Christopher Tweedie t/as Local Electrical the sum of $11,132.50.

In MCDO2830-15:

  1. The application by RNL Constructions Pty Ltd against Christopher Tweedie t/as Local Electrical is dismissed.

CATCHWORDS:

Other minor civil dispute matters - trader claim – plumbing works performed – hourly rates applicable to work previously performed and paid for – hourly rates applicable to work performed and unpaid

APPEARANCES:

APPLICANT:

Christopher Tweedie

RESPONDENT:

Roman Purnell

REASONS FOR DECISION

Applications

  1. [1]
    By application MCDO2174-15 filed 6 October 2015, Christopher Tweedie t/as Local Electrical (‘Mr Tweedie’) seeks payment of 24 invoices numbers 3204 through 3270 for electrical work carried out for Lee Massey and Roman Purnell t/as RNL Constructions in the sum of $10,523.30 and issued in the period 6 February 2015 through 3 August 2015, as well as debt collectors fees, administration fees, interest and filing fees, bringing the total claimed to $14,803.01.
  2. [2]
    By application MCDO2830-15 filed 24 December 2015, RNL Constructions Pty Ltd (‘RNL’) seeks $15,418.63 for overpayment of numerous invoices issued by Mr Tweedie and paid by RNL in the period 27 March 2014 through 13 July 2015.

Background and evidence

  1. [3]
    The applications were consolidated for the purpose of hearing.
  2. [4]
    Mr Tweedie stated that he commenced doing electrical work for RNL in March 2014. His rate was $80 plus GST call out fee, $80 plus GST per hour for labour and then $80 per hour travel (less 15 minutes each way covered by the call out fee). His first invoice for electrical work was issued in accordance with those rates and was duly paid as were subsequent invoices through to mid-August 2014, when he says, in response to Mr Purnell’s request for assistance due to tough times, he agreed to vary his rates by removing the call out fee, and changing his electrical work labour rate to $100 plus GST for the first half hour, then $100 plus GST per hour after that. Travel was to be charged at $100 plus GST per hour, with the first 15 minutes each way at no charge. Invoice 3062 issued 8 September 2014 was charged out and paid in accord with the revised arrangement.
  3. [5]
    Mr Tweedie said that in October 2014, Mr Purnell once again asked for help, so he again revised his rates to $100 plus GST for the first half hour labour, then $80 plus GST per hour after that. Travel was reduced as well to $80 plus GST per hour, with the first 15 minutes each way at no charge. These further changes were reflected in Invoice 3082 issued 7 October 2014, which was duly paid.
  4. [6]
    According to Mr Tweedie, Mr Purnell requested that because RNL Construction jobs were generally over an hour away, that the travel rate be further reduced. Mr Tweedie said that he reluctantly agreed to reduce the travel rate to $60 per hour plus GST. He said that since October 2014, every RNL invoice was charged out at the finally reduced rates i.e. $100 plus GST for the first half hour labour, $80 plus GST per hour after that, with travel at $60 plus GST per hour, with the first 15 minutes each way exempt. He said those were the rates on all the outstanding 24 invoices numbered 3204 through 3470, bar two exceptions. Firstly, Invoice 3455, invoiced as $60 plus GST per hour as an act of good will. Secondly, Invoice 3464 for electrical work carried out at 5 Reliance Court, Newport Scarborough, at $70 plus GST per hour for Mr Purnell’s mother-in-law. The varied reducing rates were afforded to Mr Purnell, he said, because ‘he was a larger client and we tried to work with him’. He said rates ‘were always coming down to help Roman below what we’ve charged for the last five or more years’.
  5. [7]
    Mr Tweedie stated many invoices issued since October 2014 had been paid. He pointed to email correspondence in the period June to August 2015 as evidence of requests for payment of outstanding invoices. In particular, on 9 June 2015 Mr Tweedie requested urgent advice regarding outstanding invoices. On 10 June 2015, Mr Tweedie was advised by email ‘Sorry Christine [RNL’s account person/book keeper] has been away for almost two weeks, I’m sorting things out now and we’ll have this resolved for you
  6. [8]
    Mr Purnell, by way of response to Mr Tweedie’s application, admitted payment of invoices by RNL but asserted such invoices were paid by accounts person Christine, who no longer worked for RNL; that she had ‘made a mistake and overpaid each invoice from 2014 to now’. He said Mr Tweedie’s (labour) rates were always $88 per hour inclusive of GST, with compensation for travel at $66 per hour inclusive of GST with the first 15 minutes each way exempt. He asserted the conversations with Mr Tweedie regarding tough times did not occur; that rates were overlooked by RNL’s accounts department and should have been $88 per hour inclusive of GST, with a travel compensation fee. He insisted the labour rate was always $88 per hour inclusive of GST. The ‘mistake’ in overpaying invoices was not discovered by Mr Purnell until July 2015, at which time invoices had been paid to February 2015. It was ultimately up to Mr Purnell to approve invoices which he did.
  7. [9]
    Mr Purnell went on to state that RNL paid all outstanding invoices on 9 September 2015, using calculations, he said, that Mr Tweedie had given to RNL’s Catherine Sinclair accounts person, Christine’s apparent successor. Final payment made by Mr Purnell was $19,363.10.
  8. [10]
    Mr Tweedie did not accept Mr Purnell’s revision of his invoices. The $19,363.10 was applied to his oldest outstanding invoices remaining unpaid, with payment of current outstanding invoices being now sought. He said prior to that, monies were paid ‘right up until February [2015]. Then they didn’t pay any further’.
  9. [11]
    Both Mr Tweedie and Mr Purnell agreed during the course of the proceeding that argument was to be confined to charge out rates, and not about the adequacy of work performed, or the defective nature of any electrical work or otherwise. That enabled the Tribunal to hear the applications as Minor Civil Debt applications, which would revolve around a determination of agreed rates. Changing rates, or variations in such rates, were never the subject of any written agreement.
  10. [12]
    In RNL’s claim filed against Mr Tweedie, it was asserted that overpayments of invoices in the period 27 March 2014 (Invoice 2887) through to 13 July 2015 (Invoice 3444) totalled $12,334.90, though the claim sought as monies owing $15,418.63. It was in July 2015 that Mr Purnell said he had realised that invoices had been overcharged.
  11. [13]
    There was some disagreement about the number of hours Mr Tweedie’s electricians were on site at the 5 Reliance Court premises. A major renovation costing some $500,000.00 was being undertaken there over a period of at least a year. Mr Purnell asserted time on site of 116 hours. At $88.00 per hour that is $10,208.00. Mr Tweedie asserted 132 hours at $77 per hour that is $10,164.00.
  12. [14]
    Latterly in the course of the proceeding, Mr Purnell stated:

If I’m going to get pinged for that, no problem at all. Dismiss the second application and me trying to recover funds that are overpaid… Application two was me trying to recover funds. If I can’t recover them, don’t worry about it.

  1. [15]
    Produced to the Tribunal was an email dated 15 April 2014 from Mr Purnell to Mr Tweedie which stated:

Firstly we appreciate the prompt service you are providing and thank you.

On a more depressing note more of your invoices are getting thrown on my desk for approval as you send them in. With the jobs that you are travelling a bit on can we see if we can tone the bills down as these are getting expensive for make safes. Generally our electricians charge us a min $120 + GST per call out. Usually they are on site anywhere from 5 minutes- an hour so this covers the time it took to get there and time on site. When you are travelling we also have a figure we cannot exceed per make safe which is $192 + GST which usually covers the travel time a bit of time on site as generally not much time on site is required.

I appreciate the work that you do and have approved all invoices you have submitted but can you please start watching these in future and keep them closer to above?

That would be fantastic

Conclusions

  1. [16]
    Mr Tweedie’s Local Electrical did electrical work for RNL in the period March 2014 through August 2015. There was no written agreement of what charging rates were to be. The charging rates are best recorded in the numerous invoices issued in that period. Charging rates were revised three times through to October 2014, all of which were in effect a reduction in the charging rates applied by Mr Tweedie.
  2. [17]
    In March 2014 the charging rate was $80 plus GST call out fee, $80 plus GST per hour for labour and then $80 per hour travel (less 15 minutes each way covered by the call out fee).
  3. [18]
    By October 2014 the charging rate was $100 plus GST for the first half hour labour, $80 plus GST per hour after that, with travel at $60 plus GST per hour with the first 15 minutes each way exempt.
  4. [19]
    The email of 15 April 2014 generally accords with Mr Tweedie’s contention that rates were reduced for the benefit of RNL for either, or perhaps both, the reasons of assisting RNL in difficult times and the desire to retain a new and relatively large customer.
  5. [20]
    Whilst Mr Purnell contended that the charging rate at all times was to be a labour rate of $88 per hour (inclusive of GST) and $66 per hour for travel (inclusive of GST) with the first 15 minutes each way exempt, the invoices, in particular those paid, do not reflect any such arrangement.
  6. [21]
    Mr Purnell said it was all a mistake on the part of a bookkeeper, Christine. However, there was no evidence that the invoices which were generally paid to February 2015 were ever queried at the time. In fact, they appear to have been approved and paid. Nor is there anywhere near enough evidence to invoke the doctrine of honest mistake i.e. that there was here a definite agreement to charge at the rate asserted by Mr Purnell and that the invoices were mistakenly issued at rates not contemplated.
  7. [22]
    Mr Purnell unilaterally adjusted invoices previously delivered and some time since paid, and made application for $15,418.63 on account of what he described as overpayments, but the Tribunal finds there were no overpayments; that particularly since October 2014 the invoice charging rate was in accord with the final lower rate applied by Mr Tweedie and paid to February 2015. Mr Tweedie’s rate was consistently the same from October 2014 to August 2015.
  8. [23]
    Finally, Mr Purnell made statements at hearing that could reasonably be construed as admissions as to the lack of efficacy of RNL’s own claim against Mr Tweedie when he said:

If I’m going to get pinged for that, no problem at all. Dismiss the second application and me trying to recover funds that are overpaid… Application two was me trying to recover funds. If I can’t recover them, don’t worry about it.

  1. [24]
    Mr Tweedie was entitled to apply the sum of $19,363.10 which Mr Purnell asserted finalised all monies owing to Mr Tweedie towards the oldest of his outstanding invoices. That is standard commercial practice in the real commercial world.
  2. [25]
    There is no basis to withhold payment for work performed at the rates charged by Mr Tweedie. The Tribunal allows Mr Tweedie’s claim at $10,523.30, together with interest at the QCAT calculator rate for the period 1 September 2015 through 23 February 2016 at $304.20, together with the application fee of $305.00, and disallows RNL Constructions Pty Ltd’s claim against Mr Tweedie.
Close

Editorial Notes

  • Published Case Name:

    Tweedie t/as Local Electrical v Massey & Purnell; RNL Constructions Pty Ltd v Tweedie

  • Shortened Case Name:

    Tweedie t/as Local Electrical v Massey

  • MNC:

    [2016] QCAT 201

  • Court:

    QCAT

  • Judge(s):

    Adjudicator Bertelsen

  • Date:

    20 Jun 2016

Appeal Status

Please note, appeal data is presently unavailable for this judgment. This judgment may have been the subject of an appeal.
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