Unauthorised Work

What is unauthorised work?
A service carried out that you did not agreed to. The work may be additional to work agreed to or it was carried out before permission was granted - for example, when defective goods had only been taken in for inspection. The general rule is you are not liable to pay for unauthorised work.

Example of unauthorised work
Marama took her car into her local garage to have a faulty fanbelt repaired. When she went to pick the car up and paid the bill she was told that the mechanic had also replaced a fuel line that was wearing thin and had done a general check up and tune. The total bill came to $800.00.

When Marama protested, she was told that she could not take it away until she had paid for the work in full. Marama paid for the work but made it clear to the garage that she would dispute the matter further. She ended up going to the Disputes Tribunal, claiming that she should only pay the cost of having the fanbelt repaired. The Tribunal referee agreed with Marama and an order was made that the garage had to refund all the cost of the unauthorised work.

Preventing unauthorised work
Be specific about the work or service that you want done. If you give a general instruction - eg, 'please fix my car' - you leave yourself open to a huge bill because the garage can do anything to fix the car as your instructions have been too general.

Tell the service provider that you do not want to spend more than a certain amount of money. For example, if you tell the service provider to carry out repairs on your stereo up to $150 in value, then they cannot go over this amount.

If it is not possible for the repair to be done for an amount under your limit, the repairer should not do the work or should contact you first to discuss going over the amount in question.
If work is carried out over the set limit, then the service provider can reverse the extra work - where possible.

eg, if the petrol station attendant fills up the tank of your car instead of putting in only $20.00 worth of petrol as you requested, the attendant will be entitled to siphon the extra petrol out, leaving the amount you originally requested.

This is not always a practical approach, especially where the work cannot be reversed without damage. In Marama's situation it would not have been practical or possible for the mechanic to reverse the work done on tuning her car.

Getting a quote or estimate
The best way to protect yourself against these practices is to get either a quote or estimate from the company or put in writing your specific requirements and the amount you are willing to spend. Taking such steps may lessen the chance of misunderstandings after the work has been done.