Folk swept up in chimney scam

Nicolette BarbasSouth Western Times
White smoke rises from the chimney.
Camera IconWhite smoke rises from the chimney. Credit: Kappeler Michael/McClatchy Tribune, Kappeler Michael

A Bunbury-based chimney sweeping company has been accused of brushing off consumers’ refund demands without finishing or even starting the job, according to Consumer Protection.

Formerly of Gidgegannup, Neil Michael Cole trades as The Wandering Chimney Sweep and advertises his services on Facebook Marketplace.

On six occasions since September 2018 Mr Cole has taken deposits from consumers as well as one full payment, but has failed to either start or complete the work.

Consumer protection said that Mr Cole had recently accepted payments from six consumers totalling about $4500 for fireplace refurbishments.

The consumers are from Kukerin, Clarkson, Chittering, Moora, Wongan Hills and Wungong.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Lanie Chopping said it seemed as though the chimney sweeper didn’t want to get his hands dirty.

“According to most of the complaints that have been lodged with us, Mr Cole disappeared in a puff of smoke after receiving the money and work was only started in two of the six cases,” Ms Chopping said.

“In one incomplete job, Mr Cole removed the fireplace for refurbishment but it was never returned and he used duct tape to cover up the hole that was left behind.

“His behaviour does not reflect the professional work ethic that consumers expect.

Ms Chopping said Mr Cole’s business name was fitting due to the fact that after taking money from his customers, he wanders off, never to be seen again.

“Don’t get caught out, do some online review checking and get recommendations of reputable businesses if you want your chimney cleaned or your fireplace refurbished this winter.

“Certainly stay away from Neil Cole and The Wandering Chimney Sweep.”

To help reduce the risk of this happening to you, Ms Chopping suggested paying the majority of the quoted price when the job is completed to your satisfaction.

Anyone who has had unsatisfactory dealings with Neil Cole or The Wandering Chimney Sweep is encouraged to lodge a complaint on the consumer protection website.

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