NSW Fair Trading has confirmed it has begun an investigation into the country’s biggest homebuilders Metricon Homes following a spike in complaints from customers this year.
The company, which announced earlier this year that it would step in to assist hundreds of former customers of the failed Porter Davis group to complete their homes, was last week accused in an ABCNews investigative report of taking a heavy-handed approach to cancelling fixed-price building contracts with some customers.
However, NSW Fair Trading says almost 70 per cent of the complaints made about Metricon relate to ‘quality of service’.
“There have been three complaints in relation to pre-agreement tenders,” says a NSW Fair Trading spokesperson.
Metricon builds about 4,000 homes a year and completed more than 2,100 homes in NSW over the past four years.
But since 2019, the company has appeared on the NSW Fair Trading complaints register in August and September 2021, July 2022, and in March, April, May and June this year resulting in the most complaints received over the past three years.
Complaints are listed on the register when 10 or more complaints are received against a company in a month. Metricon has garnered 61 complaints so far this year, with the number hitting 18 in June.
A Metricon spokesperson says the company has not been contacted by anyone from Fair Trading regarding any inquiry into the company, ‘but we are open to any discussions that can lead to resolving any concerns’.
“We have seldom appeared on the complaints register, and we are confident that any outstanding matters will be resolved quickly,” the spokesperson says.
In relation to the ABC News report relating to fixed price contracts, the spokesperson says these involve a ‘small percentage of customers who have incurred delays in taking possession of their land titles or other delays impacting building timelines well beyond 12 months (in some cases two years) which has led to inevitable cost rises due to issues affecting building costs’.
“This process only occurs with homes that have not begun construction,” the Metricon spokesperson says.
“In the event that Metricon enters into a new contract with those customers who have exceeded their contract expiry, the price increase from their original contract to the new contract solely reflects material and labour price rises.
“This is required to ensure Metricon can responsibly and securely complete the 4,500 homes we are currently committed to building across Australia this year. Metricon’s commitment is to genuinely work with any affected customers to find solutions that fit their personal needs.
“After several weeks of consultation, in exceptional cases where a considerable amount of time has elapsed without resolution, a select number of customers have been sent a letter requesting a decision on how they would like to proceed. It's important to note that Metricon is flexible with this deadline and accommodate reasonable requests for extensions.”
The NSW Fair Trading spokesperson says that as the matter is ongoing, ‘no further comment can be made at this time’.
“Complaints received by NSW Fair Trading are carefully assessed to determine what action may be required to address non-compliance,” the spokesperson says.
“NSW Fair Trading has a range of compliance and enforcement options to protect consumers, including guidance and advice, warnings, penalty notices and prosecutions.”
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