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Termite industry rorting 'panicked' customers

BEWARE: A Northern Rivers pest controller has blown the whistle on entrenched rorts within the industry, particularly in relation to termite/white ant services.
BEWARE: A Northern Rivers pest controller has blown the whistle on entrenched rorts within the industry, particularly in relation to termite/white ant services. Mireille Merlet

CHARGE customers what they are willing to pay - not the cost of the job.

That's the philosophy of some greedy operators in the termite control industry who are tempted to charge for unnecessary extras using a customers' estimated net worth as their guide, according to a local pest controller who is calling for a shake-up of the industry.

The operator, who chose to remain anonymous to avoid repercussions, said there was plenty of "BS" in the industry, "where as soon as you start talking termite work the prices go through the roof".

The psychology is obvious - termites are a weak spot for consumers because of the catastrophic damage they can inflict on a home in a relatively short period. Fear of catastrophe pushes people into a vulnerable state, and there are plenty of operators willing to cash-in on their position, according to the whistleblower.

"For a lot of guys it's a cash cow ... they automatically go 'termites, right, we can put the price up because the people are panicking'," he said.

"I know of one particular company that is not in the area anymore ... their (termite) quotes started at $3500."

The bigger quote was for a bundle of extra services including a chemical barrier as well as baiting system which the insider labelled "complete overkill".

And that's part of the problem - there's a mountain of termite control products on the market which operators themselves struggle to get their head around, let alone their customers.

"It's quite easy to go in, start using all the big words, all the complicated treatment processes, and confuse the hell out of everybody," the operator said.

"If you make yourself sound good by using the big words, people are willing to pay anything you ask for."

Recently he attended an interstate seminar for pest controllers which subtly pushed the idea that operators should tailor their quotes to their perception of the customer's net worth.

"He was stating virtually, 'look at how well off these people are'," he said.

Stephen Ware, executive director of the Australian Environmental Pest Managers Association, recommended all consumers get at least three quotes and carefully vet operators.

"Make sure they use adequately trained personnel, who are properly licensed and properly insured," he said.

Mr Ware went on to label accreditation requirements in NSW "inadequate" because it wasn't compulsory for operators to be insured or have proper training.

The NSW Department of Fair Trading investigated 91 complaints in relation to pest control of termites last year, but a spokesman said none of those related to overcharging.

"The majority of complaints related to the quality of the work - being unsatisfactory, incomplete or defective work," he said.

"Consumers should be clear about the service they are seeking to have undertaken, and determine from the trader exactly what they will receive for the money they are paying.

"Consumers who have concerns about pest control services they have paid for should contact NSW Fair Trading on 13 32 20."

Topics:  industry termites whistleblower



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