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Plumber pricing dispute

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Evening All,

 

Looking for some words of wisdom from the community here so anybody with any experience/knowledge feel free to weigh in!

 

I recently needed some commercial equipment installed. The equipment needed both electric and water with very specific installation requirements (water pressure, filtered water etc). I contacted a company and sent them across the manufacturers specifications for the requirements. Important to note here is that this particular company has worked exstensively for us before so is aware of specifics in regards to the location.

Shortly after sending through details i received a call back advising that it is best to do both electric and water at the same time. They offered to arrange electrician as well so they could co-ordinate: no problem. At this point i asked for a quote for the work. He advised of 2 options:

1 - Cheap but functional = max 600€

2 - More expensive but long lasting = max 1500€

I decided upon the second option. Electrician came and went (bill received for 350€ no issue), plumber came and went. Skip forward 2 weeks and i receive a call advising it would be slightly higher than originally quoted. I questioned on how much higher and he said he couldn't say yet so i agreed to wait for the rechnung to arrive. Today it arrived...2800€. In my book thats not "slightly" higher, thats insane! Obviously i immediately called him at which point he denied all knowledge of the original quote nor the subsequent call to advise of the slightly higher price.

Does anybody know of any kind of recourse i have here? Do i have any legal ground for challenging this? Is this just a case of "worth the paper its written on".

I should point out too that while the workmen were on site nothing has been signed although i have no actual dispute with the workhours it states on the rechnung

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37 minutes ago, Krelborn said:

a case of "worth the paper its written on".

 

isn't this always the case, effectively?  

 

In theory a verbal discussion/agreement can be binding, but you have to be able to prove it happened as you claim.  Witnesses are key, otherwise it devolves into one person's word against the other's.  So evaluating your evidence, even if it's a third party who somehow had knowledge of the discussion at the time it went down, is important.  Part of the equation would also be: what is the general legal expectation around estimates in the first place?  eg will a court likely suspect funny business from a service provider who never provided any written estimate?  or is it solely on the customer to demand such a thing?

 

no idea, but I can guess you have an uphill battle.  Best thing to do would be to consult with a lawyer.  I assume you don't have legal insurance but if you do, just call them.  I had a similar fiasco  and my insurance rep gave me a general evaluation of whether the case would be covered, which translates to (on some level) whether it's worth pursuing or not.  If you are a member of the Haus und Grund verein, they may cover something like this, too.  Alternately, if you are a member of ADAC you should have access to their legal advice hotline that covers all sorts of issues (afaik it's advice only, no legal representation, but never used it myself).  This surprised me, but I have a coworker who used ADAC for advice on an issue with his landlady and they were quite good!  As a last ditch, MAYBE a call to the verbraucherzentrale would be fruitful, but I'm not sure if they deal with real estate related service contracts.  I think it's very cheap to try though.

 

If none of these are an option, you should weigh the cost of a legal consultation (and possible representation) with a lawyer against what you could recoup if you win (afaik that would not be more than the difference between the original verbal agreement and the final billing, but I'm not a profi).  

 

I'm rooting for you

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Thanks for taking the time to reply - i actually do have some pretty comprehensive legal cover so can choose to go down that route. As a brit this is not my default position though! I always feel like these situations should be resolved without the need for courts etc. I was just dropping it in here to see if anybody had faced something similar before and how the whole deal played out.

One of the first things i got told on arriving in Germany was "the cheapest thing you will ever buy is good insurance"

 

In terms of knowledge of the quote there is a third party aware of the original quote but as its also a reprasentative of my company it may or may not hold water.

The other thing i didnt mention, although possibly pertinent, is that identical work has been carried out in other locations in the area for the same approximate price as the original quote - the last of which happened just last week for 1350€. This is obviously a different building so there will be specific building variances but the end resulting work is identical. Maybe a meter or 2 extra piping kind of thing.

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Oh good!  I agree with you, that you should not need a court to find a reasonable outcome, but their evaluation will tell you a lot!

 

you don't have to make a claim, just get their take on it.  It's much, much better than relying on non-profi strangers on the internet :)

 

In my case I had a service provider perform work I did not authorize (not even part of the original job, they came back and did it after the work I agreed to blew up another part of the heating system - nice, eh? "we broke it, we didn't tell you and just fixed it, but we want you to pay for it").  This was a slam dunk according to the insurance rep, but I never pursued it as the case was in the US and the lawyers I spoke with there had no earthly clue about the concept of legal insurance and weren't keen to take me on for fear of not getting paid :/  I think I was out about $700 so not worth fighting over.  

 

My advice is:  you have insurance, use it.  I am on board with your idealism but the fact is there are a lot of people who don't share your high sense of scruples.  This is why it's especially brilliant that we have the option of buying legal insurance in Germany.  But it's pointless if you don't use it.  You might get away with a simple letter from a lawyer to sort it out. 

 

Please, just call your insurer and see what they say.  It's not binding and you've paid for it!

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Maybe if you are aware of the other work that has been performed for1350 compare the invoices to see where they differ?

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14 hours ago, Krelborn said:

...he denied all knowledge of the original quote nor the subsequent call to advise of the slightly higher price.

Nice. It makes you want to record your phone conversations, doesn't it?

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Unless, you had a binding offer then I don't think any legal route will be helpful.  And they will be able to give you a long list of problems and reasons why this was not possible.

 

You said that this is commercial equipment.  Does that mean that this is for a business?  If so are you sure that your legal insurance is valid for your business dealing, and not just for you personally?

 

You suggest that you have put a lot of work their way in the past, then maybe you can use this to put pressure on them and emphasis this and say that unless you can come to an agreement then you will have to look for somebody else to do any such work in the future.

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19 hours ago, Krelborn said:

In my book thats not "slightly" higher,

 

Have you asked for a detailed breakdown of costs?  If most of the costs were hours worked and someone from your company was on site when the work was performed, you could compare the two.  The parts costs could be compared to your other similar projects.  

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