WA’s Consumer Protection issued the public warning on Friday (3 May) about Melissa Sheed Photography, after the agency said it had received nine complaints from parents who had paid at least $1,500 for a package of photos of their babies.
It said some of the complainants had allegedly been waiting for more than a year, despite being promised delivery within three months.
“Ms Sheed had the parents attend her studio to take the photos shortly after they paid their deposit and then the balance of the monies owing. However, the consumers are now having difficulty contacting Ms Sheed or obtaining the finished product,” Consumer Protection said in its warning.
“Ms Sheed is also failing to cooperate with Consumer Protection’s attempts to resolve the complaints.”
Commissioner Lanie Chopping said that given the sentimentality surrounding the photos, the affected customers would prefer to simply receive the photos taken rather than a refund, despite being collectively out of pocket by more than $16,000.
“Like weddings, photos of newborn babies can’t be replicated and there is a huge emotional investment in this type of purchase as well as a financial one,” Ms Chopping said.
“A refund alone is unlikely to completely satisfy the consumers in this case, so we are working to get the outstanding photos supplied as soon as possible.
“In the meantime, we advise parents of newborn babies not to engage the services of Melissa Sheed Photography and look at other providers of this service.”
According to Ms Chopping, the regulator had received other complaints about Melissa Sheed Photography in 2018 that were ultimately resolved through conciliation, although no resolution has been able to be reached for these latest complaints.
“Many consumers in this case paid the full amount up-front for the photos, but we recommend that consumers pay a small deposit and only pay the balance when goods and services are delivered,” she said.
“This reduces the risk of loss and also gives the consumer some bargaining power with the trader if there is a delay in delivery.
“Before engaging a photographer, consumers should get recommendations from friends and family and verify claims by asking to see previous work and speaking to past clients.”
Melissa Sheed Photography has been approached for comment. As of Friday, the business’s website was still live, while links to most of its social media accounts had been severed.
It follows a similar public warning about a wedding photography business that was issued in March, after it went into liquidation, leaving dozens of couples uncertain about whether they would ever see their photos.