According to WA’s Consumer Protection, the affected businesses — from Perth, Bunbury and Albany — received nothing in return for the deposits they had paid to Cody Raymond Williams, the sole director of CLC Group Pty Ltd trading as CLC Fabrications, which is unregistered.
One had been a $15,000 deposit towards a $21,000 purchase, the agency said, adding that all of the businesses had responded to advertisements on Gumtree.
Consumer Protection has urged businesses not to deal with Mr Williams or companies under his control.
“Cody Williams has history with our department, previously operating as a painter without being registered, and now ripping off hardworking small businesspeople who can least afford to lose such large amounts of money,” Consumer Protection commissioner Lanie Chopping said.
“The purchase of the vans or trailers was part of a desire by people to expand their existing business or to start a mobile business, but now their dreams have been shattered by trusting the wrong person.
“We strongly recommend that, considering Cody Williams’s behaviour over many years, people should not do business with him and they should contact Consumer Protection if they encounter him. In the past he has operated under various business names and has used many aliases.”
The regulator said that Mr Williams was fined $20,000 by the building commissioner in February 2016 for carrying out work as a painter without being registered and for demanding excessive deposits as well as using a non-compliant contract.
It added that he had also been fined $1,000 in June 2012 for working as an unregistered painter.
The state’s small business commissioner, David Eaton, said that all small business owners should be wary of making “significant purchases” from ads seen online, including on Gumtree and Facebook.
“We always advise people to undertake essential due diligence before spending large amounts of money,” he said.
“Checking whether a supplier has an ABN and undertaking an online search of the owner’s name should be the bare minimum.”
Affected businesses or consumers who have not registered their complaint can do so using Consumer Protection’s website.
The alert comes just days after the same authority issued a separate warning about a photography business that had attracted complaints about money allegedly being paid for photos that were not delivered.