Reporter: Karryn Cooper

It's one of the great domestic unknowns...will the next tradesman you call to fix your broken down fridge or washing machine take advantage of you..

Well judging by our investigation into appliance mechanics, there's a very good chance you are going to be told a lot of nonsense and pay more than you should.

Cherie Dalley says “yes it easy it is easy for people to get ripped off “

Arthur Moss says “it looks like the electrics have failedsorryit looks like the electrics have failed on the motorokay, you'll spend quite a few hundred dollars fixing it.” This is long time brisbane fridge repairman arthur moss talking rubbish.

“Okay how much? Two to three plus gstwe've got to do it haven't weyou don't have to do anythingwell I need the fridgewell let's do ittwo to three hundred plus GST.” He even joked about the price.

Appliance expert, Kevin Coutts, has altered a perfectly good fridge and washing machine...and then watched on to see what our repairmen do..”Okay to make it non-functional what are you going to do?...we'll remove the good thermal overload and just put in one that's faultywhat will that actually dothat stops the compressor pumping if it doesn't pump gas it can't get cold.”

“So is that something that most tradesman should pick up at some pointdefinitely, definitely any tradesman should be able to pick this up within thirty minuteshow much is that to replace?...less than a $30 part.”

The results from our hidden camera investigation were staggering.... Four out of seven mechanics coudln't find the fault, overcharged or wrongly charged..or in this case hinted we break the law.

Appliance industry association boss David Mackay is at the end of his tether. He says a minority of shonks are destroying the industry's reputation “i get damned annoyedi find that it's difficult because the perception that people have is that they are going to get ripped off.”

David blames a chronic skills shortage for the troubles.

He says the only way you can be truly guaranteed an honest job is to employ an appliance industry association member but admits only fifteen to twenty per cent of the $125 million plus industry falls under the association's umbrella.

David Mackay says “There's too many of them out there that aren't trained and they aren't licensed and whilst there's a big shortage of service people they are going to get a lot of workand some of them are less than ideal.”

But good news... Not all appliance tradies are shonks.

Not one of the 12 washing machine mechanics we called on took us for a ride.

“Oh I know what it isit's pumping isn't itI think there's nothing wrong with it, I think you've been fiddling and not realised what you have donewhat(leans and turns switch)oh you're jokingnono I'm not joking.”

This honest bloke didn't even charge us.

But be warned ..they can charge like wounded bulls.

“we had you fix a fridge for us and it should have cost only a hundred dollars yet you charged usexcuse methree times”

Arthur Moss charged us $330 for just over 40 minutes work fixing the so-called electrical failure....

Well Arthur wasn't interested in answering our questions but as we pointed out the only thing wrong with the fridge was a faulty thermal overload...a part worth about $30 and labour.

The affable Arthur even took time out to tell our researcher how much he loved his job.

well now we know why...

If a major appliance breaks down it can hold up the whole family for weeks at a time it can create you major stress problems and cost you a lot of money.

So here's a few helpful hints from Cherie Calley at the Consumer's Association just in case you don't get one of the good guys when your appliance inevitably breaks down.

  • Look for someone local
  • Someone you think you can trust
  • Someone where you know where their actual workshop is would be handy because you can go back there then
  • You know where they are
  • You are not just a telephone number