Defending the call-out fee

But that isn’t the end of the story… It happens often that, when presented with the account, the customer asks why they are charged a call-out fee, as they believe that the contractor actually did “very little” to rectify the fault on their electrical installation.

This is a valid question from the paying public’s perspective, but let us consider this from the electrical contractor’s viewpoint.

Often, electrical contractors have to write off small amounts charged for call-out fees simply because customers don’t (or won’t) pay the fee. The legal process to recover such small amounts is just not worth the effort.

Contractors would not have to do this if clients considered the following:

  • The electrical contractor was available to diagnose and rectify the problem when the client needed help desperately.
  • The reason the electrical contractor is able to do this is because he or she has studied and trained for many years – and this has come at a huge cost. The contractor also has accumulated the necessary tools, instruments, equipment and material to rectify electrical faults, and these tools are costly.
  • The electrical contractor is registered and licensed to test and inspect installations and issue valid Certificates of Compliance, which verify that the electrical installations comply with the legislation that governs the electricity industry in South Africa.
  • Electrical contractors who are members of the ECA(SA) are covered by the association’s Workmanship Guarantee Scheme, which guarantees members’ workmanship to a maximum of R20 000 per contract, subject to the conditions of the scheme – and the client has recourse in the unlikely event of defective workmanship.
  • Labour legislation in South Africa makes it difficult and expensive to operate a business in the electrical industry. The electrical contractor has expenses and overheads and, like any other business, contractors charge a fee for services they render.
  • To run a successful business, the electrical contractor has to employ reliable and competent labour at competitive rates, which include benefits as prescribed by the National Bargaining Council for the Electrical Industry.
  • In South Africa today, there are many electricians who are operating outside the law and who are not registered with the Department of Labour. The public has no recourse, should these contractors’ work prove to be non-compliant.

When an electrical contractor carries out work, afford him the courtesy of making a payment immediately on receipt of his invoice. It’s the right thing to do.

Lucas Bowles, ECA regional director, East/South Cape