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Woman must pay €40 for electrician's 40-metre trip

The Local · 10 Aug 2012, 14:13

Published: 10 Aug 2012 14:13 GMT+02:00

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Elke Frenzel asked the electrician to fit new sockets and light switches in her flat in the Haidhausen area of Munich, the Die Welt reported on Friday.

The job took about half an hour, for which the electrician charged her €29.63. What Frenzel was not ready for was the travel fee, which the electrician billed at €41.65.

“I am happy to pay for the service that was actually performed,” she told the Münchner Abendzeitung newspaper.

“But more than a euro per metre is absurd.”

She said she paid him part of the fee demanded, but refused to pay the entire amount, saying she had not been told of any travel costs.

But the electrician said she fell into the category of “within 10 kilometres” and had to pay accordingly. After three reminders had failed to result in payment, he sued.

Frenzel said, “I told him I lived just over the way. We never spoke about costs.”

Yet while even the trade guild said that such a short distance should not be charged for, the court in Munich suggested Frenzel pay up – the small print on the job note she signed had included notice of the charge.

Story continues below…

The Local/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

15:12 August 10, 2012 by rits
WOW!!! So just because there was a note about the travel cost, she have to pay. The court did not have the daring to quesiton on what basis the electrician asked for that cost?

The Agentur fur Arbeit do not pay any travel cost less then 6€ whenever they ask an unemployed to visit them.
15:21 August 10, 2012 by Anth2305
'The job took about half an hour, for which the electrician charged her €29.63'. For parts and labour she'd probably be looking at the very least double that here in the UK, also it's almost always standard practice to have a fixed local call out fee, irrespective of distance covered, such as the engineer doing other jobs in the same area.
16:29 August 10, 2012 by Karl_Berlin
It's in the small print, innit! Only decision the court could come to. Why is this a story?
16:58 August 10, 2012 by Anth2305
@ Karl_Berlin. "Why is this a story?"

Because it doesn't include anything controversial, such as right wing extremism, which is liable to attract a lot of comment and would therefore be removed from the Local's pages without trace within hours, whilst stuff like this will usually hang around for weeks at least.
18:30 August 10, 2012 by jodessa
That's the point.....Germany tends to break all costs down (travel, labor, parts, etc...) Therefor, in my opinion, it makes it seem more expensive sometimes.

In the UK or US, there would be a general fee and it would be even more. We just accept that and don't ask for it to be broken down.

In Germany, they charges are more controlled and the prices are lower (in general) so they take advantage where they can. Just like doctors charging you for a 2 minute phone call, when THEY called you!!
19:04 August 10, 2012 by zeddriver
I would ask. Did the electrician show her the job note before or after work was performed? And did he announce to her verbally about the travel fee or the small print? Or did he just say sign here, point to the signature block and hand her a pen without pointing out the travel fee or the small print.

There is usually a reason for print to be small. They are hoping that you don't notice. An honest contractor would point out all fees in an open manner prior to starting work.

But in the end. I nor anyone other than those two were there. So it ends up a he said she said.
19:28 August 10, 2012 by Anth2305
According to the story a skilled electrician has called at someone's house, fitted switches and sockets and has obviously included labour and VAT into a total bill of 70 Euro's, about 54 UKP, which, convert it into any currency you like, in this day and age wouldn't in my book appear to be that unreasonable.
19:47 August 10, 2012 by lucksi
I wonder if it was listed as "Anfahrtspauschale" or "Fahrtkostenpauschale" on the bill. Because those involve driving, so you could argue that he didn't drive.
20:27 August 10, 2012 by The-ex-pat
Interesting that all the comments are about the charge. What about the 10's of thousands in legal fees that recovery of €40 is costing. As usual the only winners are the lawyers.
20:54 August 10, 2012 by coffeelover
@ #9 , I'm guessing it is small claims court where both parties represent themselves, no lawyers allowed, hence small claims which in the U.S. is limited to $10,000 or less. Nevertheless, 40 euro travel fee is excessive in this case, I would have liked the judge to suggest cutting fee in half, plus admonish the electrician to be upfront in the future about the under 10 k 40 euro fee which still seems high to me.
21:18 August 10, 2012 by Bigbobswinden
When you work for yourself there is more to do than just the time on the job than just the time taken on the premises. Call out fee's can be excessive and should be checked BEFORE booking the job.
22:20 August 10, 2012 by zeddriver

Good day sir.

If I read your post correctly. How would she have known to ask about travel fees?

I would think it should be the other way around. The contractor should be up front about any charges.

If I go in my doctors office for carpal tunnel surgery. How would I know to ask about possible damage to the Ulner nerve. Or what the doctor might charge for the scalpel. All I know is my hand goes numb and I want it fixed. It's my doctors ethical as well as moral duty to inform me of possible issues.

When this women called the electrician he could have said that there would be a standard travel fee of XX. That would be the ethical thing to do.
01:18 August 11, 2012 by Ozichick
In Australia every trade has a "service call" charge that is separate from the end cost so whatever is being installed and/or repaired. Along with asking for the costing, consumers always ask what the service charge is.

Just because the customer lived nearby does not mean that tradesmen have to work for nothing. It never fails to amaze me how people always pay whatever white-collar professionals charge without question regardless of their exorbitant amounts but balk at electrical or plumbing requirements.

Why don't they stick their own hands in power sockets or down their S-bend if they don't want to pay for the service.
08:18 August 11, 2012 by zeddriver

Well. I guess unlike you. Most people are not born with every bit of knowledge about every professional procedure ever invented by humans. Most people rely on the honesty of the professional to disclose prior to work what will be charged. Then at that time the customer can make a decision as to whether work can proceed.

I just think that any professional no matter the color of their collar. Should be open about what extra fees they tack on. This electrician can charge what he want's. That's not the main issue. It looks more like the charge was not disclosed in a clear manner prior to work being done. And this lady was rather put off by it. Maybe she has never hired an electrician before. So how was she supposed to have prior knowledge of standard travel fees and even then. Why would any one even think that walking ten meters constitutes "traveling". The electrician was already there. and whether the electrician meant to or not. It makes him look a little tacky in the way he did it.
09:41 August 11, 2012 by Ozichick
"Frenzel said, "I live just over the way. We never spoke about costs".

This implies that she expected the work done free of charge. An electricians tools of trade are in his van. He does not know what he'll need for a job so he's not expected to carry a screwdriver in his back pocket. Vans take petrol, not to mention the exorbitant cost of registration and insurance - not only the vehicle, but his tools, many of which are very expensive. The service charge goes towards these costs. If he has employees, this amount goes towards their wages.

When I visit a doctor, I am charged $AU65 for a 3-minute (standard) consultation. Neither the doctor nor receptionist tell me this but there is a sign on the noticeboard that tells me this, as well as telling me that "payment after consultation is appreciated". Does this sound "tacky" to you?
11:35 August 11, 2012 by raandy
Travel cost often use to be how long it took the service person to reach your place and return. " From door to door". Here in Germany there is normally a set allowable fee, as the service person stated . "she fell with in the category of 10km or less"

He should have been more up front with her or any customer about such fees, as many people are not knowledgable about them. By doing this the lady might have found more for him to do as the travel expense would remain the same if she had 200 euros or 29 euros in labor and parts.

I agree with zeddriver about being open, when everyone is on the same page there is less likely to be a misunderstanding which benefits the customer and service person.
18:42 August 11, 2012 by zeddriver

"Does that sound tacky" That depends. If it was your first visit to the doctor and the notice was in small print off to the side without any staff making you aware of those charges. As it was in this case. Then yes it is tacky. Also sense NEITHER of them talked about costs. Could you not then use your assumption and say that the electrician didn't expect any payment. In the end. She may have not asked the right questions or even know what to ask. But the electrician knew how much he was going to charge and yet said nothing on the phone. In my book that is tacky and demonstrates poor business practices.
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