A Queensland tradie being threatened by Bunnings about a A$23,000 ($24,664) bill fraudulently run up by a former subcontractor has begged the hardware giant for a "fair go".
Tony Stengel from Hervey Bay handyman business Tony's Rent A Hubby had his ute stolen last year by Darren Keyssecker, who drove 400km to Brisbane and went on a spending spree using Mr Stengel's Bunnings and Caltex cards.
Keyssecker, who was later jailed for four months for car theft and fraud, racked up A$1500 at Caltex and A$17,000 at Bunnings on a string of items including security cameras, engraving machines and power tools.
While Caltex waived the bill after Stengel informed them of the situation, Bunnings instead called in the lawyers, immediately putting a caveat over his A$500,000 home.
Bunnings is demanding full payment of the bill, which currently stands at nearly A$23,000 including interest.
"After the initial contact with Bunnings saying this is what happened, this is the police report number, their lawyers got involved and then they basically started proceedings to put a caveat on my house," Stengel told news.com.au
"I have only spoken to their lawyers [since then]. Their legal stance is, due to Darren having the PIN number to the account, it's my responsibility for allowing him to use it.
"I did offer to go thirds in the bill, saying it's a third my problem and a third yours because you have a duty of care. They refused that, saying they want the full amount paid, including court costs, legal costs, and you have six months."
Stengel said he filed a legal defence, but received correspondence back from Bunnings' lawyers saying he had failed to lodge the defence properly and he had until Thursday 22 February to reissue it "otherwise they will take further action".
He has not done so. "I haven't spoken to the lawyers, I haven't done anything, I've just been that stressed," he said, adding he was not sure what would happen next.
"That's up to their lawyers and the judicial system. They haven't given me a timeline. After this they may extend it but at this stage I doubt it very much due to their not being overly easy to deal with."
Stengel said Bunnings was "walking over" a loyal customer who had been with them for nearly 15 years. "For them to do this to me and not chase the person that has been charged, sentenced and punished, it's just wrong, it shouldn't happen," he said.
"I'm not impressed. It has left a foul taste in my mouth. I still deal with Bunnings because I don't have a choice in Hervey Bay. We don't have any other hardware stores, Bunnings has basically closed them down."
Stengel said his message to Bunnings managing director Michael Schneider was, "How about a fair go? Go after the right person instead of your loyal customers."
In a statement to Channel Nine's A Current Affair, Bunnings said the caveat was a "last resort" and that it had no legal avenue to pursue Keyssecker.
"While we make no claims to be perfect, we always try to do the right thing by our customers," the statement said. "We have offered to work with Tony to help him through this unfortunate situation several times, including offering a reasonable long-term payment plan.
"We continued to allow Tony to use his Bunnings account to run his business while we tried to resolve this situation. We will continue to try and come to a resolution with Tony and strongly encourage all customers to keep their personal details safe to ensure the security of their account."