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Non-disclosure at one's peril

Non-disclosure at one's peril

By Gino Dal Pont

Duties Ethics Obligations 


Good business may dictate openness regarding costs but for lawyers it is a legal obligation. Not long ago I required the services of a plumber, stemming from a hot water hose that split in the early hours of the morning. The plumber duly arrived in late morning, took no more than five minutes to replace the hose, made polite chit-chat, and then went his way. At no stage, whether when requesting the service over the telephone, or indeed at any time prior to receiving the bill in the mail a week or so later, did the plumbing company supply any indication of its cost, whether by way of an estimate, an hourly rate or any minimum charge. The only communication that related in any way to cost was the individual plumber’s quip that it was a pity (for me) that the job only took a few minutes, as I would be charged for an hour. Of course, as a customer I could have asked the question. I opted against doing so not merely because I suspected the job would be minor, but as an experiment to discover whether I would be supplied with any cost estimate, or method of calculating costs, at any time. That plumbers, like other tradespeople and indeed most professionals and other business people, have no legal obligation to make cost estimates or even to disclose their approach to charging made the outcome of my experiment perhaps no surprise. Good business may dictate openness regarding costs, but the law here does not compel this outcome. This did not, however, assuage my discomfort in being at the mercy of another for costs as to which I had no notice (and no control).

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