SUD-OUEST CONSTRUCTION, Unfulfilled contract Dispute, After obtaining several quotes for the installation of a new sewage treatment - Disputes Register
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Ref: 1370
Filed: 12/12/2021

Accused Company:


Company number: fr-823420708


Allegation: Unfulfilled contract

Value: EUR 5,000.00

Dispute details:

Very poor installation of sewage treatment system

After obtaining several quotes for the installation of a new sewage treatment system for my property I settled on a quote from this company, even though they were a higher quote, as they appeared to be properly registered and knowledgeable based on conversations with the person they sent out to do a site visit of the job.
I accepted the quote but they were unable to give me a firm start date. Eventually with less than a weeks notice they said they were ready to start installation but it would be a different system than agreed in the quote. I agreed as I wished to have the installation done as soon as possible to fulfill my legal requirement to renew the sewage system within one year of purchasing the property.
The day before the installation was due to commence they contacted me to say the new system was not available and it would have to be another system that was installed. I was assured that the new system was the same quality as originally quoted.
At the start of installation it turned out that the person they sent to do the work had never installed a sewage treatment system apart from doing the work on a system that he had installed at his property. He was a farmer who was looking for some additional work for himself and his son that they had contracted to do the work. When I queried this I was told that they were experienced and they were just labor and the install would be supervised by the company person who had done the site visit.
They had told me that they would help me through the process of obtaining an ecropret loan (French government backed interest free loan) which I should be entitled to as they were experienced and had assisted many of their clients in obtaining these loans. But despite me regularly chasing them about how I proceed to get the loan for over two months between signing the devis and the work commencing they kept saying they would send the information soon. Eventually when the work commenced they sent the initial invoice for 40% as quoted but when I asked again about the loan they said that the loan was up to me to sort out and that it could take several years for the loan to come through and then just sent some blank loan forms from the government website. I informed them that a good part of their quote was due to be covered by the loan.
As the work proceeded there were several issues and there was no sign of supervision on site. The labor they used just dug trenches through the driveway without any preparation for the site to be made good at the end. The drive was gravel over old tarmac and he just dug straight into it with the digger without trying to save the gravel so we were left with a mixture of gravel, tarmac and soil to fill the trenches.
They had issues getting the tanks to depth in the ground due to rocks and then said it would cost extra to remove the rocks as per the quote. I expressed surprise at this as it is quite obvious from the site that the likelihood of encountering rocks was very high as the site is a mill by a river at the bottom of a steep rocky gorge and there is evidence of rocks close by even at the base of the house where the building has in parts being built onto the rock.
I eventually had to agree that the tanks could sit higher but I stipulated that the back-fill round them would have to be graded in to meet the surrounding levels while still providing wheelbarrow access to a bridge crossing the mill race, They agreed to this but them on completion of installation said it was impossible to grade the soil in to meet the surrounding levels. They would not propose a solution and I tried to compromise by suggesting that we split the costs on a gabion wall to retain the soil but they refused and installed a wooden shutter wall held up by rebar hammered into the soil even though I told them that this was unlikely to be a long term solution and that as the planks rotted the soil would collapse exposing the tanks and pipework.
They still proceeded with completing the installation with the labor they had hired walking off the job towards the end after a dispute with them.
There were many other technical challenges faced during the install and there was very little onsite supervision. The labor they used would say he contacted the supervisor or tried to contact him each evening but often received no response or was just told to get round any issues the best he could. I requested the site supervisor to come to site more regular but he seldom showed up.
They eventually said the job was complete and invoiced me, I informed them that there appeared to be a leak between the fosse tank and the drain tank which after a few mails back and forth they agreed to come out an investigate. I informed them at this time that I considered their final invoice invalid as the job was not complete as I did not have a fully functioning system, The site supervisor and another laborer came out to check the leak and as they were excavating the area I overheard him say to the laborer that the pipes could not be leaking as he had tested them himself. I knew this was untrue as I had not seen him carry out any system testing or checks before they filled the trenches. When they exposed the pipe it was quite obvious that it was leaking at a joint and that no adhesive had been applied to the joint. I requested that they inspect the other joints in the area and they later told me that they had checked them and all was okay, although my wife informed me that she had seen them glancing round furtively looking for my whereabouts as they uncovered more pipes but when they saw me approach the quickly gave a thumbs up indicating all was okay and quickly covered the pipes.
A few days later I noted that there still appeared to be a leak and contacted them again. This time I eventually got the boss to come out to site and when he uncovered all the pipes between the fosse tank and the filter tanks it turned out that there were several joints that had not been glued. I expressed my disappointment to the boss and he was apologetic and said that he had had words with the supervisor regarding his actions. He seemed contrite and wanting to sort out the issues and even agreed to contribute towards a gabion wall to retain the soil where the tanks were proud. As we appeared to be moving forward I agreed to pay majority of the remaining monies but withhold 5,000 euro till I was sure the system worked okay and he agreed.
Shortly after this we started getting very bad sewerage smells from the system, mainly around the exhaust vent by the mill building. I contacted them and eventually he sent the site supervisor to install charcoal filter in the vent. This was done but all that achieved was to cause the system to start venting through the inlet vent which was on the main house. We were left with a really bad sewage smell around the main house which almost made it uninhabitable. We had to put up with this for several days before I could get them to return to install a filter in the inlet vent. At this stage they also poured some activator into the system to help activate the bacteria as suggested by the manufacturer. They asked me to monitor it for a month and add more activator solution every two weeks.
Early on it was evident that the installation of the filters just caused the smell to find an easier path and caused the smell to emerge further up the line like out of the regardes and other inlet vents. I sent an email informing them of this issue which I did not receive a response to.
Eventually after a month I received a mail requesting that I pay the balance and when I responded that there was still issues I received a recorded mail delivery with a letter before action. Which is the position that I am now in, the system still does not work correctly as there are still smells emanating around the house and it looks obvious that they do not plan any more remediation work.
The details may appear long winded but there are many other incidents and happenings during the work that I have not mentioned but have evidence of, showing what a poor quality job they carried out.
Despite being informed on several occasions that I did not class the job complete and thus their final invoice was invalid they still persist in using the date of the final invoice as job completion.

Attempts to resolve dispute:

It was a battle each time to get them to investigate any faults I reported and it took them weeks at times to respond or even come up with a plan and then extra time before I could get them on site.
They checked and fixed leaks in pipework between fosse tank and filter tanks, but did not check all other installed pipework for poor connection and leaks.
They fitted carbon filters in vents to eliminate odors, but this has only served to move the smell elsewhere and now they will not offer any other solution and are demanding that I pay them and threatening legal action to recover monies.

Response to accusation (by accused):

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David Simon-Hart

Saint-Mesmin , France