Whywait Plumbing Services Logo


Mon to Fri 7.30am – 4pm



Mon – Sun 7.30am – 4pm
24 Hr Emergency Service

Fear of Bunnings and Masters

Fear of Bunnings and Masters

Monopoly Menace: The Unchecked Expansion of Bunnings and Masters – Its Impact on Local Communities

Fear of Bunnings and Masters getting too strong was brought home to me when attending the World Plumbing Council meetings and Singapore International Water Week in Singapore in July 2014. So many Australians are starting to ask whether we should fear Bunnings and Masters getting too stronger a monopoly.

This was the first time I had attended a World Plumbing Council meeting. I was doing so as an individual member plus an observer from the Master Plumbers & Mechanical Services Association of Australia (MPMSAA).

For me personally, the overwhelming impression after two days was the commonality of issues worldwide. Countries such as India and China admire and would love to have:

  • our professional plumbing standards and laws

  • our training regime inclusive of apprenticeships

  • our licensing of not only plumbing companies but individual plumbers

  • our regulation of all things regarding plumbing, drainage and gas fitting

  • our product regulation and safety, whereas all plumbing products must be Watermark-certified

In an equally perverse way, countries such as Australia, the UK, the USA and Canada are deeply concerned about a trend in all jurisdictions that are essentially dumbing down the plumbing industry, with the common thread being:

  • reducing training standards

  • deregulating or removing licensing

  • reducing downward regulation standards

  • tolerating more and more DIY plumbing

  • reducing or eliminating product regulation

The Safety Paradox: Australia’s Remarkable Record in Preventing Plumbing Disasters Despite Bunnings’ Dominance

Unfortunately, in Australia, we take plumbing for granted because our high standards, training, regulations and enforcement of laws mean that, unlike many other developing countries, people do not die from poorly installed plumbing in Australia.

Strong plumbing regulations have made the world much safer in many countries. But with that safe environment that plumbing has created has come complacency to the degree that we only appreciate plumbing when we don’t have it.

In the USA, this complacency has been capitalised on by large corporations that have built large hardware box store warehouses importing products worldwide. In addition, they have led the charge to dumb down plumbing standards to sell more plumbing products to the public at a much higher profit.

In Australia, we see the emergence of this same pattern led by Bunnings (Coles) and Masters (Woolworths).

In Australia, much of the reduction in standards is trumpeted by politicians as a reduction in red tape. Still, it’s removing public health standards that have protected the general population for 150 years.

Acutely merely reducing public health standards is not a reduction in red tape but the caving in of bureaucrats and politicians to lobbyists who convince them our laws and regulations are too strong and restrictive.

The Big Squeeze: Bunnings Embraces American-Style Supply and Installation, Pushing Manufacturers and Plumbers to the Edge

Already you see Bunnings adopting the American models of offering total supply and installation of products squeezing the margins of manufacturers and plumbers to the absolute limit, and advertising the following ….” gas and electric hot water systems. From just $249*, we will arrange your standard installation for you, and if you need an emergency replacement system, we will also organise that to be installed.”

It is utterly impossible to legally and compliantly replace an existing hot water system for $249 (or what is, in reality, $226 exclusive of GST), and Bunnings know it, which is why they have the asterisk after the price, which states…. “*Additional costs do apply beyond standard installation. For information on licensing, please view details here.”

If you click on those links, it leads you to download a three-page document full of exclusions. So very simply, the $249 price is entirely false but is designed to get you to buy from Bunnings without checking the details.

A Dangerous Duo: The Risks of Allowing Bunnings and Masters to Gain Excessive Market Power

After listening to the issues raised by delegates from USA and Canada, we have much to fear if we let Bunnings and Masters get too strong. Already we have seen the effects of supermarkets’ continuous limit of choice, and now we are on the verge of seeing it in the hardware industry. Imagine an Australia where Bunnings and Masters control the plumbing industry:

  • DIY is rampant, leading to lower house prices and higher insurance policy costs

  • fewer skilled jobs leading to fewer apprenticeships

  • licensed plumbers working at subsistence levels based on rates decided by Bunnings or Masters as occurs in the USA where a journeyman plumber in LA is paid $20000 a year

  • limited choice of product

  • no Australian manufacturing further decreasing career choice and leading to increasing unemployment

We need to ensure politicians understand the implications of dumbing down plumbing because the SARS outbreak and the current Ebola virus are a warning of what faulty plumbing can create. Viruses are ever-changing and ever-mutating, and India and China are only too well aware that strong plumbing regulations guard your health.

Bunnings Are Not And Never Will Be Plumbers

Bunnings Are Not And Never Will Be Plumbers

Understanding the Difference Bunnings Are Not Licensed Plumbers


Let’s be clear from the outset: Bunnings is not, nor will ever be, a plumber, electrician, carpenter, painter, garden centre, or any of the other numerous trade specialties they purport to cover.

In truth, they are not a traditional hardware store. Bunnings operates as a massive warehouse, employing supermarket strategies and pricing techniques to market a wide range of hardware-related products. They are far from the friendly, locally-owned hardware shops that once dotted our neighbourhoods.

The majority of Bunnings employees work on a casual, part-time basis and receive relatively low pay. They lack the specialised expertise or skills typically found in the traditional hardware sector.

Many trades and service businesses are irked by Bunnings claims of affordability. More importantly, they are annoyed by their staff who lack trade experience. These employees often lack the qualifications to provide informed advice, yet they routinely do so to unsuspecting DIY enthusiasts to make a sale.

In essence, Bunnings staff are akin to Coles supermarket employees – they are retail shop sales assistants.

Don’t Confuse Bunnings with Professional Plumbing Services

From a plumbing standpoint, Bunnings offers the public a range of plumbing pipes, fittings, and fixtures. Some of them are of such low quality that professional companies like Whywait Plumbing refuse to install them. Bunnings also provides informal DIY courses that teach homeowners and handymen basic plumbing maintenance tasks.

While replacing a tap mixer might be seen as “low risk,” it is still illegal. It may encourage individuals to undertake more dangerous or unlawful plumbing work based on advice from Bunnings staff. There is a need for better education on the consequences of DIY plumbing or hiring a “handyman.” Neither DIY enthusiasts nor handymen possess the comprehensive knowledge and experience needed to adhere to industry standards and Queensland plumbing laws and regulations.

The risks to your health, home, neighbours, family, and potential invalidation of insurance coverage far outweigh any perceived financial benefit of attempting plumbing work yourself or hiring a cheaper, unqualified handyman instead of a licensed and insured professional plumber. Moreover, DIY or “handyman” plumbing can often result in higher costs in the long run when you need to hire professionals to correct expensive mistakes or non-compliant work as per the Plumbing and Drainage Act 2002 and related regulations.

So, while Bunnings staff may be friendly and tell you what you want to hear, they are not qualified to provide expert advice. Moreover, in most cases, they do not hold contractor or trade licenses.

Understanding the Necessity of On-Site Evaluations by Professional Tradesmen

In conclusion, it is crucial to understand that professional plumbers, electricians, and carpenters cannot offer valuable advice without conducting an on-site inspection. Each situation is unique, and an in-depth assessment by a qualified expert is required to determine the best possible solution tailored to your specific needs.

While DIY projects may appear cost-effective, they often come with considerable risks, especially in plumbing and electrical work. There is a good reason why these trades are licensed in most developed countries: they demand specialised knowledge, expertise, and strict adherence to safety standards and regulations.

However, engaging in DIY work or hiring an unqualified handyman may inadvertently put you and others at risk due to hazards such as water damage, electrical fires, and health risks resulting from improper installations or repairs.

Furthermore, non-compliant work can lead to invalidated insurance policies, substantial fines, and expensive repairs. Over time, the perceived savings from DIY projects or employing unlicensed tradespeople can be quickly eclipsed by the potential dangers and costs they may incur.

Given these risks, it is vital to prioritise safety and compliance by enlisting the help of licensed professionals for all your plumbing, electrical, and carpentry needs. Unfortunately, while Bunnings’ friendly staff can provide basic guidance and sell you the tools and supplies required for various home improvement projects, they cannot replace licensed tradesmen with specialised knowledge and experience.

Always remember that investing in professional services is the best way to ensure your home’s essential systems’ safety, durability, and compliance.

Call Now ButtonCALL NOW