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Melbourne firm hands over refund after client’s bill shock

A Melbourne law firm has had to reimburse a client who received an invoice that was more than double the amount he was told to expect.

user iconNaomi Neilson 11 May 2023 Big Law
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A client of PCL Lawyers and associate partner Emma Restall said he was “shocked” to open an invoice to find he owed them $1,864.50 for the firm to prepare a brief to an expert, despite being told a month earlier to expect to pay between $770 and $1,000.

The client, Zhendong Song, brought allegations of misleading and deceptive conduct to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal relating to legal services he needed for a dispute with his builder.

Mr Song said he was billed a total of $2,634.50, which included a $770 fee for an initial meeting with the firm in November 2021.


During this meeting, he alleged he was told to either obtain an expert report himself or engage PCL to prepare the brief on his behalf.

Mr Song alleged Ms Restall advised him the cost of preparing the brief was estimated to be $770 but asked him to deposit $1,000 into the trust account “in case it exceeded this amount”.

VCAT acting senior member Reynah Tang AM accepted Mr Song was “misled by the estimate provided”.

“Had Mr Song been informed of the actual cost prior to engaging PCL to prepare the brief, he may not have asked them to do so. Further, he has not obtained any benefit from that brief as he ultimately engaged a different expert and briefed that expert himself,” Mr Tang said in a judgment earlier this month.

Mr Song also sought a refund for the $770 for the initial meeting, but Mr Tang found there was no misleading or deceptive conduct as he received advice from the firm about his options.

The client alleged PCL and Ms Restall engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct by writing to VCAT to seek an extension of time, but the tribunal found the firm did not purport to act for him.

Mr Song also failed to have the tribunal order PCL and Ms Restall apologise to him, as the firm was “willing to issue an apology to Mr Song for some time in order to resolve the dispute”.

“(Mr Song) refused that offer and pursued these proceedings that adverse findings be made about Ms Restall’s conduct”,” Mr Tang said.

It was made clear to the tribunal that PCL maintained its position it had not engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct but was willing to refund Mr Song the $1,000 when the dispute first came up.

PCL Lawyers was ordered to reimburse Mr Song $1,000, but the application was otherwise dismissed.

This matter is Song v PCL Lawyers Pty Ltd.

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