The Sun-Herald has seen screenshots of text messages between Aggarwala and Schembri.
Daniel and Steph Wingsmith, from Brisbane, said they were waiting for a promised $ 2,000 refund after canceling a videographer for their wedding in August 2021. They Sun-Herald has seen announcements that Schembri agreed to the refund, subject to a bank transfer for a $ 500 installment, and Wingsmiths informed him that the money did not arrive. Daniel Wingsmith said they usually had to contact Schembri several times before answering, which felt like “being haunted”.
In an interview with Sun-Herald Last week, Schembri said he had done outstanding work with 20 clients since the article in April last year, but acknowledged that there were unresolved cases from before 2021, including one from 2015. He also said there were five new clients from weddings last year. still waiting for their prints.
He did not agree that he had not returned the agreed refunds and said that he would deliver all outstanding goods. He said that the processing time was also affected by how long it took couples to choose their photos for the album.
Schembri also claimed that some customers used the threat of media coverage as “some ammunition … to get more money out of me”. He said he was sensitive to messages except on weekends when he shot.
Schembri said that future problems should be significantly reduced because of all bookings made after April last year, he only offered digital photos and directed orders for printouts directly to other companies.
Schembri also said that he focused on freelance photography for other photo studios because it “relieves the pressure from the work before and after” a wedding and allows him to focus on the photography itself.
“Obviously there was a problem with me delivering prints and albums to people and there was a break there on my side, for which I originally took responsibility,” said Schembri. “I wanted to take it out of my hands and get back to what I’m really good at, and that’s with a camera and photography.”
Schembri said he met a counselor for his mental health and felt he was “on top”.
The Sun-Herald has seen claims from about 10 customers about Schembri and examined the evidence for five customers in depth.
Customers who tried to take action through NSW Fair Trading or the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal were left frustrated.
Pali and Marcelo Delgado got married in November 2019. The invoice states $ 8,000 that they would receive a photo before the wedding, Schembri and a second photographer on the wedding day, all photos on USB and a 50-page art wedding album for which they paid $ 100 per page to upgrade from a standard 30-page album. They say that the photography before the wedding did not take place, and that they never got the album – even if they randomly got someone else’s album with a lingerie model. They say they acquired their digital files after months of hunting.
When Schembri failed to deliver Delgado’s wedding album, the couple contacted NSW Fair Trading without success and then tried to take action in the NSW tribunal.
A letter from the tribunal from April 2021 states that it “declined to decide the application” because the dispute came under federal jurisdiction.
The NSW Tribunal may not settle disputes where a party is an intergovernmental party, unless that party is a company, an NSW authority, resident in a territory or abroad.
Schembri’s invoices show that he invoices as Schemry [sic] Trading Trust acting as Ryan Schembri photographer. A trade foundation is not a company.
The trust was registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission in 2016, but public registers do not identify the nominee. Schembri said he did not know why his business was run by a trust, saying “that’s exactly how the auditor sets it up – you have to ask them”.
While Brendan and Andrea Oxford, the couple joined in Sun-Herald article last year, received a refund after winning his case in the NSW court, the discovery was technically registered against a company called XSiGHT. Schembri at the time represented Victorian-based XSiGHT in NSW under a business license, and Oxfords says XSiGHT provided the refund. The Sun-Herald does not claim any error from XSiGHT.
The letter from the tribunal noted a verbal agreement between Delgados and Schembri, where Schembri would repay $ 1,000 a week, and if he managed to finish the wedding album by a certain date, the money would be returned to him.
Delgados says that Schembri paid some installments, then stayed and also missed the deadline. Two years after their wedding, they say they agreed to close the case if he left any more edited digital photos, which he did.
“We’re really just talking about giving some kind of warning to other people who are planning their weddings to check referrals,” Pali Delgado said. “If we had looked at Google, we would have discovered that he had problems with other people.”
Carmen Hickey, who lives in the regional NSW but got married in Sydney in July 2018, has an invoice showing that she paid a discounted price of 6,000 USD for a photo before the wedding, two photographers on site, a 30-page wedding album, a USB of all images and a screen magnification.
The Sun-Herald has seen text messages and emails between Hickey and Schembri from 2018 to 2021 about the quality of the photos and the absence of her wedding album. She said she had only ever received low-resolution images, which Schembri denies.
Hickey asked for a partial refund and then lodged a complaint with NSW Fair Trading.
However, Fair Trading responded in December 2020, saying it could not help further after contacting the trader via “all available methods and all attempts to get an answer. [had] has failed ”.
Hickey filed a minor claim in the local court and the case is still unresolved.
Hickey, a wedding photographer herself, says she worked unpaid as a second photographer for him at multiple weddings because he always promised her “a really juicy album” for her own wedding. She feels disappointed because she counted Schembri as a friend and mentor.
“He promised us the world and did not deliver on our wedding day,” Hickey said. “It’s embarrassing because I had high expectations … and what he produced was so crap.”
E-mail correspondence indicates that Schembri ordered Hickey’s album with GraphiStudio in March last year, but the regional manager informed Hickey in June that Schembri had not paid.
Schembri said he spoke to Hickey’s husband last week and that their case was “being processed”. Hickey said her husband had called Schembri, who claimed he had ordered the album in recent days but could not provide evidence.
Schembri said he was dealing with two cases in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal where the clients lived in NSW. He did not know if they would have to travel for the hearing. Schembri said that the board system was generally good, but he would like more support for the small business owner and more opportunities for mediation.
The CEO of the Consumer Policy Research Center, Erin Turner, generally comments on the legal system rather than the Schembri case, saying that the system places the burden on individual customers to take action through state courts to uphold their rights.
“This means that repeat offenders and companies with bad practice are all too often released,” Turner said.
Turner said a regulator such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission or a State Department of Fair Trade should be able to take companies to court to seek sanctions when a company repeatedly fails to meet consumer guarantees.
The federal government consulted on reforms earlier in the year that would strengthen consumer guarantees, she said.
A spokesperson for NSW Fair Trading said that the department receives more than 40,000 complaints every year and between 50 and 150 are about wedding photographers and videographers.
The spokesman said that Fair Trading was aware of complaints against Ryan Schembri but that they did not exceed the threshold of 10 a month to be added to the agency’s complaints register.
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