Friday 1 June 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay?

My kids were chased out of school last term for late payment of school fees. One in January and the other in February/March. Now the issue is that they are asking me to pay the balance for last term yet the kids did not attend the classes. Is it fair to pay for the service that you never received? And why chase them out of school when at the end of the day you are still going to ask for the balance? Please help with advice.

I suspect that this depends entirely on what it says in the agreement, the contract you signed with the school when you first enrolled the children. Unlike government schools, privately owned schools rely almost entirely on the school fees that parents pay for their children to attend. The salaries of the teachers and other staff, the power, water and internet access, the books, tables and chairs are all paid from that income. That’s why private schools often include in their contract a termination clause that says you must give at least one term’s notice if you decide to remove your child. That’s often the time it takes to find a child to replace yours. That’s how they guarantee they continue to have a steady stream of income.

Your case is slightly different. As you say, it wasn’t your choice to remove your child from the school, they forced your children out because you were late paying. That’s why it’s very important that you take a careful look at the contract. I’m not an attorney but if the termination clause only refers to a term’s notice being payable if you decide to withdraw your child then there might be some “wiggle room”. Otherwise you might be out of luck.

It might also be worth asking the school whether they actually suffered financially as a result of them ejecting your children. If they were able to find other children to take their places with no gap then you might have a moral argument, if not a legal one.

Why won’t they refund me?

Hello Richard. Kindly assist me. I bought these two lipsticks at a pharmacy by Block 7 only to find out later that they are on special at another shop for a price less than I paid. I purchased them today in the morning. I immediately went back to the shop with receipts for a refund and they are refusing to assist even though I have the receipts and the goods are still sealed and still in their packaging. They say its an over counter purchase they don't return and its not even written in their receipts.

Let’s start with the basics. Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that goods must be “or merchantable quality” which means “fit for the purposes for which commodities of that kind are usually purchased”. If a store sells goods that aren’t of merchantable quality then they obviously must fix the problem by offering one of the three Rs: a refund, a repair or a replacement.

However, in this case, were the lipsticks of merchantable quality? From what you say, there’s no evidence that they weren’t. So you have no right to return them for this reason.

Were the lipsticks second-hand, used or had they deteriorated? Section 13 (1) (c) forbid the store from selling such things as new but that didn’t happen here, did it?

Other sections of the Regulations forbid a store from deceiving you or from exploiting your ignorance about the product or the conditions of sale but again, I don’t think they’ve done this. From what you say, they didn’t deceive you at any point when they sold you the lipsticks so you can’t use that argument either.

Here’s another thing. Something that the Consumer Protection Regulations don’t mention, a right you don’t currently have. You don’t have the right to change your mind and that appears to be what you’re asking for. I know that the lipsticks are still in their packaging and that you haven’t used them but the store didn’t actually do anything wrong, did they? Did they break any of the rules that would permit you to return them? I don’t believe so.

There are of course some stores that DO allow you to return unused items but that’s not a consumer right, it’s just good customer care. That’s why prices at those stores are often a little higher than at stores where they aren’t as generous. I’m sorry but on this occasion I think you’re out of luck.

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