Friday 16 November 2018

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I afford to cancel?

Please help if this is reasonable. I joined a gym in Gaborone and signed a two year contract. Now I have moved to Palapye on a new job where they have no facilities. They say in their contract that when you cancel you have to pay a reasonable cancelation fee. When I checked them they say I have to pay 40% of the balance which is P1,400. Mind you if it happens that no payment are made to them by the 31st of every month they block the person, you will have no access to their facilities. So why should I pay them? Thank you.

The simple answer is a simple one. If you signed it, that’s what happens.

Gyms vary. Some have monthly membership schemes and if you can’t attend or simply change your mind the worst that can happen is that you lose the month’s membership fee that you paid in advance.

Others, like yours, work differently. They have yearly or even two-yearly membership schemes that you can’t just walk away from. One that I looked at recently had a clause in its Terms and Conditions which said that if you “wish to cancel your membership before the expiry of your Commitment Period, then you must give us 20 business days’ written notice of termination and pay a reasonable cancellation fee plus any arrears”.

I don’t think there’s anything unreasonable about that. In theory. Yes, it’s fair for them to demand we give them a month’s notice and yes, they were planning on having our monthly member ship fees for the duration of the “Commitment Period” so it’s reasonable for them to demand the cancellation fee we agreed when we sign their membership fee.

However, 40%? Really? I know what the word “reasonable” means and I’m sure this isn’t that. Clearly this is a technique that the gym uses to prevent people from leaving. I suppose your decision has to be a practical one. You now longer live in the same city so there’s no way you can use their services any longer. Paying the cancellation fee might be the best thing to do. That’s if you believe they’re really likely to chase you for the money…

Where’s my refund?

Two weeks back I opened up an account with a builders merchants and deposited cash amounting to P20,000 into this account with the understanding that I will use this money to buy materials equalling that amount.

Last week, I started with construction and went to the shop to start collecting materials. I managed to purchase cement but couldn’t get the rest of what I needed as I was told that they were out of stock. I went back for the cement but they didn’t have transport available for delivering. Two days later I went back and still I was told the same stories, I complained and it was a back and forth affair with no conclusion. I then requested my account be closed and I be refunded my cash.

I was told to write a letter stating my request and email, which I did but never got a response. Later I received a call from one of the management saying that the cement I was waiting for was delivered at last. I however insisted the account be closed and a refund be made after deduction of the cement costs. I was told I would be given feedback that day but I am still awaiting my refund or feedback whatsoever, I keep getting the same response. I have sent mails, messages and calls and I’m still yet to get help or any valid or logical response as to why I still haven’t been refunded or helped. What can I do?

It’s time to put things in writing and to assert your consumer rights. Section 15 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that when a deal is cancelled, like you’ve done, the supplier must “promptly restore” to the customer any deposit that was made. I suggest that you write them a letter or email explaining that you are cancelling the agreement you had and making it very clear that you understand your rights. It’s up to you to decide what “promptly” might mean but what about something like 5 working days? There’s no reason why a large, successful builders merchant like this one can’t make that happen.

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