Friday 22 March 2013

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice

In February 2012, I enrolled my son who is hearing impaired for Form 3 at a private school. In 2013 just before school opened, I paid P11,500 in school fees. When the school re-opened the following week, the Principal asked to see me.

She told me my son had not done well in Form 3 and she would therefore only admit him back to school on condition that he repeated Form 3. Throughout the year, there had not been any communication from the school that he was not doing well. I enquired about the remedial and counseling services provided by the school. She told me about other students from broken families with even more problems than my son's and that they were doing well which was not relevant to me. She informed me my son lacked focus and I enquired what they did as a school especially that we were talking about an intelligent child.

I decided that allowing my son to repeat the year would not help in anyway. I therefore wrote to the School Head informing her of my decision and requested a refund but she told me they would not refund me saying I had not given notice for the withdrawal of my son.

I argued that my son had not been admitted to the school for 2013 and that I had decided not to take up the condition attached to his re-admittance. Therefore, I was unclear about the notice required as it did not apply in this case. There has not been any further communication from the school. I have called numerous times and left countless messages, to no avail.

I am therefore appealing for your guidance and counsel on the matter.

I can understand how a school needs warning if a parent decides to withdraw their child. I can also understand if a school keeps the deposit a parent paid if the withdrawal happens at the last minute. However, from what you say, this situation is slightly different. They’re now applying a new condition to your deal with them. I’m not a lawyer but I suspect they can’t do that, unless you agreed to that when you first enrolled your son.

It also seems to be a total breakdown in communication if they only tell you that your child is being asked to repeat a year after the new school year has begun. That sounds unreasonable to me. It also sounds like a breach of Section 15 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations which say that a company has failed “to meet minimum standards of performance” if “the service is not rendered with reasonable care and skill”. I think a school should tell parents immediately if they think a child is failing to perform and they should be discussing the situation in detail with you if they think a child needs to repeat a year. That would be reasonable care and skill.

I’ve contacted the school to get their side of the story and will let you know if they respond.

The car import saga

Over the last few months we’ve had various complaints about a car import company called Trans Africa Vehicle Exports who import second-hand cars from the UK. Their business model sounds simple. You select a vehicle from their web site, give them all the money up-front and a month or two later your car is delivered. In theory, not always in practice.

One complaint involved the car being destroyed in an accident on the way and not yet being replaced.
Two others involved entirely the wrong vehicle being delivered. In one of these cases I got involved and met with the local manager and his customer and he promised her a refund the same day. Are you surprised that he failed to honor his promise?

Frankly the whole car import business is suspicious. Why would anyone in their right mind pay money for a car they’ve never actually seen? A car they’ve never sat in? A car they haven’t examined? Isn’t that asking for trouble?

Add in a local dealer who consistently breaks his word and you have a formula for disaster and losing your money. I urge you to steer clear of them all and Trans Africa Vehicle Exports in particular.

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