School placement fees: a blanket 'no refunds' policy is illegal
"A school may not charge a fee for registration or deposits for admission or re-admissions. Only once a learner is accepted and has been informed in writing and once they have accepted their place in writing a school may ask for a deposit."
That's the Western Cape Education Department's stance on the payment of school placement fees.
However, when parents apply to a school they're almost always asked to pay what's called a fee or a deposit in order to secure a place for their children.
Consumer journalist Wendy Knowler asked Consumer Goods and Services Ombud Maguata Mphahlele, whether a blanket non-refundable system is allowed.
Absolutely not, said Mphahlele: a blanket “no refunds” policy is illegal, thanks to the Consumer Protection Act.
Consumers may cancel advance bookings and be refunded what they paid, minus a reasonable cancellation penalty and what's reasonable depends on how much notice they gave, how much the company whether a school or another kind of enterprise have spent working on that advance booking, etc.Wendy Knowler, Consumer journalist
She points out however, that many private schools regard a "reasonable" cancellation penalty as 100% of all deposits/enrolment fees, depending on the term they prefer to use.
Bronagh Hammond, director of communications at the Western Cape Education Department, confirms that the national policy for government schools regarding deposits is clearly spelt out in the Schools Act.
You cannot charge any form of administration fee or deposit fee at a public school in South Africa.Bronagh Hammond, Director of communications - WCED
Fee-paying schools are allowed to request an upfront payment _once _a child has been accepted.
Hammond encourages parents to lay a complaint if the rules aren't followed. Go to the WCED website, select the contacts link and pick the appropriate school district.
For more on this important topic, listen to Consumer Talk with Wendy Knowler:
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