Contract terms, conditions a binding factor

Hello CCPC,
I enrolled for a teaching training course at one of the colleges in Ndola district around January this year. I paid K1,500 towards a total sum of K1,985 per term. I asked for a refund from the school because I was unable to raise the balance. However, to my surprise the school claimed a 40 percent deduction and I was only refunded K1,050. I feel cheated. Is their action justified? – TN
Dear TN,
Thank you for writing to us. We do value and appreciate your concern. The school in this particular circumstance has not abrogated the Competition and Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) No 24 of 2010 because they did not fail to provide a service to you. However, on the deduction of the 40 percent, this is obviously a matter of their policy for various reasons such as to avoid incurring losses. A school is like any other business venture, hence the deduction is seen as a form of penalty as your school place is not likely to be given to another person as the academic calendar has already progressed.
You must understand that you entered into a contract with the school as soon as you paid them that down payment towards tuition fees. You agreed to their terms and conditions, whether knowingly or unknowingly, or as indicated on the application form or your acceptance letter. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, you opted out of school, as you stated, due to financial hiccups.
It is important for consumers to understand, not only in this particular scenario, but many others, that a contract binds you to certain obligations as a legal document. Suppose you were to sue them in a court of law, they would produce the same contract as their evidence. Therefore, it is necessary that consumers take time to carefully read through such documents even before deciding to make a payment.
On the other hand, it is essential that service providers give full disclosure of information to consumers before they make any financial commitment because not doing so would result in unfair trading. This is so because it might appear as if the service provider is stealing from consumers. Suffice to mention that in a situation where there is a deduction to be made, it is important that the service provider informs the consumer from inception and not at the time of demanding for a refund. Further, if it so happens that a consumer is made to pay for services or goods below standard, contrary to what is purported in the contract, this abrogates the Act and is an offence that attracts a fine.
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