A member asked almost 9 years ago

Outrageous fees

After being pressured by a sales person, I signed up for a training course that I later decided not to do. I then found out there was a) no cooling off period and b) a clause in their (not easily visible) T & C's that said I was liable for the full course fees (over $1,000) even if I did not attend the course or gain a qualification. 

I managed to put them off for a while and organise a payment plan, but this is now due and they have already charged me a high late fee for missing the first payment - I haven't updated my bank details with them yet.

I cannot now afford this repayment plan and object to paying for a service I have't received.

Is there any way I can get them off my back?

David  Garner
Associate at Ludlow Legal

Hi,

I’m afraid your legal position is not strong.

It sounds like you have already taken the right first-step, which is to carefully consider what the contract says to determine what your legal rights and obligations are. Unfortunately, there is no legal requirement for a cooling-off period; and it is not uncommon for commercial contracts to have a clause stating that you are still liable for the full purchase price even if you change your mind later. There is also plenty of case law (i.e. judges’ decisions) confirming that, even if the Terms and Conditions are in very small print, they are still binding unless they are unlawful.

The law does provide ways that contracts can be terminated (cancelled) or rescinded (treated as if they were never entered into). It also provides ways that individual clauses can be written out of contracts if they are unlawful or unreasonable. However, the circumstances you describe do not lend themselves easily to any of these. The relevant legislation protecting you as a consumer is contained in the Australian Consumer Law (ACT) - which can be found at Schedule 2 to the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth). Have a look at Chapter 2 of the ACT and see if there is anything there relevant to your situation.

I can appreciate you are reluctant to pay for the training course if you will not gain the benefit of it. If you refuse to pay the money, the training provider may decide to write the cost off as a bad debt and you will have no further liability to them. However, it is more likely they will commence a Minor Case Claim against you in the Magistrates Court to recover the money. In the scenario you describe, they would likely win their case.

TheMagistrate Court decision against you would have an adverse effect on your credit rating. In the long run, this would likely be more detrimental to you than the $1,000+ debt.


Suggested way forward

I suggest it would not be cost-effective to engage a lawyer in this instance. It is unlikely they could do much to help, and their legal costs would soon exacerbate your situation.

In commercial disputes the best solution is not always a legal one however. You have made a good first step in arranging a payment plan to spread your costs and make them more manageable. You could try to build on this and continue your negotiations. If you explain your situation, you may be able to persuade them to write off at least some of the debt.

Alternatively, I appreciate your circumstances have changed, but at one time you thought the training course had at least some merit (albeit at the insistence of a pushy sales person). You understandably say you object to paying for a service you haven’t received. If you do ultimately have to pay the $1,000+ in any case, it may be worth reconsidering whether to take the course.

I sympathise with your situation, but suggest you do not jeopardise your credit rating unless absolutely necessary.

Good luck.

Answered almost 9 years ago   Legal disclaimer

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