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Is this legal?
$500 late fee without notice


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19 replies to this topic

#1 fancynancy

Posted 11 December 2012 - 10:04 PM

Hi ladies,I'm trying to help an overseas student who currently lives with us.
He received sms few days ago from his school (college) telling him that he needs to pay his school fee as it has passed the due date. He went to the school the next day and was told that he has been late in paying the fee for 5 weeks and was charged $500 ($100/week). The school said that they already sent 3 sms prior to that, however he has never received them. They didn't send any letter or email because their policy has change since October this year and that all communication with students will be done via sms.
He checked on the installment plan that he signed before he started this course and he realised the payment was due on the 5 November, however there was no information given by the school that say they will charge $100/week penalty for late payment.
He already pay the school fee but try to dispute the late fee as he never received any prior notice about the late payment and late fee. The school insist that they have checked with vodafone and 3 sms sent to him was delivered and that it was some kind of notice. He need to give some kind of evidence that he didn't receive any of them.
I was wondering what kind of evidence he can give to school as he didn't receive any message. FYI the only message he received only mention that he was late but didn't mention any late fee. Do you think it's legal for the school to charge late fee just like that? The fee due was $1750 so $500 late fee is ridiculous I think. What do you think he should do?
Thanks


#2 *Lib*

Posted 11 December 2012 - 10:10 PM

Sounds like bullsh*t. How would they know to check with vodaphone, and vodaphone shouldnt be giving out information. They might have told them the message was delivered, but not if it was to the right phone. I'd be asking them to prove they sent it and he got it.

#3 Mousky

Posted 11 December 2012 - 10:19 PM

Complete cr@p.  If it's not in the contract, they cant charge it.  Phone companies can't disclose information without the persons permission, so would not have told them that.  I'd contact the education ombudsmen and let the school know you are doing it too.

#4 mummaorange

Posted 11 December 2012 - 10:21 PM

i call bullsh*t!!!! he owes them nothing!

#5 dogsneaker

Posted 11 December 2012 - 10:33 PM

If its not in the contract it's not legal.

I think the school can prove that they have sent it if they have set up 'received receipts'.

Why not an email to follow up? Especially when there are $$$ involved?  SMSs are notoriously unreliable.

#6 LK1

Posted 11 December 2012 - 10:40 PM

He should call Vodaphone himself, and also the office or fair trading or similar (whatever his school would fall under). He needs to get educated on his rights before he goes in there "unarmed".

#7 MakkaPakkaDad

Posted 11 December 2012 - 10:45 PM

SMS is not guaranteed delivery (part of the GSM standard) and there's no way to verify final delivery, only that the message was initiated by the sender.  The mobile phone network will try to deliver for up to 3 days, then the SMS is forever lost to the ether.

I agree with PP and call bull@#$% on the late fee - if the late fees are not explicitly defined in the contract then they can't charge them.  I'm fairly sure they need to provide written (as in snail-mail) notice for that sort of fine, too.

Good luck, hope you get it sorted!

#8 fancynancy

Posted 11 December 2012 - 11:01 PM

Thanks everyone, I too believe that the school can't do that. I was going to suggest to him to just ignore the late fee as the school never send anything in writing (statement) that mention the fee, however he is worry that they will add more late fee. I will try to call the school on his behalf tomorrow.

#9 LittleYellowBirdie

Posted 11 December 2012 - 11:11 PM

I had my 2 brothers studied cookery as international students.  They both got a letter saying that we owed them payment and they had contacted us previously bla bla and we had to pay late fee.  We had paid for the term fee and we never received any notification before been served with a letter full with threats.  I think they are very dodgy trying take advantage on international students.

#10 casime

Posted 12 December 2012 - 06:01 AM

What does his contract say about payment of fees?

#11 antsy

Posted 12 December 2012 - 06:23 AM

I worked for a university and to be honest, there really isnt much he can do about it. There usually is a contract they sign upon enrolment, and it would have said somewhere that a late fee will be charged if fees were late. It sounds like he did receive an sms about not paying his fees. If his uni is anything like the uni I worked for, he isnt going to be able to get out of it. Sorry, I know it is unfair. The uni I worked for had a huge problem of international students always paying late, and that is why they had to start penalising students to ensure they paid on time.

Edited by TooManyToys, 12 December 2012 - 06:26 AM.


#12 antsy

Posted 12 December 2012 - 06:25 AM

QUOTE (fancynancy @ 12/12/2012, 12:01 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Thanks everyone, I too believe that the school can't do that. I was going to suggest to him to just ignore the late fee as the school never send anything in writing (statement) that mention the fee, however he is worry that they will add more late fee. I will try to call the school on his behalf tomorrow.


Please dont ignore it, it will stay on his record and wont go away, and it may prevent him from enrolling next year or accessing his results.

#13 elmo_mum

Posted 12 December 2012 - 06:44 AM

you will need to read the contract
if there is something there bout late fees then hes screwed - not the unis responsibility to remind him when his fees are due...

if nothing bout late fees, then i would seek the ombudsman!
$100 per week is steep!

#14 JustBeige

Posted 12 December 2012 - 08:18 AM

QUOTE (elmo_mum @ 12/12/2012, 07:44 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
you will need to read the contract
if there is something there bout late fees then hes screwed - not the unis responsibility to remind him when his fees are due...

if nothing bout late fees, then i would seek the ombudsman!
$100 per week is steep!

This is what I would do.

I would also ask them to show me on my signed copy of the contract where it stipulated about the fees.

If there is nothing in there, then I would also be reporting them to the ACCC and the Dept Of Fair Trade for dodgy business practises.

However, I suspect its probably buried in the guts of the documents that your friend signed.   It should have been pointed out to him before he enrolled and he should have been given the opportunity to read it thoroughly

#15 casime

Posted 12 December 2012 - 10:49 AM

I would be very surprised if there wasn't some form of late fee in the contract.   Students don't get to just pay whenever they feel like it, there's a due date for a reason.  For him to go five weeks over without paying, then I think he's pretty lucky that his enrollment wasn't cancelled.

#16 fancynancy

Posted 12 December 2012 - 10:54 AM

Thanks again everyone.I have reread his contract and it only stated that they will charged 2% if we pay with credit card. It has the installment plan details, like the date and amout due but nothing about late fee at all.I know that he is in the wrong for late payment, however I do think the school should send a reminder through an email or letter, especially as it is $100/week penalty, it seems that they just let it continue week by week and assuming that the student received the sms is not good enough. He goes to school 5 days a week so at least they can always let the teacher know or ask him to go to the office to see them if they really want to remind him.This is only his second term in here so I'm sure he learnt his lesson and I told him to put a reminder on his mobile phone too for when the next installment due.

#17 JustBeige

Posted 12 December 2012 - 12:30 PM

QUOTE (fancynancy @ 12/12/2012, 11:54 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Thanks again everyone.I have reread his contract and it only stated that they will charged 2% if we pay with credit card. It has the installment plan details, like the date and amout due but nothing about late fee at all.I know that he is in the wrong for late payment, however I do think the school should send a reminder through an email or letter, especially as it is $100/week penalty, it seems that they just let it continue week by week and assuming that the student received the sms is not good enough. He goes to school 5 days a week so at least they can always let the teacher know or ask him to go to the office to see them if they really want to remind him.This is only his second term in here so I'm sure he learnt his lesson and I told him to put a reminder on his mobile phone too for when the next installment due.

In that case they dont have a leg to stand on regarding late fees.  Unless he signed another form and they didnt give him a copy (have seen that done too).

I would be encouraging him to write them a letter stating that "here is the payment. In future you would appreciate any fees correspondence to be in writing as clearly the SMS system doesnt work.   In regards to the late fees, there will be no payment as upon rechecking my contract there is no facility for this charge.  Unless the school/uni can show where I signed stating that I agree to this charge"

or something along those lines.

If you are his legal guardian or sponsor then I would also put in there that you would like to be included in the communication.

I would also still ring ACCC / The education Ombudsman / Dept Of Fair Trading to find out my rights behind their policy.   Its a nice touch to a letter when you can add - 'Dept xyz has informed me that ....'

#18 Ally'smum

Posted 12 December 2012 - 12:52 PM

Is it a big university or a small school?

The university I go to sends all correspondence through email, it is the only way they communicate with you. Is there a chance they sent him emails and he hasn't been checking them?

I would still query it though in the hope of getting out of it.

#19 SeaPrincess

Posted 12 December 2012 - 02:21 PM

Ask the university what the procedure is to appeal against the late fee - it's possible that they have a form or something to use and it won't be accepted on anything else.

I'm surprised they use SMS as a reminder. Much too unreliable.

#20 fancynancy

Posted 12 December 2012 - 11:16 PM

Loggedin, It is a small college.I called the school this morning to clarify the matter and finally they decided to reconsider the late fee, they will see until the end of the course if he doesn't make anymore late payment in the future then they may cancel the late fee.Hopefully they will waive the late fee otherwise I will tell him to go to the education ombudsman.Thanks for the advices everyone




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