On 13th February, 2023, the Commission commenced investigations against Atsikana Paulendo Private Secondary School for the alleged unconscionable.
It was alleged that in August, 2022, a Complainant’s daughter was offered a place at the Respondent’s school. The school provided an offer letter, which contained the terms and conditions of the school, which among others had a section which demanded a non-refundable deposit of MK150,000.00 as commitment fee. This commitment fee formed part of school fees per term whose amount is MK500,000.00.
But the Complainant’s daughter was offered a place at an alternative school, which led the Complainant to withdraw her daughter from the Respondent’s school. The Complainant expressly informed the Respondent of his daughters’ withdrawal and demanded a refund of the part-payment of the school fees. The Respondent refused to provide the refund on the basis that the school fee’s part payment was non-refundable.
The Complainant undertook an alternative remedial measure which was to liaise with another guardian whose daughter was offered a place at the institution, so that they use the part payment that was made by the Complainant. However, the Respondent insisted that it was not possible.
The Complainant found the conduct by the Respondent as unfair but also amounting to abuse of consumers. This was based on the fact that, at the time of her daughter’s withdrawal, the term had not commenced, but also that an alternative replacement of his daughter’s enrolment/place had already been found.
The Committee was of the view that there was reasonable justification by the Respondent to demand the upfront part-payment of the school fees. This is not a peculiar practice to the Respondent, as there are many other schools (especially private schools) that also require parents/guardians to make advance part-payment of school fees. Firstly, the advance payment is meant to secure the enrolment of the students, so as to ensure that the enrolled students are only those that really and seriously intend to attend school. This prevents incidences of unwarranted withdraws by some students which may affect the school’s operations.
The Commission noted that the Respondent undertook sufficient measures to notify the Complainant that there was need to pay advance part-payment of school fees to secure his daughter’s enrolment, but also that the subject part-payment was non-refundable.
In view of the foregoing, the Commission found that the conduct by the Respondent towards the Complainant, did not amount to unconscionable conduct prohibited under the CFTA.