Learner driver gets refund for advance booking

Thuli Zungu Consumer Line
A driving school agrees to refund a learner driver after Sowetan intervenes in vehicle-booking fee saga. /123rf
A driving school agrees to refund a learner driver after Sowetan intervenes in vehicle-booking fee saga. /123rf

Consumers have a right to cancel advance reservations, bookings or orders, but some driving schools do not know this and continue to keep deposits by learner drivers without a valid reason.

Geraldine Pillay has accused Kens Driving School of flouting section 17 of the Consumer Protection Act, which gives consumers a right to cancel advance bookings.

Pillay, who is relocating from the East Rand to Lenasia, cancelled her driving lessons with Kens because of her relocation.

The contract she signed has a no-refund clause should the client decide to cancel, she said.

Pillay said when she signed up with the driving school she also decided to pay R650 in advance to hire its car in the event she goes for a test.

She said this booking did not fall within the no-refund clause as it is an advance booking that could be cancelled, with a penalty if the cancellation was late.

"I had eight of the 10 lessons and I did not mind forfeiting payment for the last two lessons," she said.

Mike Ndlovu of Kens Driving School said the company did not have a refund policy.

"We offer gift vouchers for clients that need to continue with lessons at a later stage. In this case we are willing to make an exception and accommodate her to refund her money since she is relocating," Ndlovu said.

But he had a change of heart only after Consumer Line brought it to his attention that he was violating section 17 of the Consumer Protection Act.

A grateful Pillay confirmed receipt of her R650 last Thursday.

Consumer Goods and Services Ombud Magauta Mphahlele said consumers no longer enter into contracts at their own peril as the Consumer Protection Act provides them with the right to cancel.

However, there may be financial penalties that follow the cancellation. Mphahlele said a supplier may impose a reasonable charge for the cancellation of the booking, order or reservation.

Mphahlele said a reasonable charge could depend on the nature of the goods or service that were reserved or booked.

"The length of notice of cancellation provided by the consumer and the reasonable potential of the supplier to find an alternative consumer between the time of cancellation notice and the time of the cancelled booking must be considered," she said.

Mphahlele said the only time a supplier was prohibited from charging a cancellation fee is when the consumer cancels because of death or hospitalisation of the person for whom or for whose benefit the booking was made.

The ombud said the general practice in the industry was also taken into account when determining what is a reasonable cancellation fee.

Mphahlele said some industries have a non-refundable deposit clause on cancellation of a contract.

She said it was unlawful for any supplier to have a policy that denies the consumer the right to cancel an advance booking and receive a refund unless the consumer is a franchise or the goods in question were special order goods.

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