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Ask Ash Your Own Question

Ash
Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10915
Experience:  Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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we reserved a place at a private school in Shiplake

Customer Question

we reserved a place at a private school in Shiplake son in 2013. In early 2014 we had been to visit another school and our son who is dyslexic was doing better than expected. We rang the first school to say we would not be taking up the place. I spoke with a lady called caroline who took the call. I wrote to the school and kept a copy of the letter.
In the letter I wrote Dear Mrs xxxxx further to my conversation with Caroline.
Firstly the school queried the Mrs XXXX and I had in fact inadvertently written the name of the head at the school my son was actually going to. When we explained this the school were not satisfied then they said they di not have a caroline in their finance department.
I had never referred to a caroline in the finance dept - this was just the person who had taken my call.
The school are pursuing us terms fees because they say we are still contractually bound and although they have not come out and said it - they have been very aggressive and implied we are lying.
In addition my husband had inadvertently replied to one of the continuous emails about attending the school saying my son could not attend (but without being specific that he was not going to be going there - the wording of his mail is ambiguous)
From our perspective these are just a series of administrative errors caused by us rushing, having too much on and not paying attention to the detail. But we did write to them, they have not said they did not receive the letter and they have been exceptionally aggressive in their pursuit of the fees. we have maintained that we had cleared our contractual obligation but they have today written to us to say they are going to pursue us legally. what is our recourse and position please?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ash replied 1 year ago.
Alex Watts :

my name is ***** ***** I will help you with this.

Alex Watts :

please let me know how much the fees are and if you signed any form of contract?

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

we did sign a contract and a terms fees are £9560 of which we had paid a £100 deposit

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

sorry £1000

Alex Watts :

What does the contract say about cancellation please?

Alex Watts :

ok

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

which they still have and which we did not expect to get back

Alex Watts :

I am just on the train so may be on and offline

Alex Watts :

Sure

Alex Watts :

But I need to know what the terms say in the contract about cancellation

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

That we have to send them a letter in writing a term in advance - which we believe we did

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

they don't specify a letter but i do know they pursued some other parents who only sent an email and told them if they didn't pay then they would pursue them

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

The school agreed to accept half payment in that case

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

The parents had a son at the same school as my son and only sent an email to say their son would not be coming. They were very annoyed because at the time the school did not tell them they needed in a written letter

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

it appears the school have a very aggressive policy to pursue parents who then choose not to send their children to the school

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

They also offered us the opportunity to only pay half but as we believe we had let them know in good time we asked call with the headmaster. he eventually and reluctantly took my husband's call and then said he would speak to the governors in November and let us know. We heard nothing until today when we received a letter from the bursar saying we needed to pay it in full or they would take action.

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

cancellation must be in writing and give a terms notice

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

the specific wording is: a terms fees will be payable if the pupil is withdrawn after the first day of the term immediately preceding the term in which your child was due to start

Alex Watts :

Ok, so the child was never at the school?

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

nope

Alex Watts :

And indeed you did not withdraw the child after the first day of term?

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

no it refers to the first day of the term BEFORE the child joins

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

but in any event we had written to them

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

in reviewing their letter they have purported that the first time we wrote to them was the 29th june

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

totally ignoring our previous letter

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

their issues are:

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

1) they have ignored the original letter

Alex Watts :

Ok, I dont think you need to worry

Alex Watts :

Their contract is very poorly drafted

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

2) they say the letter was addressed to the wrong person and refers to a person who does not work in their finance dept

Alex Watts :

In any event in law they are only entitled to a reasonable fee work done

Alex Watts :

All they have is administration work

Alex Watts :

Even if the contract was against you, you have legal protection

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

they say their terms and conditions fully state they are entitled to a full terms fees

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

and they implied we were lying

Alex Watts :

The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 states

Alex Watts :

5.—(1) A contractual term which has not been individually negotiated shall be regarded as unfair if, contrary to the requirement of good faith, it causes a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations arising under the contract, to the detriment of the consumer.


(2) A term shall always be regarded as not having been individually negotiated where it has been drafted in advance and the consumer has therefore not been able to influence the substance of the term.


(3) Notwithstanding that a specific term or certain aspects of it in a contract has been individually negotiated, these Regulations shall apply to the rest of a contract if an overall assessment of it indicates that it is a pre-formulated standard contract.

Alex Watts :

Therefore you can argue:

Alex Watts :

1) The contract is poorly drafted and you are not liable

Alex Watts :

2) Even if you are liable they have not done any work

Alex Watts :

3) In the alternative the above regulations apply

Alex Watts :

Can I clarify anything about this today please?

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

do you think we should be sending them a legal letter in response

Alex Watts :

Yes I would.

Alex Watts :

You can do this yourself outlining what I have said

Alex Watts :

Or you can get a Solicitor to do this, if you do, clearly there is a cost

Alex Watts :

Does that help?

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

if we send a legal letter then is this something you can do or do we need to get a specific firm to help us

Alex Watts :

Sadly site rules prevent me from sending letters

Alex Watts :

You can get that done from a local Solicitor

Alex Watts :

http://solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk/

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

there are some separate terms in their full terms and conditions which i am just looking at

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

i am just going to the it in full

Alex Watts :

Ok, but your arguments will be the same as I indicated above

Alex Watts :

Can I clarify anything else today?

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

sorry i could not get back into the chat room

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

so are you saying that in your opinion their case is weak?

Alex Watts :

Yes.

Alex Watts :

You have several limbs to argue.

Alex Watts :

Does that help?

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

do you have a view then on why they would even try and pursue us if we have already sent a letter to them within the time frame - could this be construed as bullying or indeed libellous /defamtion of character?

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

defamation

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

if they say they are pursuing it as a "debt" - what process do we have to go through to clear our good name as well as demonstrate we are not liable and acted in good faith to let them know

Alex Watts :

You can stop someone trying to pursue you.

Alex Watts :

As that is a High Court matter so if you have £15,000 to burn you could pursue it

Alex Watts :

But you would need to show that you have suffered actual serious harm

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

well certainly not trying to burn £15k but concerned that they are implying we are lying when we have actually sent them a letter in good time - just got the name wrong on the top!

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

i think we are just very surprised

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

and shocked

JACUSTOMER-dse0d064- :

thanks help anyway

Alex Watts :

Dont worry about that. You have lost the £1000 but can defend any more on the basis I previously outlined.

Alex Watts :

Can I clarify anything else ?

Alex Watts :

If this answers your question could I invite you rate my answer before you leave today.


If the system won’t let you please click reply.



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