Consumer Watch: School fees are due even during coronavirus pandemic
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J van Rensburg sent this question to consumer writer Georgina Crouth:
"President Cyril Ramaphosa announced schools to close on March 18 and our crèche fees are paid in advance. I paid the March fees on Feb 26 and now I am expected to pay April 2020 fees, however my daughter has not attended the school since March 17 and will not attend until lockdown is concluded.
"I approached the crèche with supporting documents to show that my husband will be taking a 25% salary cut at the end of April and, therefore, cannot pay the school fees for her not attending the school – any and all funds we have available this month (full salary) have been used for food supply during this time. I do not have funds to waste on anything, especially if no service is rendered (R2 500 is a lot of money for our family).
"They have advised that they are a registered SMME and will be pulling UIF for salaries – are they allowed to still force parents to pay the fees?
"Also, there is funding available to the companies for any financial strain they are going through, however, we as parents have no financial aid to assist with strain that we are feeling due to paying fees for a service that is not being rendered.
"I would also just like to add that my daughter is a 10-month-old baby so she is literally only being cared for at the crèche.
"Also note that the crèche has a R2 000 non-refundable deposit from us that was a requirement before she was able to start there – surely this would be used for an instance like this?
"Is there any information or supporting documentation I can send to the crèche owner or is there funding for individuals/parents to lighten the burden caused by this Covid-19 – programmes are in place for the business sector but what about the parents who are still forced to pay these fees for no service?"
Here's Georgie's response:
It’s a difficult time for everyone and things are likely to get worse for a while. Whether or not services are being rendered, school fees are still due contractually and payable during the pandemic – they have to reopen after lockdown, and have staff and other costs to pay.
In this case, the crèche is clearly already under financial strain and the owner might not be in a position to negotiate with parents.
The SMME funding that’s been widely publicised is not available to all companies – there are strict conditions attached and the crèche might not qualify for assistance. However, you might be able to get relief from your creditors by either submitting a claim for credit life insurance on loans (short-term or mortgage) or approaching your bank (if your accounts are up-to-date) for a payment holiday.
* Georgina Crouth is a consumer watchdog with serious bite. Write to her at [email protected], tweet her @georginacrouth and follow her on Facebook.