No apology or refund for student after delay

2016-06-07 10:29
(Picture: Twitter)

(Picture: Twitter)

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Pietermaritzburg - Delayed, deficient and disappointing.

This pretty much sums up the experience a reader, Janet van Eeden, and her son had with the University of South Africa (Unisa) after it approved his application to study a BSc degree but then failed to send study materials before the assignment deadlines.

Van Eeden said her son had registered for two subjects at the end of February and paid almost R3 000 towards his registration and tuition fees.

“His application was accepted after enormous glitches with the website which my IT son was able to fix,” Van Eeden said.

“He then heard nothing from Unisa at all until 23 March when he received a password to log onto the website for his course,” she said.

“When he logged on, he discovered that the two most important assignments for his course had been due on 8 March, and he had already failed his course as they counted 50%,” she said.

“He tried to phone the numbers given for the people in charge of the course and the numbers were disconnected. He then e-mailed the given e-mail addresses and to this day he is still waiting for an answer,” Van Eeden complained to me.

She said the course guidelines finally arrived on March 30 with the same March 8 deadline, and apart from an SMS instructing her son to submit assignments, he had not received a notification regarding the delay and missed deadline.

“I went onto their website and e-mailed every single e-mail address I could find asking someone to help us deal with this conundrum,” she said.

Van Eden said she received one reply advising that someone would be in contact with her soon but more than a month later she had heard nothing.

“We want our money back as my son didn’t bother to send in the assignment as he was already late and he had no guarantee the work would be marked,” Van Eeden said.

I asked Unisa what had gone wrong and whether it would refund the out-of-pocket student and parent given the delayed service.

But apart from owning the problem and blaming it on a registration “backlog”, the university did not get anywhere near to offering an apology, never mind a refund.

Unisa spokesperson Martin Ramotshela said the registration had been received “at the time we were dealing with a backlog caused by challenges with our application system for 2016”.

“As a result of this backlog, some student registrations were not completed within the time that should normally have been the case, also with the resultant knock-on effect of a delay in the delivery of study material,” he said.

“However, at times like these and without fail, the university always makes it a point to advise students to obtain the study material online on the my Unisa student portal and also extends the submission deadlines of affected assignments,” he said.

He said Van Eeden’s son’s case was “no exception”. However, Van Eeden was adamant that her son had not received this notification and had given up when he received no response to his phone calls and e-mail queries regarding the delay and missed deadline.

“It often takes a while for the university to attend to each and every e-mail query during peak periods as we have to deal with a high volume of e-mails and other queries. The situation is also exacerbated by queries that come through third parties as it is university policy not to communicate information about students to a third party without the written consent of the student,” Ramotshela said.

However, he said Unisa had responded to Van Eeden, acknowledging receipt and advising that the matter would be attended to.

Ramotshela added that the university was about to introduce a new “student relationship management system” to improve query turn around times, while unresolved complaints could be escalated to the deputy registrar at deputyregistrar@unisa.ac.za

But Van Eeden was unimpressed.

“It doesn’t help those who have already been let down by the system to promise that they will fix their student relationship management in the future,” she said.

Generally, according to the Consumer Protection Act, consumers have a right to the timeous delivery of goods and services and may cancel an agreement without penalty when this is not forthcoming. And in terms of section 19 (3), if an agreement does not provide a specific delivery date, “the supplier must not require that the consumer accept delivery or performance of the services at an unreasonable time”.

In light of this right I advised Van Eeden to escalate her complaint to the Consumer Goods and Services Ombudsman and will keep you posted on the outcome.

Send your consumer complaints to consumer@3i.co.za

Read more on:    consumer  |  unisa

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