Man pays for course online, but struggles to get refunded after glitch in application process

2015-01-27 00:00

SOUTH African consumers are taking to online shopping and payments for everything from groceries to education, but when things go wrong, it’s not always a quick process to get a refund.

James Wylie complained to me that he had tried to register online with Intec Distance Learning College for a software engineering course, but things went horribly wrong after he typed in his credit card details and clicked “proceed” to pay the R4 744 course fee.

“I was given an error message that my transaction could not be completed and that I needed to restart the online application process. I tried to redo my online application, but was not allowed to continue as my details had already been recorded,” he said.

Wylie said he gave up trying to register and only realised later that his credit card had been debited R4 744. He approached Intec for a refund but was surprised by their initial response and tardiness.

“At first, they denied that the amount had been deducted from my credit card, but upon submission of certified copies of my credit card statement, suddenly the amount was found in their banking records,” Wylie said.

Wylie said he had submitted his request for a refund with a copy of his ID book, proof of residential address, and copies of the back and front of his credit card to the company in August last year.

“I was also asked to provide them with the CVV number of my credit card, but I refused as this would provide them with access to the use of my credit card,” Wylie said.

However, five months passed and Wylie still had not received a refund.

“The process is apparently sitting with the finance department of Intec/Damelin who keep telling me that my request will be given priority and settled soon, but nothing has come of this in five months,” he said.

“I never receive any update reports or phone calls from Intec/Damelin … It therefore does not appear that they intend to refund this amount,” he said.

When I contacted Intec/Damelin customer services manager Shane Shaw to ask about the refund and the fault with online registration, he responded saying the problem was “rare”.

“The on-line application process is structured in such a manner that it requires a minimum set of data to be completed. The tracing report shows that there was a break in the link which resulted in an incomplete registration,” Shaw said.

“We do have incomplete registrations intermittently when students do not complete the online process with all the required fields, but as payment is the final step in the process, it is very seldom that we receive a payment for an incomplete registration,” he said.

He added that refunds took a minimum of 90 days from “date of approval” and Wylie’s refund had been approved on October 6.

However, the refund was only paid on January 15, after Wylie had raised the complaint with him.

“We sincerely regret that Mr Wylie’s experience with Intec has been negative,” Shaw said.

“We would like to assure all prospective students that the systems we have in place are secure … using only trusted suppliers … technology can be impacted by external factors, such as power failure and the like,” Shaw said.

He advised consumers who transact online to keep proof of completed processes, such as reference numbers and the date and time of transactions. It’s also advisable to take a screen shot of the webpage if a transaction has failed.

An alternative route Wylie could have taken to get his refund would have been to ask his bank to reverse the transaction in a “charge back”, because he had not received the service.

However, depending on the bank, this needs to be done within three months of the transaction date — although the Payment Association of South Africa allows for 120 days — so it’s important to regularly check your credit card statements for erroneous debits.

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