I would highly appreciate your opinion on how ethical (or even ilegal) is the business model of the Sports facilities at Melbourne University.
The system at first glance seems simple: Direct debit with fortnight payments OR upfront monthly payment. Because is convenient, most people choose the direct debit option, but here is the catch:
- If for any reason the automatic debit fails, a $15 fine is added to your fees.
- There is no way to waive the fees. Sometimes it might be a bank/card issue, sometimes your account might have too little money, but still they enforce the fine in all cases.
- You can't use the facilities until you pay the fine, but they will still continue charging you! In fact, while the payment method is unresolved, your fortnight payment fees and additional $15 fines keep adding up indefinitely.
There are also a few other things which are strange:
- You can only pause the memberships on a Wednesday BUT if you let them know a WEEK in ADVANCE. So for example, if you have an emergency or feel sick on Thursday, you can't pause until 14 days later. This make membership pauses pretty useless.
- They still charge you fortnight fees even in periods when the facilities are fully closed. For example Christmas/ New Year which is close, you will still get a debit (and a fine if it fails…)
I understand sports facilities business model relies on people singing up and, in many cases, never using them. However the current system is predatory to members as it relies in maximizing income by:
1) Offering a prepaid service which you are liable for, but however they withhold access to the service.
2) They don't drop your membership. They keep charging your membership and late fees for months. You can't use the facilities in all this time.
1) Is it legal to charge a processing payment fine for fortnight debit?
2) Shouldn't UNIMELB SPORTS stop the membership immediately once the payment is refused? Why do they keep charging you for facilities you can't use?
3) Should't they allow members to pause memberships as they prefer?
4) Shouldn't they stop charging members for facilities they can't use?
I am happy to prepare a letter to the Ombudsman so he is aware of this situation and hopefully stop the abuse.
Thanks for your comments!
EDIT 7/09 10am:
- Thank you all for your feedback! Just to clarify:
a) I understand the contract specifies the fines clearly, that is not unders discussion.
b) They key question is if UNIMELB should keep charging members for a service that is not providing. Why would it keep charging a membership fee, when in practice members can't use the facilities?
Examples of services that you get fined, but you can continue to use:
- Mobile: How would you feel if they would give you an invoice for your monthly phone plan, but you couldn't use it until you pay a fine?
- Internet: How would you feel if they give you the invoice for your internet monthly plan, but you couldn't use it until you pay a previous fine?
EDIT2 7/09 11am:
- Fortnight contracts do not require a 12 month contract. Jus a minimum of ~4 months, after which you can retire at any time.
- Unimelb charges IN ADVANCE for the use of the facilities. When you miss the payment, they make you liable for the upcoming to weeks but you can't use until you pay the fine. That's absurd
After several days of discussion there has been not one single example of a business which follow UNIMELB Sports Centre questionalbe practices. Any service provider will at least give you a notice, and grace period. I haven't seen one who will charge for a service not provided, and I am looking for examples.