Join 3,424 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Pay us two weeks early or you're late?
January 11, 2011 12:28 PM   Subscribe

I go to college in California, and my school recently charged me a $250 late fee for failing to pay a bill by January 2nd, even though the semester does not begin until January 19th. In California, can a late fee be charged for a service that has not yet begun?
posted by holympus to Law & Government (57 answers total)
 
Does your invoice say anything about when the tuition has to be paid by?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:29 PM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, it will be listed somewhere that the due date was the 2nd. I would go to the billing office and beg and plead, often fees will be waved just because you asked nicely.

It might be a mistake, also go into the office and ask.

It might be not a mistake and you might just have to pay it. From my experience they have you in a choke hold as far as money is concerned.
posted by Felex at 12:35 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can you call your schools fiscal services or stop by their office (probably faster)? They should be able to pull up your account and tell you exactly when tuition is due and see if they can lift the fee or tell you if you're SOL.
posted by Shirley88 at 12:36 PM on January 11, 2011


I am in no way a lawyer, but every university I've ever been to (none in CA) has had a late payment fee for those who've made no other arrangements to pay their bills for a date a few weeks before classes start. Since other places charge you for services that haven't started (community colleges, private schools, gyms, day cares, rec center classes, plane tickets, hostel reservations), I'm guessing there's no rules about not being able to do that.

If there is conflicting information on the registrar's web site, though, I'd call and talk to them about it. Otherwise, if you're signed up to pay by installments (if your school does that) or financial aid before the due date, frequently the money won't actually be charged until after the due date, but you won't get the late fee.
posted by wending my way at 12:36 PM on January 11, 2011


I can't comment on the legality of this, but class starts January 12th at my university and tuition payment is due January 6th. If you don't pay by the 6th, there is a late fee (though not as steep as $250).

I would recommend going to the Bursar's Office and explain your situation and try to have the fee reversed.
posted by rancidchickn at 12:36 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


When you sign a contract, payments are due as per that contract, irregardless of when the services begin. If you disagree then you negotiate before signing the contract, or request leniency after signing the contract.

Sorry, but you should check your paperwork about when payments are actually due. Those are the dates you care about wrt payments. Your class schedule is exactly that - when classes will occur, not payments.
posted by jpeacock at 12:43 PM on January 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah, if the contract says payment is due by a certain date, it's due by that date even if the service hasn't resumed.

As someone else said, call the office and ask if they can reduce it or get rid of it as you misunderstood the contract and it'll be a one time thing.
posted by shabaabk at 12:45 PM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


What do you mean by "a service that has not yet begun"? "Services" can cover more than classes at a university. If the administrative calendar begins earlier and it's only your classes that begin on Jan. 19th, your payment may also be covering your status as a student -- and, therefore, your ability to use campus facilities/services (the gym, counseling services, the health clinic, etc).
posted by phatkitten at 12:48 PM on January 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'd also point out that generally, education is not considered a "service" in the same sense as electricity or phone service would be. The same rules may not apply.
posted by me3dia at 12:58 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some schools drop you from all your classes if you don't pay by a certain date. This and late fees like what you were charged are specified in the contract. You can ask them to waive the fee, but if it's any kind of large institution, there's a good chance they'll say no.
posted by elpea at 12:58 PM on January 11, 2011


I would go to the billing office and beg and plead, often fees will be waved just because you asked nicely.

If you're a University of California student, don't count on it. With the budget cuts in the last year followed by the cuts revealed in the proposed budget by Gov. Brown yesterday, everyone is feeling the pinch.

Still, it is worth going in penitently, paying your tuition and asking humbly if they can help you at all with the fee.
posted by arnicae at 1:06 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I will investigate the most effective course of action for avoiding the fee, but I'm looking for specific answers to my question of whether, in California, a late fee can be charged for payment for a service that has not yet begun. A cursory google indicates that there are laws and legal opinions surrounding when a late fee can be charged and how large it can be (e.g., http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=32733).

I understand that the services provided by a school may include more than classes and for the purposes of my question let's assume that the semester and all of its associated services begin on January 19th.

A couple of people have mentioned a contract. There is no written or signed contract between me and the school.
posted by holympus at 1:30 PM on January 11, 2011


A couple of people have mentioned a contract. There is no written or signed contract between me and the school.

You signed up for the course...that's a contract.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:38 PM on January 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't really understand the OP's point here. You do realize they have to do billing and accounting and all that other admin stuff to be sure that you actually paid for classes before you go to class, right? I mean what do you expect, to pay the professor on the first day of class?

And yes, they can charge you a late fee for failing to pay in advance. It happens all the time, everywhere. For instance, I pay for my internet service a month in advance and if I don't pay they will charge me a late fee (and then, ultimately, disconnect my service). Why do you think this is a special case of some sort?

Your other option is to just not pay anything and forfeit your education. They're not holding a gun to your head, and you're right, there's no contract. You owe them a bill paid on time, and until you pay that bill and any late fees, they basically don't owe you shit.

Pay the fee and treat it as a life lesson to get organized and pay your bills on time.
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 1:46 PM on January 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


Do you have an school advisor? Maybe talk to him/her and find out if they have the power to lift the late fee?

This happened to me, but it was New York, it was a state grad school, I was only two days late and I had a good excuse in that the website I was supposed to use to pay was designed by a moron and would only work for Internet Explorer 7.

But try asking nicely, it can't hurt.
posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup at 1:55 PM on January 11, 2011


a late fee can be charged for payment for a service that has not yet begun.

Not sure where you got the idea that this is generally illegal. You are in a contractual arrangement with the university. You clicked a button and agreed to terms and conditions that you didn't bother to read.
posted by fixedgear at 1:59 PM on January 11, 2011


It doesn't matter when your classes start, it matters when the due date is. Period. Schools end up sending multiple "THIS IS WHEN THE MONEY IS DUE, NO, REALLY" notices via snail and e-mail and putting notices in the school newspaper, and then still get people like you saying, "But I didn't know! Nobody told me!"
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:01 PM on January 11, 2011


for the purposes of my question let's assume that the semester and all of its associated services begin on January 19th.

That's a mighty big assumption, and for the purposes of answering your question correctly, might be a bad one.

It sounds like what you want is actually legal advice, in which case you should seek the services of a qualified attorney.
posted by rtha at 2:05 PM on January 11, 2011


Yeah, your acceptance into the school and enrollment in courses usually involves a contractual agreement, you just (like somebody else mentioned) haven't read up on the terms and conditions the school lays down.

And my school, FWIW, makes my tuition a week before the first day of the semester/classes. However, the library, computer labs, financial/fiscal services, advising center, rec center and plenty of other offices are open usually year-round, so the tuition due date (which pays for more than just the classes themselves) really doesn't apply to just the classes.
posted by Shirley88 at 2:11 PM on January 11, 2011


A couple of people have mentioned a contract. There is no written or signed contract between me and the school.

i don't know what you are talking about but when you sign the agreement to go to that school after they have accepted you, then yes, you are contracted to pay tuition as agreed. i don't know why you would think that you are not obligated to pay for your tuition until classes literally begin but you best disabuse yourself of the kind of indignant self-righteousness you are exhibiting here. every school that i have gone to requires that tuition be paid on or before the set due date or a late fee applies. period. you have no doubt received notice of your tuition, it's due date, and subsequent late fees which you seemed to have ignored and now feel that you should not be penalized for it. if you, for some special reason never received such notices, then go into the registrar's office and explain that to them and hope they are sympathetic and believe you. otherwise, grow up and pay for late fees and don't ignore your tuition bills again in the future.
posted by violetk at 2:12 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


It sounds like what you want is actually legal advice, in which case you should seek the services of a qualified attorney.
posted by rtha


A qualified attorney sounds a bit much, especially for a $250 dollar fee that can most likely be waived at fiscal services/bursar's office.
posted by Shirley88 at 2:13 PM on January 11, 2011


There is no written or signed contract between me and the school.

I strongly doubt this, as a former university administrator myself who actually designed enrollment paperwork in collaboration with attorneys. Are you sure that none of the forms you completed contained contractual language? "I registered online" does not mean that you didn't agree to a contract.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:13 PM on January 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why not visit student legal services? Also, you did register for classes for this term, right? So, presumably, you were already all signed up for 'services.' Also, were you using the library between semesters?
posted by bluedaisy at 2:19 PM on January 11, 2011


Why is the tone in this thread so adversarial? I'm not looking to learn a life lesson or for advice on what to do next. I'm really just looking for a well-reasoned answer to my question. The page that I cited above states that in California, the service charges charged by a creditor must be reasonably related to the damages suffered by the creditor as a result of the late payment. This makes me suspect that the late fee may not be in accordance with California law. My question is not unreasonable, and I'd appreciate anyone who can provide a meaningful answer.
posted by holympus at 2:27 PM on January 11, 2011


"A couple of people have mentioned a contract. There is no written or signed contract between me and the school."

Student handbooks have also been construed as contracts by courts in many jurisdictions.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:31 PM on January 11, 2011


What you want is jurisdiction-specific legal advise.
My common sense advice: if you try to challenge this on legal grounds, you will either fail or spend more money than it's worth trying to fight it, probably forfeiting your registration in the process.
The tone is adversarial because you're refusing any advice that doesn't meet the flawed parameters of your question.
posted by elpea at 2:34 PM on January 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


your question is fundamentally flawed. you seem to be under the impression that the university is not somehow incurring expenses related to your enrollment in the course until you actually have your ass in the seat on the first day of class. just because you aren't in a classroom doesn't mean that the university is not already providing services for your benefit under your agreement to enroll in the class.
posted by jimw at 2:38 PM on January 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


A qualified attorney sounds a bit much,

Not really, if what the poster wants is some knowledge of arcane California code that says late fees for tuition are/are not okay, especially since no one here has yet been able to answer the question to their satisfaction. And quoting title and code is probably what the poster wants in order to make the bursar's office back off. And even then, it probably won't work unless there's a lawsuit.

The UC system has several law schools, and those almost certainly have clinics staffed by law students who may be able to answer your question definitively for free or cheap.
posted by rtha at 2:40 PM on January 11, 2011


The UC system has several law schools, and those almost certainly have clinics staffed by law students who may be able to answer your question definitively for free or cheap.

If the OP is a UC student, there's a good chance she will not be able to use any of the UC student legal services because most of those types of services will not assist where the university itself is an adversarial party.
I doubt that any UC law school clinic will help with this type of case. I don't know about UC, but the clinics at my state law school would also not help in this type of case at all, they usually work in specific areas of law, and fighting university fees is generally not one of those areas.
posted by elpea at 2:43 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just in the same way that you have specific deadlines to pay a credit card, water, electric or trash bill, you have deadlines at your university that must be met in order to continue using that service. Educational institutions have, in my experience, more stringent rules about meeting deadlines because of the way in which they interface with state and federal offices (even if they're private or a community college) because their bookkeeping is complex. (Stupid, often; but complex nonetheless.)

And yes, you entered into a contract with the university the moment you agreed to attend the school and take part in its classes. In order to continue to qualify for those services, you need to a) pay tuition, b) pay any and all applicable fees, and c) maintain a certain GPA. Each of those things have deadlines associated with them, and it is neither unreasonable or illegal for an institution providing you with access to facilities, resources, and courses to insist on payments and qualifications being made by a specific date, and to charge a late fee if those things aren't met in a timely matter.

If your argument is "Well, I shouldn't have to pay anything until I've had a chance to try it out," some schools do offer tuition and fee refunds if you drop courses or withdraw from their institution entirely.
posted by patronuscharms at 2:44 PM on January 11, 2011


Have you tried looking through the CSU policies website?
posted by lychee at 3:46 PM on January 11, 2011


There are terms and conditions attached to registering for classes that bind you whether you review them or not. It may have been a box that you check that said something like "I hereby agree to pay the invoice for these classes by January 2, 2011, or I will incur a $250 late fee." It may have been small print next to a button you clicked to complete your transaction. Contracts of adhesion suck.

The proportionality requirement you mention likely does not apply here because state universities often have their own bodies of law and regulations. Also, we have no way of knowing the proportions because we don't know the amount of your invoice.

Given how many lawyers work for the UC system, it would surprise me greatly if the university was assessing late fees illegally.

The way your question was worded kind of merged the fee issue with the university's ability to make tuition due before the beginning of classes, but they are separate issues. You're not really asking about the ability to make payment due before classes, but the power to set fees. Maybe the best route is to ask the bursar's office nicely what the legal basis is for the fee?
posted by *s at 3:50 PM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


from your link, OP...

when the creditor could show that non-payment by the customer created administrative costs for the creditor.

this is in the same paragraph as your quote about reasonably related damages.

so i'm sure the university can come up with accounting to show that it costs them $250 in personnel, equipment, supplies, electricity for the office and equip, etc for your late payment to be put in the system and processed.
posted by sio42 at 3:52 PM on January 11, 2011


also, as others have said, and i as can currently attest to, both of my undergrad colleges, and the current community college where i am taking classes, ALL required tuition due in full PRIOR to classes starting, unless you had made payment arrangements, which all of them offered.
posted by sio42 at 3:54 PM on January 11, 2011


The page that I cited above states that in California, the service charges charged by a creditor must be reasonably related to the damages suffered by the creditor as a result of the late payment.

Timetabling classes, allocating classrooms, sorting out teaching loads, buying equipment, assigning resources, setting budgets, and all the other stuff that needs to be done before your class starts is all really hard. And it can only be done once all the students have made a commitment to being in those classes, otherwise numbers change too much. It also all costs a lot of money. It's even possible that the University takes on extra temp staff at this time of year to make sure it all gets sorted out before your first day. Add in the extra administration load of having to process fees from however many hundreds of students that are late. So your not paying your fees on time, and making the commitment that goes with paying those fees, most definitely does cause hardship to the University. So I think that you're working from a flawed assumption and have no case to argue.
posted by shelleycat at 4:01 PM on January 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


The page that I cited above states that in California, the service charges charged by a creditor must be reasonably related to the damages suffered by the creditor as a result of the late payment.

You haven't started the service of the class yet, but by enrolling in the course you've taken a seat in that course that could have ultimately gone to someone else. You entered into an agreement to pay for that course on a certain date and failed to do so; they are willing to allow you to continue your enrollment in the course, but are requesting that an additional fee be paid. If you were to walk away now you would both be in violation of your contract with the school AND have potentially affected the school's business by reserving a service, then walking away from it, limiting their ability to sell that service to others. They could argue damages due to this.

Don't get hung up on it being called a "late fee"; it is arguably a cancellation fee, which both airlines and cell phone companies have no trouble legally enforcing. The service they are providing started when they made a course reservation for you.
posted by Benjy at 4:01 PM on January 11, 2011


Ask nicely (without saying anything about how this is an illegal late charge) at the bursar's office and you have a chance of getting the late fee waived. Then pay by the due date in the future, regardless of when classes start. If they won't waive or reduce the fee, then I guess you might want to consider legal action but save that as a last resort.
posted by mskyle at 4:05 PM on January 11, 2011


There is no written or signed contract between me and the school.

Sorry, but this is absurd. If you don't believe you have a contract, how can you reasonably expect to show up to class on January 19th? Contracts can be about pretty much anything and the terms are whatever the parties agree. They need not be signed or in writing, although I suspect yours is, albeit online. Did they send you an Offer of Study or similar? Did you tick a box saying "I accept the terms and conditions of..." or similar? Did you enrol with the intention that the school would be bound to provide education services and you would be bound to pay for them? Obviously you did. In that case, the question is whether the terms of the school's offer contained a late payment provision. I suspect it did, because it is unlikely in these litigious times that a large education provider would be so audacious as to impose arbitrary late payment fees. It's more likely that you agreed to the terms without reading them.
posted by doublehappy at 4:21 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for responding to my question, *s. This school is not a state university. I understand that the question of the proportionality requirement and the question of whether an organization or company may assess fees and late fees for services not yet rendered are different questions. I posted the link to the google answers post because the rest of the commenters were ready to burn me at the stake for my question, and I was trying to show that I had reasonable cause for asking it. In addition, I think the proportionality requirement may have bearing in a situation in which a late fee is being charged for services that have not been rendered: how could the late fee be proportional to the damage incurred by the organization if no services have yet been rendered?

sio42, thanks for the citation, I read the paragraph. It's my understanding that the fees would need to be reasonably related to the late payment, not to the payment itself. Presumably the school would require personnel, equipment, supplies, and electricity to process all payments, including both those that are on time and those that are late.
posted by holympus at 4:22 PM on January 11, 2011


I have now read the Google Answers link you posted. It doesn't really seem to be that relevant to your situation, and, like most legal articles, it's necessarily vague.

From your link, there doesn't appear to be a law about proportionality of late fees. The Courts have upheld certain percentages to be okay in certain situations and other percentages to be excessive in other situations. Even if there was, for example, an 18% limit, the school might successfully argue that debt collection and administration has a minimum cost, regardless of the total cost of the invoice. It might cost someone $250 in administration and recovery for a $10000 invoice and it might cost them $250 in administration and recovery for a $1000 invoice, too.

Ultimately, you entered into a contract in such a way that the school reasonably believe that you intended to be bound by the terms of that contract, and the terms of that contract will apply unless a Court finds those terms to be unclear, unknowable, or unreasonable. The school very well might charge more than is reasonable in the knowledge that it's unlikely that people would sue to pursue a $250 dispute, particularly where they entered into a contract.
posted by doublehappy at 4:54 PM on January 11, 2011


It really seems like you do not understand what you are thinking about paying for. What is your objection to the explanations offered by jimw and shelleycat; how do you still feel no services have been rendered?

This is "adversarial" because you are not listening to a substantial part of the advice being offered, which is that: this does not work how you think it works. See also.
posted by kmennie at 4:56 PM on January 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Schools need you to pay early so they can make decisions whether to keep or cancel the course. Many instructors are paid by the hour, so if their classes don't meet an enrollment goal, they constitute a cost to the institution and will likely be canceled. If you don't pay by the due date, but are registered, they have no way of knowing if you're going to actually pay and show up to class.

The huge late fee is intended as a deterrent against inconsiderate behavior. If you grovel nicely, they might waive it. You are not going to be able to sue them for a fee disclosed to you in the enrollment and tuition forms. (...and it was. Somewhere. Trust me.)
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:58 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


You will not be able to argue that no services have been rendered. As someone who does course scheduling and enrollment at a private (albeit K-12) school, I have to put in work to make sure that the classes students take are not over (or under) enrolled, that all necessary staffing and scheduling are in place, that classrooms are not double-booked, and so on. I need to know that students are actually planning to attend, and the reason tuition is due long before school starts is because we need to know who is actually going to attend, not just who hoped it would work out. Believe me when I tell you that people registering late causes extra work.

If you go a legal route, the institution will easily be able to prove that it has already provided you with a service by reserving you a spot - you will be in the position of trying to argue that only the services that are most meaningful to you (the actual classroom time) count, that that's not going to go far. It will also be effortless for those folks to prove that late registration costs them materially - and $250 is pretty easy to get to if you consider the fee of a few people working several hours to revise a schedule or edit a database at the last minute before classes start.
posted by Chanther at 5:03 PM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's irrelevant whether services have been rendered. Contracts are about obligations. You are obligated to pay by January 2. They are obligated to provide a service that begins January 19. If the terms of your enrolment were that the course didn't start until March 2018, they could still set January 2 as the deadline for payment and they could still charge you whatever they said they would charge you (within reason, but this would have to be determined objectively by a Court, so there's not a lot you can do about that if it'd cost you more to take it to court than to just settle and pay the fee). Performance of each party's obligations need not coincide - in fact, that would be undesirable.
posted by doublehappy at 5:25 PM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


how could the late fee be proportional to the damage incurred by the organization if no services have yet been rendered?

Your premise is mistaken. Services certainly HAVE been rendered - the school doesn't merely take your money and tell you what room to go to on the first day of class. They have:

- processed your application
- reviewed your application
- extended their offer
- input you to the incoming student system
- entered data on your high school transcript into the student database
- paid someone to answer your phone calls and emails about regiustration and fees

etc etc etc. There are a hundred things they have ALREADY provided you, without a dime in return (yet).

You started using their services the second you hit "send" on your application.
posted by tristeza at 5:49 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


how could the late fee be proportional to the damage incurred by the organization if no services have yet been rendered

Your school is currently working it's arse off getting things ready for you including spending money and hiring people, services most definitely have been rendered. Things don't start the minute you walk in the door, this is a huge machine which was set in motion as soon as students started enrolling and getting their income streams sorted out early is a key part of making it all work. I've taught undergrad classes at my Uni and have friends working in administration at several other Universities, and I guarantee your admin department would laugh at any claims that your paying your fees late doesn't affect the University in any way since classes haven't started yet. It's pretty clear you don't really understand how these places work and haven't thought beyond your small part in process.
posted by shelleycat at 6:02 PM on January 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


This thread is so strange. This is a school that I have previously attended, so when, for example, tristeza asserts blindly that the school has already

- processed your application
- reviewed your application
- extended their offer
- input you to the incoming student system
- entered data on your high school transcript into the student database
- paid someone to answer your phone calls and emails about regiustration and fees


he/she is entirely incorrect. I did not apply this semester. I have already paid the school for services rendered in previous semesters. In fact, I have already paid the school for services that will be rendered in the coming semester as well.

The underpinnings of my question are really simple: there are a series of services provided by the school in exchange for my tuition. These services begin on January 19th. No one in the thread has any basis for the assertion that the services start before January 19th. In fact, I'm telling everyone, as I already said, that the services begin on January 19th.

Without a doubt there has been correspondence between the school and me which has indicated when they expected to receive payment. I don't doubt that the correspondence has created a contract between me and the school, although how the intricacies of that contract would be apparent to all of the commenters in this thread is absolutely beyond me, and not what I asked about.

In California, for example, charging late fees that are not reasonably related to the costs incurred by a landlord as result of a late payment is illegal (http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/living-in.shtml). Obviously, the governing law in this situation would not be the same. The link I provided in an earlier comment suggests that late fees that amount to greater than 18% per annum of an invoiced amount may not be legal. What I'm asking is whether under the laws of the state of California it is reasonable to invoice someone for services they have not yet received, then charge them a late fee for failing to pay before the services have been provided. I'm not asking what I should do next; I'm not saying I'm pursuing legal action against the school; no one on this thread knows the details of why my payment was late, so please spare the admonishments.
posted by holympus at 7:40 PM on January 11, 2011


No one in the thread has any basis for the assertion that the services start before January 19th.

So your class timetables magically sort themselves out? The teachers appear of their own accord and know which rooms to go to without anyone telling them? And they know who is on their class roll by mind reading, this allowing them to have enough of everything they need to run the class? Are you even reading the replies in this thread, many of them from those of us who have actually worked in organisations like your one and have first hand knowledge?

What I'm asking is whether under the laws of the state of California it is reasonable to invoice someone for services they have not yet received, then charge them a late fee for failing to pay before the services have been provided.

Except that services have been rendered so it doesn't actually matter.
posted by shelleycat at 7:53 PM on January 11, 2011


I did not apply this semester. I have already paid the school for services rendered in previous semesters. In fact, I have already paid the school for services that will be rendered in the coming semester as well.

Adversarial Filter Warning: You are encountering consternation from your fellow MeFites because you are a) leaving vital information out of your posts and expecting us to guess all the details as we politely try to provide you with assistance and b) you appear to be beanplating about something that is very clear to the rest of us! We're responding to your inquiry because we have information to share. If you aren't getting the answers you want, then perhaps you've explained something incorrectly; all we can do is reply to what you've given us.

If you want us to discuss the philosophy and the legality of assigning late fees as they relate to attending a university, please do us a favor and provide us with better background information and a more thought-out point of context, or you're simply going to get more of the same as your tone as well as what you're asking for is extremely convoluted.
posted by patronuscharms at 7:56 PM on January 11, 2011


I think people are mostly taking issue with the idea that the late fee can't be charged because services haven't been rendered or something, because that isn't really how late fees work. Late fees are, in essence, a part of the contract; the contract specifies that payment is due by a certain point in time, and then clarifies that giving the money after that date will result in a fee, and whether or not the service has been provided is immaterial.

If you're asking about the general legality of the late fee, that's another thing, but I think people are acting "adversarial" because people keep telling you the same thing (that whether or not the service has been started is immaterial, and the service has probably already begun regardless) and you keep brushing people off and saying you want a different answer.

If people are misinterpreting your question and giving you irrelevant answers, that's another thing, but right now it seems like you're just dissatisfied with answers that are contrary to what you want to happen.
posted by shabaabk at 8:02 PM on January 11, 2011


This thread is so strange. This is a school that I have previously attended, so when, for example, tristeza asserts blindly that the school has already

- processed your application
- reviewed your application
- extended their offer
- input you to the incoming student system
- entered data on your high school transcript into the student database
- paid someone to answer your phone calls and emails about regiustration and fees

he/she is entirely incorrect. I did not apply this semester. I have already paid the school for services rendered in previous semesters. In fact, I have already paid the school for services that will be rendered in the coming semester as well.


OK, I think I may see where you're coming from, however - I maintain that, because of you current enrollment, you have BY DEFAULT used services of the school that began way back when you applied, and continue THROUGH today and will continue INTO THE FUTURE if you remain enrolled there.

Do you not see, as I do, that you have retained the servies of this school from the day you applied, til the day you leave (actually, til AFTER you leave - they will continue to give your transcript to whomever asks, send your grades to you, etc)?

What I'm saying is - when you pay your (for example) $3000 each semester, you are not SIMPLY paying for the 3 classes you take that semester, and nothing else...

you are paying for your part in a HUGE SYSTEM, that includes creating your curriculum, creating the schedule of courses, hiring your professors, sponsoring the research that supports your department, giving you a space in the course, hiring nurses for the student health services, on and on and on and on....

Do you see what I mean? You are not paying for your 3 credits - you are paying for your role in a huge system, which is very complex and reaches way past your 3 credits.
posted by tristeza at 8:14 PM on January 11, 2011


Very not a lawyer. But it seems to me that even under your assumption of all-services-start-January-19, paying tuition is essentially a pre-payment model. So, just like with a prepaid cell phone, car rental, or health insurance, or an airline ticket, whether you actually go through with using the services is up to you, but the provider is holding a space or other resources for you. You pre-pay for guaranteed access to that service. The provider has the privilege of setting the decision date, will charge additional fees if you access the services after that date, because it's an additional inconvenience for the provider to find space or resources at the last minute.
posted by gingerest at 8:56 PM on January 11, 2011


I think a lot of the law on late fees in California is based on a section called Cal. Civ. Code ยง 1671. To benefit from the law, you would have to show that no other statute applies, and that the contract is for "personal property or services, primarily for the party's personal, family, or household purposes," or for rental property.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:22 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not only would I not think that educational services would fall under ClaudiaCenter's "personal services" mentioned just above, but I can tell you that in my state, which is not California, there's an entire body of law applying specifically to higher education, including higher education funding and reporting deadlines. (As well as the many, many, many federal laws and regulations related to receiving federal funding, disbursing federal funding, reporting federal funding -- as an adjunct professor at a little community college, I must meet DROP-DEAD deadlines about reporting student attendance for purposes of federal aid. It's a Big Deal.) Further, the auditing that colleges and universities must constantly undergo makes it relatively difficult to hide non-compliance or illegalities in terms of financial practices. (The financial practices may be incredibly stupid or destructive -- student loan practices in the 00s -- but they'll still be in compliance with applicable law.)

Unless your school accepts absolutely zero federal or state money (and students are therefore not eligible for federal student aid and whatever aid California provides to students of private universities) AND isn't accredited (or isn't accredited by a major accrediting body), its financial practices are being routinely audited, including for compliance with California law.

So where you'd want to start is with federal and California law relating specifically to higher education and higher education funding. After you read the statutes, you will want to search the case law. It's possible that you've found a bizarre loophole in California law that nobody has ever thought to apply to higher education before, but given the amount of money in California higher education, the number of law school students in California dealing with these practices, and the relative ease of getting class-actions certified in California, I really doubt it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:45 PM on January 11, 2011


he/she is entirely incorrect. I did not apply this semester. I have already paid the school for services rendered in previous semesters. In fact, I have already paid the school for services that will be rendered in the coming semester as well.

The underpinnings of my question are really simple: there are a series of services provided by the school in exchange for my tuition. These services begin on January 19th. No one in the thread has any basis for the assertion that the services start before January 19th. In fact, I'm telling everyone, as I already said, that the services begin on January 19th.


Why wouldn't the contract you signed (your admissions paperwork), which stipulates deadlines for this and that, and specifies what the penalties are for not meeting those deadline, not apply for this semester?

And, as doublehappy said above: It's irrelevant whether services have been rendered. Contracts are about obligations. You are obligated to pay by January 2. They are obligated to provide a service that begins January 19.
posted by rtha at 10:47 PM on January 11, 2011


What I'm asking is whether under the laws of the state of California it is reasonable to invoice someone for services they have not yet received, then charge them a late fee for failing to pay before the services have been provided.

This is a very specific question, as you have said, about the law in California as it applies to your situation. You are asking for legal advice, not general information. The people who are not lawyers are not qualified to answer it for you. The people who are lawyers are not allowed to answer it for you.

I also want to point out that you are only providing limited information about your dealings with the school. It is simply not possible to provide an accurate answer to your question. You might get answers, but whether they are right will be a matter of chance.

Don't do this to yourself. Here are some free legal resources in California that may be of use to you for self-help. Here is a list of legal aid societies in California.

Before you do any of that, though, put a price on your own time. Figure out how many hours sunk into fighting this fee are worth the $250. Then ask yourself whether you want to buy that time by paying the fee.
posted by Marty Marx at 12:03 AM on January 12, 2011


Messed up the self-help link. Real link is here.
posted by Marty Marx at 10:54 AM on January 12, 2011


« Older Any part time online work idea...   |  [DIY-Filter] What is the best ... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.