How should I complain about this?
December 23, 2007 7:11 PM   Subscribe

Help me write a good complaint letter so I can get my $99 back.

The billing department in my college failed to notify me that they changed their billing practices for the payment plan I use - a four installments plan.

In the past, when my financial aid passed, it respectively cleared the installments of my payment plan. This provided me enough time to gather enough funds, to pay what was left if my aid was short. It usually cleared the first three and I paid the last one.

In this semester when the financial aid passed, it was disbursed onto each payment equally, which left me with a due date in the beginning of the semester.

Now, had I known this, I would've saved and not spend cash on silly things during the summertime, but the problem is that I didn't know AND I wasn't notified about it when I signed up for the payment plan. It ultimately led me be late for three of the payments and pay $99 in late fees, which I believe belong to me. I have never received ANY late fees in my life (yes, I am young. I know. lol)

My question is, what arguments can I use to write a good complaint letter, besides the obvious inconsistency with their past practices. Is this legal? Is there a policy or an act that forbids things like this from happening? From an ethical point, it seems very unfair but I do think that our MeFi hive will have a better idea than me. Please help!
posted by GrooveStix to Work & Money (8 answers total)
Did the payment plan have a contract that you had to sign? Look through that and see if there's anything about how you are affected if they change procedures.
posted by pieoverdone at 7:20 PM on December 23, 2007

Response by poster: Yes I did look through it, but no changes were mentioned in there as well.
posted by GrooveStix at 7:25 PM on December 23, 2007

Response by poster: And I am looking through it right now, if there's anything about changing procedures.
posted by GrooveStix at 7:29 PM on December 23, 2007

Response by poster: I just looked through it (since it's all online), and there's nothing mentioned about how am I affected if they change anything.

A screenshot can be seen here:

I used my friend's account, so I had to censor some sensible info.
posted by GrooveStix at 7:45 PM on December 23, 2007

Now, I know nothing about contracts, but how are they charging late fees if the first payment isn't due until the third?
posted by Hargrimm at 8:03 PM on December 23, 2007

Best answer: Does this match your situation?

Your financial aid used to trigger the payment of your college fees, paying off each of the previous four charges in turn, leaving you with an balance due based on the time you have to pay the last one, but now the college has decided to apply the lump sum payment evenly across the last four charges, fully paying off none of them and causing your due date to be based on how long you have to pay the first charge. And they did this without notifying you.
To whom it may concern,

I wish to complain about the handling of my billing, changes to which have resulted in me receiving a late fee that I feel is unjust.

Previously my financial aid payment was applied in a way as to fully pay off my charges oldest to newest. However, due to an unannounced change in your billing practices, this previously established payment method was applied as a partial payment to all previous charges, resulting in an outstanding balance for the oldest charge and subsequently reducing my time to pay the balance to the point where I was late.

Not only can I find no evidence of any notification of this change in policy, but I would like to take the opportunity to point out how counter-intuitive it is. Imagine, perhaps, if a mobile phone service provider produced a bill each month that need not be paid for three months. If they took my first payment at the end of the first three months and applied it evenly to all existing charges, then paying the amount of the first charge would not result in the first charge being paid off and this would generate a late fee. In this example the due dates for the second and third charges will be useless, I would have to pay off all outstanding bills in order to pay off the first.

This seems to me what you have done. Ultimately you have turned my four-installment plan into a single installment plan, which I hope you can see is not something I would be expecting.

So, I would ask you to reconsider the late fee, given my prior history of prompt payment, or failing that I would like to discuss this matter further in person.

Yours sincerely,

Really, applying a lump sum payment evenly to a batch of charges with different due dates is tacky to the point of being deliberately dishonest. Charges with older due dates should always be paid off first.
posted by krisjohn at 8:04 PM on December 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Perhaps publicize this practice and start a facebook with other students who were hosed. Contact student government and get them behind you, and then start working your way up the complaint ladder. Perhaps 30-40 students meeting with the president, politely, might prove effective. I am speaking as an academic who has felt the fangs of administration on more than one occasion.
posted by craniac at 8:07 PM on December 23, 2007

Response by poster: @krisjohn
Whoa, that's a huge random act of kindness. I am not very proficient in the overly technical English so these things so you provided are great starting points. Although, the only thing I couldn't follow was the example, but in any case, thanks a lot, your comment will help me a lot.

Thanks for your comment. I've been thinking about what you've said, and I might as well do it. I just searched Facebook, and there's *GASP* no protest groups about it. It's break time now, so I'll probably start something since I have the time for it...

@Everyone else
Please keep your ideas coming.

Thanks! BIG THANKS! And merry holidays!
posted by GrooveStix at 9:09 PM on December 23, 2007

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