A few days after confirming her purchase of an online certification course, Jessica Smith asks a few of her friends and colleagues about it. They encourage her to cancel. Is she entitled to a refund?
Question: I purchased a certification course for pre/postnatal fitness through a company called AFPA (American Fitness Professionals of America). I was later told by a trusted source that the material is not great.
I called a couple days after my purchase to ask to have my order canceled. I had to leave a message, as I couldn’t get hold of an actual person. After not receiving a return call, I called back again the next day. Still no answer and no return phone call. I finally emailed.
They sent me an email explaining that I agreed to their terms and services when I made the purchase. Highlighted at the bottom of the email was their cancellation policy which states that there are no returns or refunds under any circumstances.
This was not made clear to me when I made the purchase and I don’t recall seeing these terms and conditions when I made the purchase. Can you help me get my money back? — Jessica Smith, San Francisco
Answer: We would like to help you, Jessica, but we also want to use your case as an example to help other consumers.
You should never purchase an online certification course until you have thoroughly investigated the company and its credibility in your industry.
Ask your colleagues before, not after, your purchase.
In your case, you purchased a certification when you were not even clear about the name of the issuing company. That would be the first indication that you did not do enough research before you purchased the program.
The company is actually called American Fitness Professionals & Associates (AFPA). They offer many certification courses that you can purchase online. You complete the coursework at home, and then you are granted a type of certification from this organization.
If you aren’t familiar with an organization, it is ill-advised to spend money on a course that will only certify you with the credential from that company.
In researching your case we went to the AFPA website and we noted that the terms of enrollment explain that:
Once you have agreed to the terms and conditions, and the enrollment policy, and your product(s) has been shipped there are no refunds under any circumstance. For any errors in ordering or for transfer request contact AFPA within 24 hours of placing your order for approval. Sales promotions and discounts coupons may not be combined, nor may they be applied after purchase/enrollment.
Unfortunately, after you had spoken to your friends, your coursework had already been shipped. And so, in accordance with the terms to which you agreed, you were not entitled to a refund of your payment.
However, since you had neither begun the course, nor opened any of the material that was shipped from AFPA, our advocates contacted the owner on your behalf. We explained your confusion about the terms and your desire to return all of the coursework and receive a refund.
The owner of AFPA responded to us by saying:
Regardless of the statement that the customer “did not recall” the Terms and Conditions of both AFPA and AFFIRM, this is not a reasonable cause for a refund.
However, in order to avoid further disagreement, AFPA has requested that AFFIRM, the financing company the customer used to purchase the program, refund this customer in full.
In this case, we must agree with the owner of AFPA. We are pleased that he returned your money and that you returned his product. But ultimately, it is your responsibility to do your research about a company before you agree to a purchase. The terms of your purchase were readily available on the website under the heading “terms.”
You got lucky, because the owner of the company did not wish to keep your money if you did not want to participate in his course. But he was under no obligation to refund your money and accept the return. The lesson to be learned here is to do all your research about a certification course before your purchase it — not after.