Wrong varsity paid as bank mixes up names

A rose by any other name smells just as sweet, as Shakespeare wrote in his classic play, Romeo and Juliet, about two star-crossed lovers (It means what matters is what something is, not what it is called).

But Alice Kriel would disagree. This after a bank teller confused Varsity College with City Varsity and almost cost the Rondebosch woman the R25 000 deposit she paid for her daughter’s study course, which she started this year.

“It was a challenge to save this amount, but I did it over 12 months,” said Ms Kriel.

“Varsity College required a deposit of R25 000, but I battled to do an EFT because the system wouldn’t accept the student number they gave me. When I contacted the call centre, they said I should visit the branch to sort it out. I did, and the bank said I should deposit it into the City Varsity account. It was the wrong beneficiary, and at that stage I had no idea that City Varsity existed,” Ms Kriel said.

When Varsity College contacted Ms Kriel a few weeks later to ask about the non-payment of the deposit, it came as a shock.

They said they couldn’t trace the deposit, and Ms Kriel then realised that there was another university with a similar name.

“I called City Varsity in February and was advised to send an email,” Ms Kriel told me in May.

She emailed Glenda Keet with proof of payment, who told her telephonically she had traced it and Ms Kriel should contact her bank to reverse the payment.

“My bank said it could take between a week and 14 days to arrange. At this stage, I was extremely concerned as I did not have a spare R25 000. I spoke to Ms Keet several times and expressed the urgency of the matter. My bank tried to reverse the payment but it was unsuccessful as the funds were not available in the City Varsity account or City Varsity did not approve the transaction, although Ms Keet advised me that it would be the easier way to resolve the matter.

“I emailed Glenda and asked when they would return my money, and she said she would send me forms the same day to request a refund: she didn’t. When the forms hadn’t arrived, I called again to ask for them; a day later she asked for a copy of my ID and proof that I had a bank account. However, it was hectic at work, and I sent the information on March 1. But then there was no response from Glenda, despite following up several times and leaving messages with reception.

“Out of sheer desperation, I visited their website and found that City Varsity was part of Educor and I started a live chat with an agent, insisting on speaking to someone in charge. Shane Shaw, the customer services manager, advised me that the refund would take 90 days from the date of approval of my request (March 8). It would take until mid-June to be paid into my account. When I explained the seriousness of the situation, he gave me a tentative date of May 10. I realised then they were going to make me wait for my money and draw interest from it. If I hadn’t queried it they would have kept the money that didn’t belong to them. Mr Shaw asked why I don’t hold my own bank accountable for the error – that was rich since Educor had my money. I then had to get a personal loan as I could not allow my daughter’s placement at Varsity College to be endangered,” said Ms Kriel, who also spoke to Zinhle Ndimande, who is in charge of refunds.

Ms Ndimande said the money would be paid on May 10. It wasn’t.

“Can you help? They have effectively had my money since January 2019 drawing interest, which is unfair and cannot be ethical.

“How is it that a refund can take 90 days when an EFT takes seconds.”

Mr Shaw promised that Ms Kriel would get her payment. “I am waiting for confirmation from our finance department, but it should be by the end of the week (May 24).

“We apologise if Ms Kriel found a member of our team unhelpful, as this was not the intention. The refund has been processed according to our policy. We regret that Ms Kriel is unhappy with the administrative process.”

Darren van Zyl, general manager of City Varsity, also promised that the money would be repaid on May 24. In the event it reflected in Ms Kriel’s bank account on May 25.

Ms Kriel said that her bank had done its best to reverse the error.

“I can’t say the same about City Varsity. Mistakes happen, but it is how you fix them or make amends which matters.

“The bank tried to fix it immediately, which I appreciate. It is City Varsity’s processes, non-responsiveness and broken promises which have frustrated me. It’s definitely not good customer service. And why it must take three months?” she asked.