Language school is suing for payment

22 posts in this topic

Posted

I am in the middle of being sued be the private language school, Akademie für Fremdsprachen in Berlin. http://www.akafremd.de/

 

They are sueing me for a total of 465 euro for a German beginning course I never attended. I was in Germany for only 2 weeks and had gone to their school to look at signing up for classes, I wanted to do a trail class on Monday. They told me I needed to "register my interest" and sign a sheet so the teacher would know how many students would be attending the first day of class.

 

During this visit i enquired about pricing and they wrote the summer prices for the length of time I had enquired about down on the "interest" sheet.

 

As it turned out, I never went to the Monday class as I quickly realised they were a rip-off private school charging 465 euro for 5 weeks of class. Compared to the other thousands of language schools in Berlin this was massively overpriced unless you are attending the Goethe Institute.

 

Three months later and I got a badly written email from the school declaring that i had signed a contract with them for 5 weeks of classes and i owed them the full cost. So what I was told was a "sign of interest" form was actually a contract.

 

This was in August 2011. I have never receieved an invoice from them -only badly written emails repeating over and over again that I signed this contract. I have told them repeatedly that i was never told it was a contract, and I never attended their classes and when you get people to sign something by telling them its for something totally different then this is fraud.

 

I have no intention of being blackmailed into paying them for something i never attended and never would have signed if I knew it was a contract, so they are taking me to court.

 

I am now looking for anyone else who has experienced anything similar with language school contracts and in particular with this school, Akademie für Fremdsprachen.

 

I would be so grateful if anyone has similar incidents to write me back. Thank you!

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

You need to get a lawyer. Not understanding what you sign does not relieve you of a contract.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Do you have a copy of the form you signed? If so, can you scan it and post it here?

 

Otherwise my only suggestion is to contact the Verbraucherzentrale. You should take a German-speaking friend when you go.

2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

 

I have never receieved an invoice from them -only badly written emails repeating over and over again that I signed this contract.

If you never received an invoice you cannot be in default. This is something that you want a lawyer to deal with, and the school may have to cover the fees as damages as engaging a lawyer was necessary to refute the claim.

 

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. Please have any legal information you receive here verified by a legal professional.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I too am no lawyer, but I'd say that signing a "register of interest" does not constitute a final contract. Expressing in interest by itself in a good or service does not mean you are definitely going to enter into a contract to purchase it.

 

Agree that your first port of call should be the Verbraucherzentrale.

 

This Akademie fuer Fremdsprachen is certainly making good publicity for itself here.

 

It always amazes me how German businesses are so willing to jump to take nasty legal action against their customers or potential customers without any regard to the negative publicity it gives them in their marketplace.

 

Nasty, nasty.

2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I wonder if that "register of interest" to do a "trial class" was the same as agreeing to a trial run, which if not cancelled within a specified time gets automatically rolled into a full length contract. That is quite a normal German business practice. I got caught once with a TV subscription that way, back in my early and innocent days. Nowadays I simply refuse any trial offers unless I'm pretty certain that I will want to take the full service.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Have you actually had a court summons? Or is this merely a threat from them? Frankly for the sake of recouping less than 500 Euro (or not) they are going to be well out of pocket I would have thought.

 

Stick to your guns. It does stink.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

 

If you never received an invoice you cannot be in default.

 

If the OP signed a contract where the services, payments and schedule are clearly detailed there is no need to send an invoice.

 

But, as others suggest, I suspect no "contract" exists. Until we see more detail no-one can say for sure. If you don't have the original paperwork then you could ask for a copy.

 

However, I'd be inclined to ignore their emails, as even responding to them implies you are taking them seriously and they may be motivated to push harder for payment. Sounds like hot air to me. Call their bluff. Wait until you hear from their lawyer. Or a Court. It's certainly far too early to incur the expense of a lawyer yourself until you know they mean business.

3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Of course they have to provide an invoice, including information on duration of the course (Leistungsbeschreibung), net costs, tax with tax rate and - not mandatory but advisable - due date. As both YL6 and El Jeffo said, we cannot judge the validity of the claim without seeing what peney signed. Possibly, the above data is in the signed paper.

1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Thanks for the replies everyone, so right now they have filed a court case against me and presented their argument to the court, my next step is to find a lawyer. Uptill now I have been taking free legal advice but you can only do that once or twice and then that's it.

 

And yes they have never sent me an invoice. Only the emails which started coming long after that particular German course had finished.

 

The problem with the paper that I signed, is that they hand-wrote the total amount of the course I had enquired about just below the English description of the course. So it looks like I agreed to pay this amount.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

Stay cool!

 

1. Are you in Germany?

2. Do they have your adress (or are they just sending E-mails?)

3. Have you received a ) a "Mahnbescheid" by a German court or

b ) notice from a German court that a case against you has been filed?

 

If you can answer questions 2 and 3 with "no", ignore them and change your E-Mail account. They won't listen to your replies, so they will not change their mind about the affair. They will have to go to court and then you will have comparatively decent people to deal with and an organised procedure.

The usual way in Germany to get money off a debtor is to obtain a "Mahnbescheid" from court. If you get one of those you should contact a lawyer. You will file your objections with the court ("Widerspruch") and then they have to sue you. If you ignore the Mahnbescheid you acknowledge the claim. the Mahnbescheid is always issued by a court (Amtsgericht).

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

So for anyone interested in the end results of a language school in Berlin (Akademie fuer Fremdsprechen) making fraudulent claims against people and winning! I did get a lawyer who told me that a judge will just dismiss this as my signature is on a piece of paper and because they had my signature I have no case. He recommended that rather than pay more in lawyer fees we just plead guilty and accept it.

 

We pleaded guilty, never heard from anyone again and still never received an Invoice! And going on nearly 9 months after this first started they have contacted us through an outside agency looking for full payment. Which I have done.

4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I usually use my USA address whenever I sign up for anything as there are so many rip-off-artists out there.

Let's see them send a Mahnbescheid to my American address for services that I never signed up for!! HA!

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

 

I wonder if that "register of interest" to do a "trial class" was the same as agreeing to a trial run, which if not cancelled within a specified time gets automatically rolled into a full length contract. That is quite a normal German business practice. I got caught once with a TV subscription that way, back in my early and innocent days. Nowadays I simply refuse any trial offers unless I'm pretty certain that I will want to take the full service.

 

The Süddeutsche did a similar thing to my boyfriend. He signed up for a free 2 week subscription trial and they continued billing him for the next month, until he reminded them that he only signed up for a free trial.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

It's similar to this German habit of "continuing a contract unless you explicitly cancel three months before the deadline a year away": Happened to me a lot in the past with telephone contracts and the the like. Similarly, my son's girlfriend came to visit last year from Salzburg and bought a temporary BahnCard because it was cheaper that way. She didn't realize that it would automatically renew for a year after four months.

 

Next thing she knew, an Inkasso company was billing her for the amount plus a couple hundred in charges. Even though she had never received a bill form DB - as far as she knew.

The thing is she was in China at the time, with no plans to return. The Inkasso bill went to her mother's address; her mother forwarded it to me.

 

I wrote them a letter in deliberately broken German saying that she had no income, was a single mother, and was in China with no plans to return. PLus an email authorizing me to act in her name, due to her being without Wohnsitz in China.

Never heard from them again.

 

Even with legitimate contracts, it's important to read the small print re automatic renewals.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

I haven't had the pleasures of experiencing this yet, as my husband, who is German, makes sure I don't sign anything I don't understand or if he can't explain to me what it is auf English.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted

 

Free trials always have a lot of small print pertaining to how you will get billed if you don't cancel at such and such time.

 

Moral - Don't sign anything that you don't understand fully. Never trust the person who appears to be giving you something for free.

 

It's not just a German thing, and sometimes it's in the normal sized print. Not always, admittedly.

0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now