Advice & Regulation
Childreach International - Not Upheld
The complainant felt that Childreach International should refund the £220 deposit he had paid to participate in the Climb Kilimanjaro for Kids event for the following reasons:
- The complainant claims that the Terms & Conditions he was sent did not state that the £220 deposit was non-refundable.
- Childreach International changed the date of the event after the complainant had paid their deposit in November 2010. When Childreach International first notified participants of the change in date for the event, they offered to refund the deposit for those participants no longer able to participate. The complainant felt that it was unfair for Childreach International not to now offer this same option to him when he notified them of his decision not to particpate in the event.
- The complainant felt that by not refunding the deposit, Childreach International was in breach of Section F of the Charity Commission's CC20 guidelines. This states that "if an appeal for a specific purpose does not raise sufficient funds, donors may be entitled to a refund. If it raises excess funds, legal authorisation or a scheme from the Commission may be needed before the excess funds can be directed to a similar purpose. These issues can cost time and resources, so trustees should take steps to prevent this occurring where possible."
Finally, the complainant believes that Childreach International encourages its fundraisers to use "hard sell" techniques in order to solicit donations from the public.
Childreach International's Response
On the 19th July, Childreach International sent an email to the complainant in which it confirmed that he could no longer participate in the 2011 Climb Kilimanjaro for Kids event, rescheduled to take place on the 29th August 2011. The charity gave the complainant an option to defer their entry to the same event taking place next year. The complainant declined this offer as he wanted to do the climb with friends which had been the reason for participating this year.
On the 23rd July, the complainant asked Childreach International's Student Fundraising Manager for a refund of the £220 deposit which he had paid to participate in the event. The Manager confirmed that Childreach International would not be refunding the monies because the event's Terms & Conditions make it clear that deposits were non-refundable.
The complainant responded on the 25th July stating that the Terms & Conditions they had been sent did not make reference to the deposit being non-refundable.
The charity's Student Fundraising Manager replied to the complainant on the 26th July pointing out that all participants had to indicate that they had read and agreed to the climb's Terms & Conditions when signing up online to participate. These Terms & Conditions stated that "individuals accept that this fundraising event requires a minimum £220 registration fee (this is non-refundable)".
The complainant subsequently contacted the FRSB for assistance.
Stage Two Assessment
The FRSB's Compliance Manager read through the correspondence which had passed between the complainant and Childreach International as well as the Terms & Conditions that were specific to the charity's Climb Kilimanjaro for Kids event.
The Compliance Manager also contacted the Charity Commission regarding Section F1 of its CC20 guidance and it confirmed that the stipulations concerning failed appeals were not applicable in this case.
As such, the Compliance Manager concluded that at Stage 2, the FRSB would support Childreach International's stance that they would not refund the £220 deposit as was clearly stated in the Terms & Conditions of the event.
After receiving the complainants email of the 26th July, the FRSB's Compliance Manager contacted Childreach International to ask if it would beWhat we did willing to, at least in part, refund the £220 deposit. The charity declined, pointing to the event's Terms & Conditions which made it clear that deposits paid to participate in Climb Kilimanjaro for Kids event were non-refundable.
The FRSB sent the complainant an assessment of the case at Stage 2 on the 23rd August which supported Childreach International's stance on the issue and confirmed that the charity was maintaining its original stance.
The complainant responded on the 25th August and confirmed that they wanted their complaint to be considered by the FRSB Board at Stage 3. As a consequence the FRSB's Compliance Manager approached Childreach International one final time to ask if it would consider refunding a proportion of the deposit in order to avoid further escalation. The charity confirmed that it would not be changing its stance on the matter and, as such, it was happy for the complaint to be considered by the FRSB Board.
The Board considered the complaint against the FRSB Fundraising Promise "We are fair and reasonable".
Outcome - NOT UPHELD
The Board unaminously agreed that Childreach International had not breached the Fundraising Promise statement "We are fair and reasonable". The Board felt that the charity had been both fair and reasonable in their dealings with the complainant as they have both offered the complainant a refund when the date of the event was changed nine months earlier and also offered of their withdrawal from the event, the opportunity to defer their place to the same event planned to take place in 2012.
The Board also supported this view as the complainant had agreed to the event's Terms & Conditions at the point of sign up and these made it clear that the £220 deposit they paid was non-refundable.
The Board felt that Childreach International had been fully within its rights to stand by the Climb Kilimanjaro for Kids event Terms & Conditions.
The Board made no additional recommendations.
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