Camp cancelled but won't refund deposit

Dear Consumer Ed:

I put a deposit down on summer camp for my kids six months ago. Now camp has been cancelled for health and safety reasons due to COVID-19, but they won’t give me a refund. What do I do?

Consumer Ed says:

In dealing with summer camps, it is important to keep in mind that many are operated by nonprofits that rely in whole or in large part on volunteer staff. This may result in any number of impacts on their interaction with you. The answer to your question may hinge upon the language in your contract with the summer camp, so review it carefully. If the contract states that your deposit is refundable, then you are likely entitled to the return of your deposit pursuant to the terms of the contract. If the contract does not state that the deposit is refundable, or even if it designates the deposit as “nonrefundable,” depending on the specific language of the contract and other circumstances relating to the cancellation, you may still be entitled to a refund. For example, if the camp failed to adequately disclose its refund policy or if the camp is attempting to retain more than the amount of unrecouped expenses it incurred prior to cancellation, the camp’s refusal to refund your deposit may be a violation of the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act. In addition, there may be other remedies available to you under contract law depending on the terms of the contract.

If you are unable to get a refund but think you are entitled to one, you may want to consider these options:

  • Speak to the Camp Director about the situation.
     
  • Request a partial refund. If the camp refuses to give you a full refund, see if you can negotiate for a partial refund, so at least you will not be out all of the money you spent. 
     
  • Ask that your deposit be used as a charitable donation. This can be a win-win. You are helping the camp to stay in operation, and you benefit by getting a tax savings.
     
  • Request a credit for next year. See if the camp would be willing to use your deposit towards next year’s camp session.
     
  • Dispute charge with your credit card company. If you used a credit card for the summer camp deposit, you can contact your credit card company to dispute the charge and request a chargeback based on the fact that you never received the service you paid for.
  • Remember to cancel any future payments. If you had scheduled any automatic payments for the remainder of camp, make sure you cancel them, either through the camp’s portal, if they have one, or by requesting that your bank stop payment on the withdrawals. Note that you could be charged a fee from your bank to stop a payment, but it should be considerably less than the cost of the payment.
     
  • Submit a complaint. Finally, if you think the camp is unfairly retaining your deposit, you can file a complaint with the Georgia Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by visiting consumer.ga.gov or calling (404) 651-8600. You may also wish to contact a private attorney to discuss your rights.

Submit your own question to Consumer Ed.  Remember…we do not give legal advice. Always consult a lawyer about legal issues.