Parents may sue STEM Camp over refund refusal
KITCHENER -- A group of parents are now considering legal action over an Ontario camp’s refusal to give them refunds.
STEM Camp, which was cancelled due to the pandemic, initially refused to give parents back the money they had already paid.
Founder Kevin Cougler says that as a non-profit, all fees are spent months in advance.
“We start preparing for the summer in January,” he told CTV News on May 30. “That’s where those dollars go. We spend at least a quarter of million in supplies every year. We have at least $50,000 to $100,000 that we use to get word out into the schools.”
Cougler went on to say that: “I’d love to be able to give everybody a refund, but we don’t have any money.”
Instead of refund, STEM Camp offered virtual camps and gave parents the option of using this year’s payment for next year’s programs.
“Many of these families paid $600 and $700, for multiple weeks and multiple children,” says Arifa Serter, a lawyer representing more than two dozen clients. “We’re not talking about $100 or $200 for camps. This is a significant amount of money.”
STEM Camp told CTV News that it didn’t want to comment on the potential lawsuit, referring only to their recently updated COVID-19 policy.
It says that parents now have three options: they can donate the enrollment fees to the camp, convert to virtual sessions, or carry over the fees to the summer of 2021.
Vanessa Richard of Guelph doesn’t like any of those choices.
“We are all in the middle of a pandemic right now,” she says. “It’s not fair to penalize families who are potentially not working themselves.”
Richard is one of the parents now considering legal action against STEM Camp.
She’s also pursuing another avenue.
“I opened a dispute with my credit card company,” she says. “They let me know it could take up to 60 days to receive a credit and then they would reach to the camp after they’ve done their own investigation.”
Serter, who is representing parents pro bono, is currently in talks with the camp. At least ten of her clients currently live in Waterloo Region.
“We have decided to not commence legal action yet, as I am hopeful that we can resolve this with STEM,” she says. “I would say in about 30 days, if no action for each family is commenced or resolved then I do intend to pursue legal action.”
Serter says the lawsuit would only ask for the amount of money each family already paid.