Government warns school students about formals

THE NSW Minister for Fair Trading, Anthony Roberts, has written to school principals across the state warning students to be careful with planning for formals.

School formals have previously afforded the opportunity to those willing to exploit students and take money without delivering goods and services.

In late 2011, NSW Fair Trading received a number of calls from students and parents about being ripped off by businesses offering to organise the ultimate school formal or after party.

The businesses at the last minute cancelled events.

It turned out venues and entertainment had not been booked, leaving students with nothing, including no refunds.

In July 2012, after prosecution action by Fair Trading, Your Formal Australia Pty Ltd and Amrita Kerr were each issued with fines for breaching the Australian Consumer Law.

A new checklist on formals was created by Fair Trading after the incident and placed on Facebook.

Although Minister Roberts and Fair Trading issued warnings for the 2012 formals season, no complaints were received.

Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe said it was still important that students exercised care in selecting services for their formal and he urged anyone with complaints to call 13 32 20.

"Students and formal and after party organisers should always try to resolve any issue with the business, in the first instance," he said.

"If you are unable to resolve the dispute, call Fair Trading for advice or lodge a complaint with Fair Trading at or at any Fair Trading Centre.

The checklist

Planning a school formal or after-party?

Be wary of scammers and businesses offering the 'ultimate experience' by following these important tips:
Conduct your own research on the operator. Do an online search and ifpossible, get references from people who
have used them before.

  • Know who you are dealing with. Get the person's name and their position as well as the business name.
  • Know what you want from the event. Don't be convinced you need something you may not want.
  • Make sure you get everything in writing. The agreement should list all the services to be provided and their costs, when and where the event will take place, and the refund policy.
  • Don't sign anything if you don't understand all the terms and conditions. If anything about the contract is not clear, ask the operator to explain it to you.
  • Always have a parent, teacher or legal professional read over the agreement. And ensure you take the time to understand what it all means for your event.
  • Don't pay any money until you get a written agreement. When you do pay, use electronic funds transfer, cheque or credit card as it is easier to trace who was paid and when.
  • Keep all receipts and invoices. They may come in handy.
  • If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

NSW Fair Trading is using Facebook, Twitter and advertising in SPress magazine, a free publication distributed to 180,000 NSW high school students, to promote the checklist.

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