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PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 June, 2006, 12:00am

The column for anyone fed up with bureaucracy, frustrated with delays or furious with poor service. Tell us your complaint and we'll try to fix it...

Melanie Cerny thought she had terminated her subscription by giving California Fitness Club in Tsim Sha Tsui prior notice after joining the club for four months. But she found that the company deducted two extra months' charges from her bank account.

'I subscribed to California Fitness Club in mid-February for four months. I paid the entire amount at the beginning of my subscription,' she said.

'Now they have taken some money from my French bank account for two more months, even though I asked at the right time for the termination of my membership. They refuse to refund the amount they have taken - about $821.'

She said this was very unfair. 'They know I will go back to France in two weeks and won't be able to get on their back.'

After a Take Action inquiry, California Fitness has agreed to refund the extra charges. But it insisted Ms Cerny did not notify the company by submitting a termination form within the required advance period.

'We have very clear policies regarding membership contracts and all of our staff are very well versed in these procedures,' a company spokeswoman said.

'According to our membership contract with Ms Cerny, should she intend to terminate her membership, she would need to submit a termination form to our club. Since Ms Cerny did not submit the termination form to our club until May 2006, we acted according to the membership contract and continued charging her bank account.

'Although Ms Cerny failed to correctly follow the termination procedure, it is apparent from our findings that she did only intend to take out a four-month membership (one month being a free trial period we offered her). Since members' satisfaction is our number one objective, we have already informed Ms Cerny that, as a gesture of goodwill, we will refund any monies taken outside of the three-month period. Ms Cerny is extremely pleased with our offer.'

A young reader applied to transfer to a local university from overseas because of a chronic illness. The local university asked for a medical certificate. She was shocked that the Hospital Authority demanded $695 for the service and told her she needed to wait for a month to get it, which could have made her miss her application deadline.

'I have been an outpatient at Queen Mary Hospital,' she said. 'I suffer from systemic lupus erythematosus, (SLE), which is a chronic illness that requires regular follow-ups.

'After having suspended my tertiary education overseas due to this illness, I am currently seeking to resume my studies at a local university. The university told me I would be informed of their decision within two weeks, provided I could present to them a medical letter from my doctor.

'I learned that I had to apply through the authority's medical report unit at Queen Mary Hospital for the letter. I learned that first I had to pay a fee of $695 and then wait one whole month for it!

'Since this letter could possibly determine my tertiary education and, ultimately, lifelong career, I immediately applied for the letter on May 23 and paid the astounding sum.

'I stressed the urgency and importance of this letter at the medical report unit.

'When I called the unit after three weeks on June 12, I was told, after much pressing, that the letter was indeed ready. Why was I not immediately notified?

'I also learned why my letter took three long weeks: under the authority's procedures, my application was passed to a rheumatology doctor, then back to the medical report unit, and then to a more senior doctor in the rheumatology department to be approved. (Who, coincidentally, was the doctor who had treated me since the beginning of my illness, and the one I had requested the letter to be written by in the first place.)

'When I raised concerns about the astronomical fee for such a routine letter to the Hospital Authority, they told me I could apply for social welfare.'

A hospital spokeswoman apologised for the delay but said the fee was in accordance with policy. She said that shortly after the request was received, the staffer who took it went on sick leave.

'The relieving staff member was not well-acquainted with the report handling procedure,' she said. 'As a result, the medical report unit could only issue the report on June 12. In general, the performance pledge for medical report writing is six weeks.

'The fees for medical reports are in accordance with those listed in the Government Gazette, at $695 per speciality subject to a maximum of $2,780.

'To prevent a similar occurrence, we will improve our training programme and remind staff in the report unit to take extra care with special requests.

'We would like to extend our apologies to Ms Ho for her inconvenience.'