Harsh lesson to learn - without taking a class

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 January, 2011, 12:00am

It's the ultimate hard lesson in learning English.

Two years after a language institute closed down, a student who did not have the chance to take a single lesson is still being chased for debts for course equipment she never had a chance to use.

She is also facing the possibility of being declared bankrupt.

The student, only identifying herself as Ms Wong, said since Linguaphone filed for liquidation in January 2009 she had received up to six letters from the provisional liquidator, RSM Nelson Wheeler Corporate Advisory Services, asking her to pay a 'material cost' of HK$2,320 for a CD player, CDs and textbooks.

In the latest letter she received on January 5, the liquidator demanded that if she did not pay in 14 days, it would apply for her to be made bankrupt. It did not accept her offer to return the equipment instead of paying the fee, said Democratic Party and Yuen Long District Council member Zachary Wong Wai-yin, who has been helping her.

The student paid more than HK$2,000 in tuition fees in advance for a HK$17,350 English-language course, with the institute closing before she had her first lesson. However, she failed to claim this back.

The liquidator said in October 2009 the amount owed by Wong to Linguaphone was HK$14,820.

'I couldn't get back what I paid. That was bad enough. I feel so helpless that I have to pay a further sum of money. All I wanted was to do some more studies,' she said.

The liquidator stated in a letter on November 10 last year: 'Having taken into account the liquidation of the company and as a result Wong has been unable to complete the training hours as she was entitled to, the liquidators have deducted a sum of HK$12,500 from the initial outstanding amount. Ms Wong is therefore required to pay a sum of HK$2,320, being the costs of the learning materials,' the letter said.

Ms Wong had applied for a refund from the Continuing Education Fund but Zachary Wong said: 'The government is not making enough effort in regulating the fund's course providers to protect students' rights.'

The student said she may consider reporting the matter to police.

As of last night, the provisional liquidator had not respond to inquiries by the South China Morning Post.