Saturday, January 12, 2019
Consider forwarding this HuffPost article to your students:
And the huge late fees that companies like Amazon, Barnes & Noble College and Follett charge may actually be illegal.
George Washington University graduate Alison Oksner learned her lesson. After she failed to return a rented textbook on time to Amazon, Oksner said she was fined $87.61.
That was more than she earned in a week as a resident dormitory adviser. All told, she spent $118.24 in rental and late fees — more than if she had bought the book new.
In theory, that might have been fair: When Oksner rented the book, she agreed to pay an additional fee if she returned it late. But in practice, consumer advocates argue, what happened to her — and to thousands of other students on college campuses across the country — could be against the law.
Even in the digital age, textbook rentals — which can run much less than the price of new or used books — are a big business. About 30 percent of college students are projected to rent at least one textbook this year, according to McKinsey & Co.
About 10 percent of the students who rent a textbook will fail to return it on time, according to spokespeople for Barnes & Noble College and the college textbook program at Shakespeare & Co. Bookseller. That’s where the big retailers get them: Most of these companies — including Amazon, Barnes & Noble College and Follett Higher Education Group — don’t charge late fees on a per-day or per-week basis. Instead, they levy a flat percentage no matter how late the materials are returned.
They are simply preying on students, who as a group can ill afford to pay excessive fees.Arthur Levy, a consumer class action attorney.
That kind of late fee may violate a basic premise of contract law, which holds that when someone breaches a contract — say, by returning a book late — they can’t be forced to pay penalties higher than the actual damage they caused. That suggests retailers can’t seek compensation that exceeds the value of what they actually lost from the late return of their books.
“They’re exploiting late fees as a profit center,” said Arthur Levy, a San Francisco consumer class action attorney. “A flat late fee is not based on any reasonable calculation of the rental company’s loss from having a book returned late. They are simply preying on students, who as a group can ill afford to pay excessive fees.”
Amazon said the company strives to provide students with affordable textbook options and offers them a 15-day extension on their rental deadlines — for an additional fee.
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Continue reading here.