Frustration is mounting for a group of hockey parents in Greater Sudbury in their efforts to be refunded for deposits paid to a local athletic training centre for a program that was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Valley Outlaws Atom team was registered to play in RHP Training's 3-on-3 season over the spring and summer, which was scheduled to run from early April until the end of June.
The team's $2,700 registration fee was paid upfront by team rep Adam Brouse on Jan. 15, well before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in Canada and Greater Sudbury, suspending all sporting activities.
"I've been reaching out to RHP since March, asking what do we do and it took them almost a month to get back to me," said Brouse. "When they did respond they said that they wouldn't be giving refunds but will be giving us a credit for a later date."
RHP owner Marc Savard explained that the company's policy has not changed amid COVID-19 and that they have never given refunds, but have opted for credit.
"What we've done is we've postponed our leagues, but we don't know when it's going to start," said Savard.
"As of March 17 we were mandated to be shut down, we've been talking to local government officials, but we're in the dark here as well. We don't know what's going to happen, but our policy is on our website and nothing has changed, it's not due to COVID-19 that we changed our policies, it's always been like that."
Given the circumstances that led to the season being put on hold, in addition to putting many people out of work or on reduced hours, Brouse believes that there should be a refund available to the parents who paid.
"It's not about bailing on RHP or anything like that, it's about putting money back in people's pockets where it's desperately needed right now," said Brouse.
Savard says that he has been pursuing avenues for financial relief from the government but has not had any success as of yet.
"We are trying but whether it's the wage subsidy or if you look at the rent relief that was just proposed, we're supposed to get help but they leave 100 per cent of the onus on the landlords," said Savard. "Everything out there, they're all options and are on the table but we haven't locked in anything permanently."
Other businesses like lodges, airlines and professional sports franchises are also offering credits for reservations, flights and tickets to games that have been suspended due to COVID-19, and Savard says that his company's credit policy goes beyond what most other companies are offering, as RHP's credits have no expiry and can be used any time.
Despite the company's pledge, at least one parent has said that they won't be doing business with RHP in the future due to the way the current situation has been handled.
Brouse says that he's trying to keep matters as civil as he can when dealing with RHP, and has been keeping an open line of communication with the company and with the parents of the players on the Valley Outlaws.
"The (parents) are, I don't want to say upset, but they're definitely going to think twice about using RHP in the future and they think it was an unethical choice," said Brouse.
Brouse feels that RHP are in contravention of the Consumer Protection Act and has written them with his concerns.
"My intention is not to pursue this legally, I'm trying to be civil about this, I'm just trying to get people their money back because some people did lose their jobs and they need that money," said Brouse.
Savard says he's understanding of parents' frustrations, but for the most part, he says that the response from those who use RHP's programs has been largely positive in the wake of programs being suspended.
"I don't think we're being unfair," said Savard, explaining that he is in the same boat as many others who have been impacted by COVID-19.
"I think it's positive that Quebec and Manitoba are bringing things back on Monday, is that going to bring some sectors back like ours? We've been trying to brainstorm how to do things and at the end of the day, time will tell and unfortunately we're still in the timeframe of the 3-on-3, and we've been getting questions about different options or if we're going to extend, and everything is on the table but we can't do anything until we get concrete dates from our Premier."