Families struggle to get refunds from financial college assistance firm

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Two families signed up for expert help with financial college assistance for their teens. They say they've paid thousands with nothing to show for it.

A couple of families tell us they reached out for expert help with financial college assistance for their teens. But after paying out thousands, they say they didn't receive the financial aid they were hoping for. And when they asked for a refund, it got complicated. So we started digging for answers.

Debbie Madden says in 2011, she signed up with College Financial Advisors for help obtaining financial aid for her son. The company had a 100 percent money back guarantee, so she paid $3,000 for membership, plus monthly dues.

"It was a very low risk. That I was in a good position to get some aid or scholarships," Madden told us.

But she says they didn't get the results they were hoping for.

"My oldest son graduated high school and he had zero financial aid, zero scholarships," Madden said.

The Rough family signed the same agreement in 2011 for $3,500, plus monthly payments. Lana Rough says her daughter didn't receive any financial aid as well.

So both families say they asked Brannon Lloyd, the person they signed up with for a refund, and this is where the confusion begins.

"In the case of both the Roughs and the Maddens, they hired a different company," Lloyd told us.

Brannon Lloyd used to be a co-owner of College Financial Advisors, the company the Roughs and Maddens signed with. But a few months after signing up, Lloyd separated from that entity and went on to start his own company called The College Money Guys, which provides similar services to families. Both companies also offer a money back guarantee, each stating identical verbiage: "If you are not 100% satisfied ... and we don't save you at least twice what you've paid us, then I will refund your full fee."

Now according to this Agreement to Terminate Business Collaboration, the agreement formalizing the separation, the owners agreed for clients of College Financial Advisors to be split. Both the Roughs and Maddens were transferred to The College Money Guys.

As far as responsibility for issuing refund, the agreement states, "Any refund to a Client shall be paid by the entity then receiving the monthly retainer fee." Both the Maddens and Roughs provided us with documentation showing their monthly payment did in fact, start going to The College Money Guys after the split. But Lloyd says his company is not responsible for the full refund.

"They're essentially asking me to refund money to them that I had never received," Lloyd said.

Lloyd says, in the split, his company did not receive any funds meant to cover those membership fees and monthly payments made to College Financial Advisors before the separation. So we reached out to his former co-owner in College Financial Advisors, Jeremy Farmer, who told us Lloyd was paid for the clients that he brought on. He said that after their partnership dissolved, Lloyd took full responsibility for those clients laid out in the agreement and is responsible for them.

So where do the families go from here?

"This is an agreement between the two businessowners. And it shouldn't be necessarily the responsibility of the consumer to prove what the agreement is between the two entities. That is their problem," said David Tiede with the University of Houston Law Center.

Tiede says if the families want to bring this case to court, they would have to file against both companies.

"There is one agreement that matters and that is between the consumer and whatever business entity was there," Tiede told us. "It's the business entity's problem to figure out who pays the consumer, but what should be clear is the consumer's entitled to a refund from one or both of them."

Lloyd did tell us that he would be willing to pay the monthly fees his company received from each family, but is staying firm on the membership fee. Both families tell us that they are now exploring their legal options to get back what they feel is rightfully theirs.
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