Church of Scientology Must Bow To Consumer Law

Source: Gazette
Date: December 13, 1988

The Church of Scientology can't hide behind the statement that it is a religion when it faces an aggrieved consumer in court, the Quebec Consumer Protection Bureau said yesterday.

A Quebec Court judge in Quebec City last week fined the church $500 for failing to reimburse Jacques Dion of Quebec City within 10 days of his demand for a refund of money he paid for personal-growth courses.

The 10-day limit is part of provincial consumer law.

Claude Gregoire, an information officer with the consumer protection agency, said the fine is the first court judgment to underline the church's obligation to comply with the same consumer rules as dancing and language schools, for example.

He acknowledged that the judgment followed negotiations between lawyers for the two sides and that the legal issues were not argued before the court.

Richard Masson, a Montreal lawyer who acted for the church, said the church admitted in court that it had not paid Dion his money within 10 days.

Jean Lariviere, a Church of Scientology information officer in Montreal, said the church still insists consumer law does not apply to it, as it considers itself a religious organization.

To say otherwise, when the issue was not even argued before the court, is "outrageous misrepresention," Lariviere said.

He said church policy provides for refunds for courses not taken, and sometimes for courses taken.

These may take more than 10 days, however, and must follow an interview by Scientology representatives, he said.

Dion had previously recovered about $20,000 from the church in an out-of-court settlement of a civil suit arising from the same incident.

That amount represents about three-quarters of what Dion paid the church for the courses, Gregoire said.

Dion's settlement was one of 10 reached last February between the church and former members who had sued starting in 1985 for fraud and false representation.

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