in 2015 I entered into a contractual agreement with a client (not Jewish) to provide CPA services for her. Per the contract, I was to charge her account $250 per month as a retainer towards future work. The contract states that the charges will take effect even if the client fails to provide us with the necessary information or documentation necessary for us to perform our work.
The fees were charged at the $250 monthly amount for about 18 months or so, and the client never produced information or documentation for us. I believe I communicated with her a number of times about this, but she was not organized enough to get me anything. Finally, after 18 months, she cancelled the service and asked that I not charge her anymore.I did not hear from her for several years.
Last year (2019), she emailed me asking me to file a tax return for her. I told her I would do so if she provided me with the information and documentation for me to do the work. She did not.
I received an email from her yesterday (3.5 years after I has stopped charging her at all) asking for a full refund of charges from 2015-2017, since she never used the service. I told her that while she does have a credit towards services, we do not feel there is an obligation to issue a refund. She claims that while the contract does say she would be charged, it does not explicitly say the charges of non-refundable. I contend that that is very much implied in the fact that we will charge monthly regardless of whether she supplies me the information.
My question is: what is the ikar hadin – must I refund the monies paid, or not? And if I do not have to, is there a lifnim mishuras hadin that applies? What might the Rav suggest in such a case?
Answer from Horav Y. F;eishman shlit”a
From what you write it seems you are correct-however it is impossible to give a real psak, because there are two sides to the dispute and almost always the other party sees things differently. I don’t know whether there is an inyan of lifnim meshuras hadin in this case-there are cases mentioned in the Gemara but don’t know one that is a proof for this.