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By Tracy Neal, Open Justice reporter of NZ Herald

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A woman took part in a self-development and life-coaching programme after breaking up with her partner.
Photo: pixabay

When a woman going through a break-up took part in a life-coaching programme run by her ex’s friend, she only paid him a fraction of the already discounted price, claiming she had attended “under duress”.

But the life coach rejected she was forced in any way to take part and turned to the Disputes Tribunal to recoup a further $2300 for the sessions he provided.

According to the decision, released in January this year, he claimed the woman had agreed in 2019 to attend a three-day workshop and engage in ongoing coaching for $2587.

He told the tribunal she was charged about $7000 less than the package’s usual price, and she had so far only paid him $200.

The woman stated the life coach was a friend of her ex-partner and when their relationship broke down he told her his services would benefit her.

However, she claimed she never wanted to do the course; never believed she had to pay anything and felt that she was under duress from the life coach to attend due to the number of emails, phone calls, texts and visits from him to her office.

She also stated she “never realised the alleged coaching sessions were coaching sessions” having thought they were “just chats”.

The woman’s friend and business partner told the tribunal he had seen the life coach show up “multiple times” at cafes in the suburb while the pair were there having coffee.

The friend, who was a witness at the hearing which included a “significant amount” of documentation and oral evidence, said he also saw the life coach turn up at the woman’s workplace, allegedly trying to get funding to assist his start-up coaching business.

The witness felt the man “harassed” the woman and it was “clearly a situation where lines were blurred to gain a commercial advantage”.

He also stated that the life coach “pursued” the woman relentlessly.

But the life coach said the woman had agreed to the package at a discounted price and was offered to pay the $2587 in instalments of $200.

He said the woman agreed in person, in emails and by attending and participating in the programme and was never “pressured, harassed, coerced or forced to participate” because that was completely counterintuitive to the purpose of the self-development and life-coaching programme.

The tribunal accepted the woman may not have wished to attend the workshop and engage in coaching but the evidence provided showed she did both.

It did not accept the woman’s claim she thought she was “only having chats” because of evidence to the contrary in emails and scheduled appointments.

One of the emails included details of the discounted offer and another included an invoice requesting payment and an offer to make monthly contributions to settle the invoice.

The tribunal said the woman’s enthusiastic reply was strong evidence she was fully informed about the programme and the terms to which she agreed to participate.

The woman was ordered to pay the life coach $2387.50.

This story originally appeared in theNew Zealand Herald.

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