Curious case of the U-Pass

Is there anything that you are required to purchase, regardless of whether you want it, and also forbidden to sell? There should be consumer protection laws against this state of affairs.

At the University of Hawaii, Manoa, there is this strange case of something called a U-Pass. A few years back, it was decided that instead of having just the people who need a bus pass (or U-Pass) pay $100 per semester for one, that every student enrolled at UH Manoa would pay $20 in student fees, whether they needed a bus pass or not. There are some other students who need passes but don’t qualify for the discounted $20 pass. They have to pay $125 per semester. So it makes the most sense for students who are required to pay $20 for a pass they don’t need to sell it for something less than $125 (say, $100) to students who do need it. Both students win, right?

For reasons I don’t understand, the university seems to have a vested interest in preventing such a transaction. They have, in the past, set up sting operations to catch people trying to sell their U-Passes. Yes, they pay someone to troll Craigslist for people trying to sell U-Passes, and arrange meetups that involve several campus police! Surely this is the best use of the University’s limited budget. This semester, they sent the following email to all enrolled students:

UH Manoa students who have been issued a Mandatory UPASS or an Opt-In UPASS are reminded that they cannot resell or transfer their issued UPass to another person.  This is a violation of the student conduct code and can be considered as theft of service by the City and County of Honolulu.

All issued UPasses must remain on the student’s UH identification card.  Any misused UPasses will be forfeited and confiscated.  A violation occurs when a student sells or transfers a UPASS or when a student buys a fraudulent UPASS.

Students who are in violation will be referred to Judicial Affairs and their names will be submitted to the City and County designee for possible prosecution.

“Theft of service”? With the $20 paid in student fees, the student is supposed to get the benefit of unlimited bus service for a semester. I don’t see any reason they shouldn’t be able to transfer that benefit to someone else if they don’t need it themselves.  It’s also interesting to note that it is not the general policy of The Bus (yes, that’s what the bus company is really called on Oahu) that passes are non-transferrable. Monthly passes sold to the public, for example, are fully transferrable, and no one tries to claim that such transactions constitute fraud or theft. If only I had become a lawyer. There seem to be class action lawsuits for things far more frivolous than this.

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