Common themes emerging in consumer complaints about some private colleges and training institutions has prompted the Consumer Action to publish a guide about common problems, how to avoid them and where to get help if you have a complaint.
Private education and training: avoiding common problems identifies some of the most complained about issues including poor standards of teaching and unfair contracts.
Consumer Action has received a steady stream of complaints about private colleges with common themes – such trends tend to add up to a broader problem. \
Many students don’t know that they have consumer rights—sometimes it’s because they’re international students who are unfamiliar with Australia’s consumer protections. Other times it’s simply because people think that when they signed a contract, they’ve signed away their rights to complain.
Consumer Action’s new guide is designed to provide practical advice to people experiencing problems, and to give people looking to sign up to a private college some food for thought.
Complaints seen by Consumer Action include:
- Colleges not having enough teachers for the number of students enrolled;
- Poor quality teaching meaning students have had to undertake extra training, at their own cost, just to pass the course;
- Unfair treatment, especially in relation to contracts, payments and refunds; and
- High pressure selling.
Consumer Action is concerned that colleges or training institutions are entering into contracts with students, which tip the balance of power heavily in favour of the institution, especially with regard to cancelling courses and seeking a refund.
The most important advice offered in the booklet, which can help stop these problems from ever arising, was to read and understand a contract before signing it. Try not to let yourself be rushed into signing something – of course you can always challenge the fairness of a contract, but it’s preferable to avoid disputes in the first place.