Private Colleges

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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.

We have received a steady stream of complaints and queries about some private colleges and, in our experience a stream of complaints and common themes emerging tends to add up to a broader problem. Sadly, 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.

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.

We are concerned that colleges or training institutions were 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. Our legal practice has seen cases where students have tried to cancel their courses early in the semester, because of illness or some other unavoidable reason, but have been refused a refund or told they’re locked into attending the classes. Refusing a refund in certain circumstances is a breach of the Australian Consumer Law, regardless of what the contract says, so we’d encourage students in this situation to get expert advice.

Victorians who have a consumer complaint against a private college and would like to know more about their rights can call Consumer Action’s legal advice line on (03) 9629 6300 or 1800 466 477.

Image from Joshua Poh.

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