Senate inquiry backs VET Industry Ombudsman

Consumer Action Law Centre reiterates its call for the establishment of an Industry Ombudsman in the vocational education sector as recommended in a Senate report released today.

The release of “The operation, regulation and funding of private vocational education and training (VET) providers in Australia” report by the Senate’s education and employment references committee is another important step to protecting Australia’s students.

“Students shouldn’t be forced to go to a court or tribunal if they have been mis-sold a course from a vocational education provider,” says Katherine Temple, Senior Policy Officer at Consumer Action.

“An Ombudsman service is the best way to provide Australian students and job-seekers with free, fair and quick access to justice in these cases,” Ms Temple said.

“We’ve seen too many students caught up in pressure sales, poor quality courses and lumped with outrageous debt,” Ms Temple said.

Consumer Action is also calling for a remediation scheme so the Government can get its money back from providers that mis-sold VET FEE-HELP courses. This should also relieve students tricked into large debts for courses that were unsuitable or not provided.

The Centre welcomed the Higher Education Support Amendment (VET FEE-HELP) Bill 2015, introduced into the House of Representatives today, which provides a new process to enable students to revoke a VET-FEE-HELP debt that was inappropriately entered into.

“While a new process is welcome, what we need is a substantial remediation project that doesn’t rely on consumer complaints. Almost $2.4 billion has been provided in loans by the Government over the last couple of years, and it’s been estimated that up to 40% percent won’t be paid back.”

“Given the size of this scandal, the Government should take action to review all loans advanced and require unscrupulous providers to repay the Government and waive student debt. The program shouldn’t rely on consumer complaints—many vulnerable students didn’t complete or even start courses, and will have no idea they have this debt hanging over their head”, said Ms Temple.

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