Educational Institutions

Between January 2002 and January 2003 the number of complaints against various educational institutions, received by the Fair Trading Commission (FTC), increased by 110%. The number continues to rise steadily. The essence of these complaints, is that unsubstantiated representations are made about the type and quality of services being offered.

In a typical case representations made before registration will state that materials such as computers and text books will be provided as a part of the course, upon payment of a certain sum. Upon registration and payment of the previously quoted fee, students discover that they are required to make further payments in order to receive course materials.

In other instances, scheduled classes are curtailed without any offer of refund. Complaints reveal too that often guarantees of placement in other courses and institutions, on successful completion of relevant courses of study, are not fulfilled.

Some institutions make false claims about being accredited by various accrediting bodies; and the number of unregistered, unlicensed educational institutions is growing sharply.

The FTC wishes to remind educational institutions that the practices referred to amount to Misleading Advertising and are a breach of Section 37 of the Fair Competition Act. Consumers are advised to be vigilant and thorough in their examination of brochures and course outlines. They need to make careful enquiry before handing over their money and entrusting their educational future to these institutions, because in the large majority of cases the institutions concerned are unable to provide the services advertised.

Consumers are entitled to be provided with all the information that would enable them to make informed choices. An institution’s refund policy is one such piece of material information. If an institution fails to provide material information before it accepts someone’s money; and if it fails to honour the representations made to the public, then the FTC will treat the matter as a misrepresentation; and will prosecute such an institution. This offence attracts a penalty of up to Five Million Dollars (5,000,000.00).