No one should be pressured to enrol: Council

09/11/2009 16:15

It has come to the attention of the Consumer Council of Fiji that some institutes are engaging sales agents to sell their courses door to door.

The Council is concerned that students are allegedly being pressured by these sales reps and lured into buying courses, in particular certificate or Diploma in IT courses, without the students having ample time to discuss, understand or comprehend before enrolling.

A complaint by a student has highlighted that she had enrolled to take up IT at a particular tertiary institute, following discussions with a sales agent. To an extent, the sales rep also assisted the vulnerable student to withdraw funds from her Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF) account to pay for her tuition. But when the student later changed her mind about taking up the course, she was unable to recover any money.

This kind of practice is prohibited under Section 55(d) – Unconscionable Conduct under the Fair Trading Decree stating that “Whether any undue influence or pressure was exerted on, or any unfair tactics were used against the customer (or person acting on behalf of the customer) by the supplier or a person acting on behalf of the supplier in relation to the supply or possible supply of the goods and services”.

What concerns the council most is that these sales agents with their “gift of gab” manage to lure consumers to sign up for studies which the consumers are not ready financially or personally. Often information such as withdrawal policy, refund policy and the commencement date of that particular course is not disclosed to the consumer to make an informed decision.

We are calling on the appropriate authorities to look into this matter urgently to avoid any more students getting caught in the web.

The practice also breaches Section 75 – Misrepresentation under the Sale of Goods Act whereby a “…person has entered into a contract after a misrepresentation has been made to him, and (a) the misrepresentation has become a term of the contract; or (b) the contract has been performed”. The misrepresentation will allow the customer to rescind the contract without alleging fraud.

The onus is also on potential tertiary students and consumers to read between the lines of any document to understand before signing any agreement. It is the right of the consumer to ask as many questions possible to ensure they are aware of the repercussions.  Tertiary institutes must act responsibly to ensure that their policies are drawn based on the laws of this land and not to suit their agenda