Wed, Sep 22, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Consumers' Foundation targets tutorial centers

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A consumer watchdog yesterday highlighted problems with many after-school tutorial centers, saying they had inappropriate policies on refunds, installment payments and contract guarantees.

After-school tutorial centers, private language classes and test preparation schools are a popular way for many students in Taiwan to cope with the demands of their education.

A recent investigation by the Consumers’ Foundation focusing on tutorial centers in 25 cities and counties found that “unreasonable” policies were undermining students’ rights.

Foundation chairman Hsieh Tien-jen (謝天仁) said only seven of the cities and counties surveyed had regulations requiring tutorial centers to offer 100 percent refunds to consumers who requested them before the start of classes. Three cities and counties required 95 percent refunds, while nine required 90 percent refunds.

The foundation said some tutorial centers took advantage of loopholes — such as offering special discounts that allow students to purchase more classes at a lower rate — but because the discount offers were not counted as regular tutorial fees, they were not refundable.

Some centers also offer students installment plans, which are in effect micro loans from banks, but students are not protected in the event that the tutorial center goes bankrupt and students would still be responsible for paying their debt to the banks, the foundation said.

The foundation said tutorial centers with unclear refund and payment policies were taking advantage of students.

“Other than administrative costs, tutorial centers should be able to provide a full refund to students before the start of classes,” Hsieh said.

The foundation called on local governments to step up protection of consumer rights by setting stricter regulations on refund policies at tutorial centers and conducting inspections to prevent the businesses from taking advantage of legal loopholes.

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