Complaints regarding refunds at cram schools have peaked following a local COVID-19 outbreak, the Consumers’ Foundation said.
Refund policies have been a continual source of complaints in the test-prep industry, which serves a wide base of consumers who are preparing for school applications or job certifications, foundation secretary-general Hsu Tse-yu (徐則鈺) said on Friday.
The COVID-19 outbreak exacerbated such complaints, as schools had to delay the start of classes or use remote instruction, affecting the quality of instruction, he said.
Cram schools typically charge students who drop a class 50 percent of the full tuition after the refund period, which could amount to NT$10,000 or substantially more, he said.
The penalty can be excessive, and certain schools do not set refund periods or refuse to honor contracts, Hsu said.
Hsu provided an example of a Korean-language school that declined to refund tuition to a man by claiming that he had taken more than one-third of the lessons, even though outbreak-related delays meant that there was one month left in the refund period.
Current regulations were not written with remote lessons in mind, Hsu said.
The Ministry of Education and the Executive Yuan’s Consumer Protection Committee should propose new laws and regulations to protect consumers who expect in-person instruction, as current laws were not written with Internet-based classes in mind, he said.
Noting that travelers are legally entitled to cancel their membership in a group tour and receive refunds on a pro-rated scale, based on how much of the service has been rendered, Hsu suggested that cram school regulations could be modeled similarly.
Schools should use the date when the first class commences, regardless of the scheduled date, to calculate the refund period to avoid potential disputes, he said.
The contract should also specify whether the class is to be held remotely or in-person, and disclose which insurance policies the school has purchased, he said.
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