With the start of the academic year, NSW Fair Trading and the Australian Tutoring Association (ATA) are warning consumers to exercise caution when buying tutoring services.
Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe said the agency had received 14 complaints and 36 enquiries about tutoring services in 2015.
“The majority of complaints related to the quality of services, with others related to services not provided and refunds for payments paid in advance when the tutoring services were cancelled,” he said. “One consumer faced an $88 charge after cancelling an appointment for an initial consultation and only received a refund after Fair Trading intervention.”
ATA CEO Mohan Dhall said consumers should be aware of their rights with respect to tutoring services. There are things to look for – for example be very wary of businesses offering assignment or essay ‘help’ online.
“Such help encourages plagiarism and academic dishonesty,” he said. “This is a growing industry and parents and their children need to be careful of businesses offering such a service.
“A business was disendorsed by the ATA for offering such a service. All students must do their own work, whether it is homework support in primary school or assistance with assessment tasks in high school or university. Tutors must not do the work for students.
“Universities, schools and the NSW Board of Studies (BOSTES) encourage parents to be aware of unscrupulous businesses that prey on vulnerable parents and students. Accredited tutors with ATA membership are accountable and adhere to the ATA Code of Conduct with membership able to be checked on the ATA website.”
Mr Stowe said the right tutor could complement the excellent education provided by schools, but parents should exercise care in their selection of a suitable tutor.
“Read any contract carefully before signing and be aware of any cancellation conditions,” he said. “Ask how ‘guarantees’ of success can be substantiated and be careful of companies that rely on web-based communication and don’t offer telephone numbers or office locations.
“Be careful with overseas or interstate institutions promoting their services on the internet. Ask questions about the total cost of services as well as refund and cancellation policies. Ask for full disclosure about the qualifications and experience of tutors prior to engaging them. Check that any computer-based learning program software is consistent with the local curriculum and is compatible with your computer including an internet connection fast enough for online tutoring.
“I recommend families considering the engagement of a tutoring service read Fair Trading’s Tutoring Tips for Parentsfact sheet which is available on our website with translations in Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Korean and Vietnamese.”