“Unscrupulous coaching institutes should not have the right to retain fees of students who leave course midway due to dissatisfaction with the services”: DCDRC

District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission

District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (DCDRC), Ernakulam: While considering the instant matter where a former student of VLCC Institute who had enrolled in 2 courses, had to cancel her admission due to delays in classes and her weak health, and had claimed a refund from the institute; the Bench of D.B. Binu (President)* and V. Ramachandran and Sreevidhia. T.N (Members) relying on set NCDRC precedents, stated that “In the field of education, while many coaching institutions offer valuable services to prepare students for higher education, there unfortunately exists a presence of unscrupulous coaching institutions engaging in unethical practices, exploiting students and their families. These institutions should not have the right to retain the fees of students who choose to leave a course midway due to dissatisfaction with the services provided. It is essential to ensure fairness and prevent these institutions from imposing unfair terms and conditions. Protecting consumers, particularly in the education sector, is of utmost importance to guarantee that students and parents are treated with the respect and honesty they deserve”.

The Commission found VLCC to be liable for negligence and serious deficiency in service and unfair trade practices.

The complainant enrolled in a course on 18-01-2021, paying a total of Rs. 1,17,329/ in fees. Later, on 09-03-2021, the complainant enrolled in another course, paying a total of Rs. 1,62,000/ as fees. However, due to COVID-19, the complainant could not attend physical classes but attended online ones.

When the institution closed due to the pandemic, the complainant decided to cancel her admission due to delays in classes and her weak health. She requested a refund from the institution but faced delays and false information.

The institution offered alternatives, but the complainant refused due to incomplete classes within the prescribed time.

The complainant, thus alleged unfair trade practices, sought a refund of Rs. 2,79,329/ and Rs. 2,00,000/ as compensation for mental agony, and the entire cost of proceedings.

Commission’s Assessment: The Commission noted that the complainant is a ‘consumer’ under Consumer Protection Act, 2019 based on the fee receipts issued by the opposite party to the complainant.

The Commission also noted that instead of providing refund to the complainant, the opposite parties suggested purchasing VLCC products of equivalent value to the fees paid.

The Commission pointed out that that VLCC institute, which runs on its own without any control from a university or particular educational rules, is indeed a type of coaching centre. Therefore, it comes under the jurisdiction of DCDRC.

It was further pointed out that the opposite parties failed to deliver on their promise by not conducting the courses as per the agreed terms. Furthermore, their suggestion to adjust the course fees against the enrolment of a relative or sibling is not only unfair but also contrary to consumer protection principles. “Fees paid by the complainant should not be rendered non-refundable in such a manner. Such practices are deemed unconscionable and voidable, as highlighted by legal precedents.

With the afore-stated the assessment, the DCDRC ascertained the liability of VLCC and directed them to refund Rs.2,79,329 to the complainant (the course fees paid by the complainant) and pay Rs.50,000 as compensation for the mental agony, inconvenience, physical hardships, and deficiency in service caused by their actions and Unfair Trade Practices and also pay Rs.10,000 towards cost of proceedings.

[Zeba Salim v. VLCC Healthcare Ltd., CC/22/365, decided on 15-11-2023]

*Order by D.B. Binu, President

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Adv. U. Jayakrishnan, Sooraj for complainant

Adv. Muhammed Musthafa, Firm JusLex & Associates for opposite parties

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