REFUND OF FEES FROM EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTES
Law favors the students who want to leave an institute or course mid-way and seeks refund of fees. As per the law, education institutes should not be charging upfront fees for the entire course and refuse refund, in case the student wants it. Most of the times the educational institutes put clause “fees once paid is not refundable”.
It is decided against the institutes in many cases with the view that when a student signs the admission form, he has no bargaining power to negotiate, or refuse to sign any particular clause in the admission form. Hence, these clauses should not be held against the student. When the student persists with the demand, the institute cites another clause in the form “In case of any dispute, the matter shall be referred to arbitration and institute shall appoint the Arbitrator.” The decision of the arbitrator shall be final and binding on the parties.
SECTION 15 OF CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT
If any party is not satisfied by the order of District Forum, he may further appeal to higher level. As per Section 15 of Consumer Protection Act, any person aggrieved by an order made by the District Forum may prefer an appeal against such order to the State Commission within a period of thirty days from the date of the order, in such form and manner as may be prescribed: Provided that the State Commission may entertain an appeal after the expiry of the said period of thirty days if it is satisfied that there was sufficient cause for not filing it within that period: 1[Provided further that no appeal by a person, who is required to pay any amount in terms of an order of the District Forum, shall be entertained by the State Commission unless the appellant has deposited in the prescribed manner fifty per cent. of that amount or twenty-five thousand rupees, whichever is less.
The state consumer disputes redressal commission dismissed the appeal filed by a Chandigarh-based coaching centre, Allen Career Institute, and upheld the consumer forum’s order wherein the institute was asked to refund the fees of a student.
Allen Career Institute had filed an appeal in the state consumer disputes redressal commission under Section 15 of the Consumer Protection Act, against the earlier order passed by district consumer disputes redressal forum-I, Chandigarh.
In the order, the opposite party was directed to refund Rs. 88,203 (after deducting GST and fees for the period for which the course was attended) to the complainant of Phase 6 in Mohali.
They were also directed to pay Rs. 15,000 as compensation to complainant for unfair trade practice and harassment caused and another sum of Rs. 10,000 as litigation expenses.
The complainant had stated that he got his daughter Deepanxi Sharma admitted to the institute in “Pre-Medical Enthusiast” course of one year by paying an amount of Rs. 1.2 lakh.
The girl attended the classes for 50 days, which included holidays, but did not find the faculty up to the mark. She requested the opposite party to refund her fee after deducting non-refundable service tax for the unattended session of the course, but to no avail. Hence, a complaint was filed before in the district consumer forum.
However, no one appeared on behalf of the opposite party and it was proceeded ex-parte by the Forum vide order, wherein the Forum partly allowed the complaint as referred to above. Counsel for the appellant later argued that the Forum committed ‘grave error’ by holding that the services of the opposite party were not found up to the mark.
The counsel added that the allegations were ‘self-made’ just to harass the appellant/opposite party.
The Forum had mentioned, “Clearly, the complainant attended the course only for 50 days. The appellant could have deducted the fee proportionate to the aforesaid period of 50 days but it, without taking care of the interest of the complainant, did not refund any penny to the complainant. Such practices by these institutions cannot be allowed to continue, that is first taking the entire fee of the course and then not refunding any penny on account of exiting the course by the student.”
Dismissing the appeal and upholding the Forum’s order, the commission stated, “We are of the opinion that the order passed by the Forum, being based on the correct appreciation of evidence and law, on the point, does not suffer from any illegality or perversity.”
This post is written by Dipti Prakash of Punjab University. For more info on subject, please dial 99888-17966.