Coaching Centres Shouldn't Be Money Collection Machines: Chandigarh State Consumer Protection Commission [Read Order]
State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission of Chandigarh has upheld the decision of the District Forum which had directed FIIT-JEE to refund the fee taken in advance on account of the child being unable to attend classes due to medical reasons. The forum also went on to declare the practice of coaching institutes to collect fee in advance as an unfair trade practice.
In the present case, the parents of the respondent child had paid the fees in advance for a two-year coaching programme. However, due to acute medical reason, it became impossible for the child to attend the coaching classes. On this account, the parents asked for a refund but the same was denied by the appellant organisation.
The appellant had relied the judgements of this very consumer forum in FIITJEE Ltd. Vs. Harish Soni, and FIITJEE Ltd. Vs. Vikram Seth to argue that the complainant is not entitled to any refund in terms of provisions of the enrolment form, which was duly signed by the complainant at the time of admission of her son.
The forum rejected this claim by citing FIIT JEE Ltd. Vs. Dr.Minathi Rath where it was held that FIIT JEE Ltd. could not charge full advance fee for Two years and held the complainant entitled for receipt of refund of fee taken in advance from him by FIIT JEE. It opined that The appellant cannot be allowed to be on an advantageous position, keeping in mind the interests of poor consumers. Moreover, when a student or his/her parents signs the admission form, they have no bargaining power to negotiate, or refuse to sign any particular clause in the admission form. Hence, such clauses should not be held against the student.
The forum also went on to note that a student or a trainee may leave midstream if he finds the service deficient, substandard and non-yielding, and to tell him that fees once paid are not refundable was an unfair trade practice, as no service provider can take or charge the consideration of the service which it has either not given or has not been availed.
The forum also criticised the coaching institute for not respecting the medical condition of the child which caused the latter further mental agony. The practice of making children and parents sign one sided agreements at the time of enrollment is also held to be an unfair trade practice by the present forum.
Therefore, the District Consumer Forum's decision of ordering the coaching institute to refund the fee along with compensation and litigation costs was upheld.