Often, private coaching centres, with flashing hoardings advertising topper students, invite parents to enroll their children with the promise that the latter will benefit from the institute. With the hope that their children will excel in academics, parents do enrol them, but end up falling for disappointing services and methods of teaching.
Trilok Chand Gupta (41), a Bengaluru resident, found himself in a similar predicament after he received a leaflet from a coaching institute that offered good results for his daughter. Convinced by the centre’s promise that his daughter would score 80% in Class IX, he signed her up for coaching and paid Rs 69,408.
Trilok’s daughter took classes from 16 July to 14 November, 2019. However, when her results came in, she found out that she’d failed her semester I examinations. Upset with the results, Trilok approached the centre and demanded the withdrawal of admission, as well as a full refund of fees on 13 December 2019. The coaching centre, however, turned him down.
Taking the battle to the court
“A person from the institute had approached us on the school premises after my daughter completed her Class VIII examination. Before enrolling, the centre informed me that the classes had begun the previous week, but my daughter would manage to cover up. But in reality, coaching had started a couple of months ago. My daughter struggled to cope up with the backlog as well as the ongoing classes. I raised the issue in August 2019, when the second instalment was due with the institute. We expressed that no expected progress had been made by my daughter. The coaching class management offered her extra classes and promised she would score 80% marks in the examination, scheduled in September. We learned that when the coaching centre would conduct weekly tests, they would share answers for the question paper in advance so students could score better marks,” Trilok tells The Better India. Despite repeatedly raising issues and being given reassurances in return, his daughter failed.
Trilok then withdrew his daughter’s admission and slapped the coaching centre with a legal notice on 19 December 2019. The notice was followed by lodging a complaint with the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission on 3 March 2020, seeking a full fee refund of Rs 69,408.
The coaching classes defended themselves because the student had availed partial services, and it was only obliged to refund the remaining sum. The court order cites, “As per the calculation, the complainant is supposed to get an amount of Rs 5,119 only. However, the opposition party, as a goodwill gesture, and without admitting any liability, agreed to refund for an amount of Rs 26,014 by taking a lenient approach.”
‘It’s about ethics’
Naman Saraswat, an advocate representing the institute, says evidence was presented to the court showing the student attended classes and availed the services for the first five months. “The institute already suggested that the remaining amount for the second semester will be refunded, accepting the deficiency in services,” he says.
The court noted that the student attended the classes in the first semester, and it became evident that she wanted to discontinue. It ordered a refund of Rs 26,014 and litigation charges of Rs 5,000 to the complainant.
Welcoming the outcome, Trilok says that the truth has prevailed. “More than monetary gain, the matter has been about ethics. Many parents like me enrol their children by putting their trust in these institutes, only to be fooled. I appreciate that the institute accepted its wrongdoing. But it is equally important for parents to come out and fight for their child’s betterment,” he adds.
In similar cases, parents have been able to seek relief, even if coaching centres mention a clause stating that the fee is non-refundable. In 2020, Kinnar Choksi in Ahmedabad sought fees refund for a course his son had enrolled in to prepare for the National Aptitude Test in Architecture. The student had pulled out of coaching after attending it for around four days, as he found the course unsatisfactory. Choksi moved the consumer court to address the grievance, also alleging that pictures of successful students were placed on advertisements to attract candidates.
The coaching class, in its defense, stated that the receipt had clearly mentioned in a clause that the amount would be non-refundable. It also argued that pictures mentioned of topper students were to inspire potential candidates, and not attract them.
The court stated that because Choksi’s son found the classes unsatisfactory, not refunding the fee amounted to “unfair trade practices”, and directed the coaching centre to refund a fee amount of Rs 38,000. It further stated that the non-refundable clause in the receipt was an “unreasonable” and “one-sided” decision.
Moreover, students and parents should note that coaching classes cannot demand a lump sum fee for the admission of the course.
In 2007, Dalbir Singh in New Delhi filed a case against a medical entrance coaching institute, demanding a full refund for a sum of Rs 18,734 for two years of coaching. His son did not find the course satisfactory on the grounds that the institute was teaching more engineering students, and quit the course within six months of joining.
The coaching institute contended that the student voluntarily withdrew admission, and there was no deficiency of services. It also presented a record of students who had passed from the institute with good results, refuting claims of the quality of teaching being substandard. It added that seeking fees for two years was in lieu of non-transferability of the seat, and hence refused refund.
Dismissing the argument of the institute, the court mentioned UGC guidelines, which state that a student who did not attend a single class was eligible to seek refund with a minimal deduction of Rs 100, in proportion to charges of hostel fees and others. The consumer court stated that as the student did not attend classes for the entire duration of two years, not refunding fees would be considered “unconscionable and unfair”, and “therefore not enforceable”, and directed the coaching centre to refund the amount.
Edited by Divya Sethu