Sunday, Nov 27, 2022

Govt Expresses Concern Over Alleged Malpractices By BYJU’s, Other Edtech Companies

From hard-selling courses, poor study material, pushing financing options and frustrating refund processes, the complaints against edtech companies, especially Byju’s, are piling up

EdTech Boom In The Time of Pandemic Photograph by Shutterstock

Accusations of hard-selling and mis-selling tactics adopted by edtech companies, especially Byju’s and its group entities, have not gone unnoticed by the government. The Consumer Affairs (CA) department has taken a grim view of this situation and voiced concerns about this practice, in addition to other policies adopted by edtech companies. 

These were discussed during a meeting with India Edtech Consortium (IEC), a self-regulatory organisation and the new-age education companies on 24 June, Economic Times reported. They reportedly expressed their concerns over a call to Divya Gokulnath, wife of founder Byju Raveendran, who is also the Co-Founder of the unicorn. Reports claim that Byju’s team has promised to address these complaints with a comprehensive action plan.

IEC was set up earlier this year under the Internet and Mobile Association of India. It counts Byju’s, Unacademy, Upgrad and other edtech companies as its members.

In Hot Water

Complaints against misleading course content and study material have been against Byju’s. According to a LocalCirlces survey, 69% of those who have taken online coaching or learning classes have faced issues. Several citizens in various forums vis-à-vis on LocalCircles’ platform have highlighted the issue of getting refunds upon cancellation of subscriptions/packages with edtech platforms as a major problem.

For a long time now, parents of students have been complaining about how edtech startups are involved in pushing loans or financing options for the various expensive courses offered. Moneycontrol also reported about 130 learners alleging that Great Learning, which was acquired by Byju’s in 2021, misled them by selling the ‘Continuing Education and Quality Improvement Programmes’ (CE&QIP) course of IIT-B as a PGP course.

However, some consumers have successfully gotten their hard-earned money back. Amongst them is Bengaluru-based Manju Chandra and his cousin, Madhusudhana. Earlier this year, the duo won a legal suit against the edtech company after filing a complaint in 2021 about receiving poor-quality learning material and tablets. The local Consumer Court ordered the company to repay a fee of Rs 99,000 with 12% interest and an additional Rs 25,000 towards damages and Rs 5,000 towards litigation expenses. 

During the 24 June meeting, officials from the CA pointed out that they had received 147 consumer complaints against edtech startups. While planning to share the complete list of complaints with the edtech companies soon, they said, “Aggressive mis-selling to parents is something that was discussed, among other issues, along with certain claims being made in advertisements. Byju’s was advised to work closely with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI).” 

Manisha Kapoor, CEO of ASCI, a self-regulatory organisation, recently told Business Insider, “A lot of private institutes and tuitions cater to local and regional audiences with promising claims like job guarantees.” This came after it released a report in June, where after reviewing 5,532 advertisements based on the total complaints received, 33 per cent were by upset consumers who subscribed to edtech platforms or invested in association with educational institutions such as coaching centres, private institutes, among others.