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Customers fume at mis-selling by edtech firms, failing to get refunds

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Thousands of edtech customers are engaged in a month-long tussle with companies like BYJU’s, Lido Learning, and Planetspark to cancel course subscriptions and retrieve their refund amount.

Consumercomplaint.in, an independent arbitrator between consumers and companies, shows over 3,000 consumer complaints against BYJU’s. The edtech major is said to have 150 million registered learners globally. Similarly, PlanetSpark, which offers online courses to K8 students, has about 100 complaints on Consumercomplaint.in. The majority of these complaints are about course cancellations and refunds.

BusinessLine could not verify the current number of resolved complaints on the platform. Furthermore, about 50 Lido Learning customers have formed a WhatsApp group to join forces in their fight for a fee refund from the edtech company, which is currently looking to get acquired.

Edtech companies typically sell their courses with a 15-day trial period, during which customers can cancel the subscription and get the fee amount refunded. However, the cancellation process is not as easy as education counsellors sometimes make it look. 

Navita from Punjab has received the BYJU’s course on May 9 and requested a cancellation on May 24. It has been over a month since the request, and the company is now saying she did not cancel in the 15-day trial period.

“Education counsellor told me that I could contact him for any concerns regarding payment or course. So, I told him about the cancellation, but later he told me that I was supposed to send an email. The loan company is now harassing me for the EMIs,” she told BusinessLine

Similarly, a Lido Learning customer, Vishal from Maharasthra, bought an online course for his son through a loan of ₹45,000. “We did not like the course and raised the cancellation request after attending one class. The company promised that the refund will come within 45 days of cancellation. I have been following up with the company for 6 months now and am yet to receive a refund.” 

Pradeep Poonia, a vocal critic of the edtech space who is in touch with multiple customers who have raised complaints, said, “Edtech companies have intentionally made the cancellation process tricky. People assume sales executives or educational counsellors are the ones they need to call for cancellation, but that’s not the case. There is usually an email ID for course cancellations, which some customers tend to miss.”

He added that sales executives sometimes delay the process of cancellation by offering discounts and saying that they will talk to the team about it. Once the 15-day trial period has passed, the sales executive gets their incentive and stop taking customer calls. Then the customer has to deal with the lender entity to stop EMIs, who keeps harassing them because the loan agreement is between the customer and the bank. 

“Given that these are tech companies, cancellation processes can be made much simpler. They could have added a cancel button on the user end, instead of having them send cancellation emails,” Poonia added. 

In the case of PlanetSpark, which has a no question asked refund policy and customers can request a refund anytime during the course, Sudarshana from West Bengal enrolled her daughter for PlanetSpark classes in January-endbut was not satisfied with the course and decided to cancel the course in April. 

“From May 2022, without any reason, the EMI started deducting and my daughter was not attending any of their classes. I called them hundreds of times and sent many emails to them but no response has come from them. They always say they are working on it,” she wrote on Consumercomplaints.in. Her refund request remains pending as of July 15. 

BYJU’s, Lido Learning, and PlanetSpark did not respond to BusinessLine till the time of publication. 

Under the lens

The Edtech industry is also under the government scanner for consumer complaints filed with the Consumer Affairs Department. In a meeting between the Department and edtech’s self-regulatory body, India Edtech Consortium, held last month, the Consumer Affairs Department is said to have expressed concerns about edtech companies mis-selling courses, among other issues.

Indian Edtech Consortium (IEC) which was formed under the aegis of IAMAI issues and notes BYJU’s co-founder Divya Gokulnath as the co-chair and upGrad co-founder Mayank Kumar as the chair of the consortium, said in a statement released on July 16, “IEC has created a two-tier Grievance Redressal Mechanism which has been actively resolving consumers’ complaints at an unprecedented pace. 

“So far, 100 per cent of the complaints received by the IEC until June 2022 have been resolved completely while the complaints received in July are going through active screening for faster resolutions,” the consortium added. 

The self-reported data of the companies was presented to the Consumer Affairs Department recently where the government suggested forming a joint working group for strengthening the ecosystem that fosters credibility, trust, and growth. To further streamline the resolution process, the IEC-member companies are also registering at the National Consumer Helpline.

Published on

July 18, 2022



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