Saifabad FIITJEE asked to pay Rs. 50K compensation to parents denied fee refund

The Hyderabad consumer dispute redressal commission has asked FIITJEE, Saifabad, to pay Rs. 50,000 compensation to the parents of a student who did not get a refund of over Rs. 4.3 lakh after they withdrew their child from the institute.

By Sumit Jha  Published on  1 Aug 2021 9:33 AM GMT
Saifabad FIITJEE asked to pay Rs. 50K compensation to parents denied fee refund

Hyderabad: The Hyderabad consumer dispute redressal commission has asked FIITJEE, Saifabad, to pay Rs. 50,000 compensation to the parents of a student who did not get a refund of over Rs. 4.3 lakh after they withdrew their child from the institute.

After seeing the advertisements, brochures, and receiving SMS and phone calls from FIITJEE regarding their two-year integrated course, Seelam Srinivas, a resident of Secunderabad, admitted his son in the institute for intermediate with IIT/JEE coaching in January 2019.

The FIITJEE staff assured him that the coaching classes would be conducted by specialized faculty using latest teaching techniques and they would give individual attention to each student so that they can crack IIT/JEE exams. Impressed by the promises made by the staff, Mr. Srinivas registered his son for the talent reward exam which he passed. A discount in fee to the extent of 35 per cent was given to the son.

Mr. Srinivas was provided the enrolment form along with the fee structure to be paid for the two-year integrated course called "Pinnacle Two year Integrated Class Room Coaching Program". The fee for the two years was Rs. 4, 37,460 payable in four months with the first instalment to be paid on the same day. Mr. Srinivas paid Rs. 76, 700 and also submitted four post-dated cheques. He was also asked to pay for a tablet that was never given to his son.

After collecting fee for two years in advance the classes commenced from 6 June 2019. After attending classes for a few weeks the complainant's son expressed dissatisfaction with the teaching techniques and lack of support from the faculty. On 22 June, Mr. Srinivas made a request in writing to the opposite party to withdraw his son from the course and sought a refund of the fee after deducting basic administration charges. However, FIITJEE, in its reply to the complainant, cited rules and regulations in the declaration forms signed by the complainant and his son and said fee once paid cannot be refunded as the same was agreed to by the complainant and his son at the time of enrollment.

Further as they refused to refund the fees, Mr. Srinivas was put to untold hardship and suffering as he had enrolled his son in Delhi Public School and had to obtain four loans from friends and relatives to pay the school fees.

FIITJEE contended that the complaint is not maintainable under Consumer Protection Act 1986 since the complaint does not disclose any consumer dispute and contended that the apex court as well as the National Commission had repeatedly held that education is not a commodity and educational institutions are not providing any kind of services and as such there cannot be any question of deficiency of services.

After observing all the documents and evidence, the commission observed that the Supreme Court and consumer commission in several parts of the country had made decisions saying charging fees in advance beyond the current semester/year would certainly amount to unfair trade practice and the same cannot be countenanced.

"In Islamic Academy of Education case, the apex court had expressed unhappiness with educational institutes charging the entire fees upfront and had said that students should only be asked to pay fees for a semester/year to begin with," observed the commission.

Similarly, in FIITJEE LTD V/s. Dr. Minathi Rath, 2012 , the National Commission has held that "FIITJEE 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 the complainant." In FIITJEE Ltd v/s. Shinji Tiwari the state commission of Chandigarh had elaborately dealt with all the similar issues in present case and dismissed the appeal filed by FIITJEE and held that the complainant was entitled for refund of full fee."

The commission also observed that the University Grants Commission had issued a notification with regard to "Remittance and refund of fees and other student-centric issued" and in the said notification has strictly said, "Higher Educational institutions shall charge fees in advance only for the semester/year in which a student is to engage in academic activities. Collecting advance fees for the entire program to study or for more than one semester/year in which a student is enrolled is strictly prohibited as it restricts the student from exercising other options of enrolment elsewhere. This enabling provision is in line with the UGC guidelines on choice-based credit system (CBCS) and Model Curricula which are geared towards promoting a student's inter-institutional mobility."

The commission asked FIITJEE to refund the fee of Rs. 4,45,458.90 after deducting Rs. 10,000 towards administration charges. It also asked the institute to pay Rs. 50, 000 as compensation for causing inconvenience and hardship to the complainant and Rs. 10,000 towards the costs of litigation.


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