In your interest.
Online Personal Finance Magazine
No beating about the bush.
Law is on the side of students who want to leave an institute or course mid-way and are seeking refund of fees. This also means, education institutes should not be charging upfront fees for the entire course and refuse refund, in case the student wants it
Consider a typical scenario: A student takes admission to a coaching institute for a two year course, broken into four semesters. The student signs the enrollment /admission form containing various conditions. The institute collects upfront fees for the entire course. After attending classes for a few days/weeks, the student is dissatisfied and wants to opt out, but the institute refuses to refund the fees. It cites a clause in the admissions form that says, "Fees once paid shall not be refunded under any circumstances."
When the student persists with the demand, the institute cites another clause in the form: "In case of any dispute, matter shall be referred to arbitration and institute shall appoint the Arbitrator. The decision of the arbitrator shall be final and binding on the parties."
What is the solution? Here are two real life resolutions.
In one case, Dr Minathi Rath, a student’s father, dragged the coaching institute to the Consumer Forum. The State Commission held in 2006, that the clause "fees once paid is not refundable" was "unconscionable and voidable”. It further directed all educational institutes not to charge fees for the whole duration of the course in advance by way of lumpsum payment. The judgement was reported in the media as well. FIIT-JEE challenged this in the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), but more about that later.
In another case, a student paid an upfront fee of Rs1.8 lakh for a two-year coaching programme for the IIT-JEE entrance test. After a few classes, he wanted to opt out and sought a refund. As expected, FIIT-JEE (the coaching institute) refused, citing the non-refund clause which he had signed.
When the student’s father persisted with the request to refund the fee (after deducting a portion for the duration he attended the classes) FIIT-JEE initiated arbitration proceedings. The Arbitrator declined to grant the refund and agreed with FIIT-JEE’s submisison that once the student signed the admission form, he was bound by its clauses.
I entered the scene after the arbitration proceedings and filed an objection in the District Court against the order of the Arbitrator. The District Judge reversed the order of the Arbitrator with detailed reasons. The judge specifically noted that when a student signs the admission form, he has no bargaining power to negotiate, or refuse to sign any particular clause in the admission form. Hence, these clauses should not be held against the student. The District Judge also directed the Arbitrator to refund the proportionate fee to the student.
The matter did not end there. FIIT-JEE hired a big law firm and challenged the order in the High Court, although the amount involved was only Rs2 lakh. The matter came up before the High Court on 21 November 2011.
At the hearing, FIIT-JEE conceded that the non-refundable fee clause can be challenged as unconscionable under Section 23 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872, besides being in violation of the principles of public policy. The High Court agreed with the District Judge's view and remanded the matter to the Arbitrator for a decision after taking into account all the recent precedents on the point of law. The order is available here.
Now, in another development just a week prior to the High Court hearing, the NCDRC decided on FIIT-JEE’s appeal in Dr Minathi Rath’s case that we mentioned earlier. It is pertinent to mention here that the Supreme Court had settled the fee issue in the case of Islamic Academy of Education Vs. State of Karnataka (2003) 6 SCC 696. 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.
But FIIT-JEE argued before the NCDRC that the ruling of Islamic Academy was not applicable to it since it is not an educational institute but only a coaching institute. The NCDRC was not impressed and upheld the order of the State Commission, directing FIIT-JEE to refund the fees. The order is available here.
We now began a second round of arbitration in the second FIIT-JEE case as directed by the High Court, by providing all the rulings on the dispute. This time the Arbitrator awarded the refund of fees for one year after deduction of statutory fees like Service Tax, etc.
In situations like these, students who want to leave an institute or course mid-way, usually hesitate to appoint a lawyer to argue their case. On the other hand, institutes have the resources for good legal representation. My advice to students is that the law is on your side if you want to fight. And educational institutes should be prudent, desist from charge upfront fees for the entire course, and if they do, should not refuse a refund.
(Dushyant K Mahant, is Founding Partner of Mahant & Mahant
and Intellectual Property Lawyer. He did his Masters in IP Law from Brisbane. Does pro bono work as well. Mr Mahant is active on social media to exchange views and news about politics, law and common sense)
Facebook is launching an aggressive technique to track people across the Web
For years people have noticed a funny thing about Facebook's ubiquitous Like button. It has been sending data to Facebook tracking the sites you visit. Each time details of the tracking were revealed, Facebook promised that it wasn't using the data for any commercial purposes.
No longer. Last week, Facebook announced it will start using its Like button and similar tools to track people across the Internet for advertising purposes.
Here is the long history of the revelations and Facebook's denials:
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg introduces the "transformative" Like button…
April 21, 2010 – Facebook introduces the "Like" button in 2010 at its F8 developer conference. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg declares that it will be "the most transformative thing we've ever done for the Web."
He says his goal is to encourage a Web where all products and services use people's real identity. He suggests, in fact, that creating a personally identifiable web experience could be divine: "When you go to heaven, all of your friends are all there and everything is just the way you want it to be," he says. "Together, lets build a world that is that good."
Which sends data…
Nov. 30, 2010 – Dutch researcher Arnold Roosendaalpublishes a paper showing that Facebook Like buttons transmit data about users even when the user doesn't click on the button. Facebook later says that Roosendaal found a "bug."
even when users don't click on it…
May 18, 2011 - The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook Like buttons and other widgets collect data about users even when they don't click them. Facebook's chief technology officer says, "we don't use them for tracking and they're not intended for tracking."
Internet pioneer says log of out Facebook…
Sept. 24, 2011 – Veteran tech blogger Dave Winer writes that " Facebook is scaring me" with its apps like the social reader, which can automatically share stories you read. This "kind of behavior deserves a bad name, like phishing, or spam, or cyber-stalking," he writes. Winer recommends that users log out of Facebook to prevent being tracked on other websites.
Except logging out doesn't work…
Sept. 25, 2011 – Australian blogger Nik Cubrilovic writes that " Logging Out of Facebook is Not Enough." He shows that Facebook is tracking users even when they log out of the site. Facebook responds that it is fixing the issue so people won't be tracked when they are logged out of Facebook.
Facebook says not to worry...
Sept. 27, 2011 – Facebook tells the New York Times that it doesn't use data from Like buttons and other widgets to track users or target advertising to them, and that it deletes or anonymizes the data within 90 days.
Turns out Facebook has patented the technique…
Oct. 1, 2011 – Blogger Michael Arrington digs up a Facebook patent application for "a method … for tracking information about the activities of users of a social networking system while on another domain." The title of his blog post: " Brutal Dishonesty."
But, really, don't worry…
Dec. 7, 2012 – As the Wall Street Journal finds that Facebook Like buttons and other widgets appear on two-thirds of 900 websites surveyed, the company says again it only uses data from unclicked Like buttons for security purposes and to fix bugs in its software.
June 12, 2014 – Facebook tells Ad Age that it will start tracking users across the Internet using its widgets such as the Like button.
It's a bold move. Twitter and Pinterest, which track people with their Tweet and PinIt buttons, offer users the ability to opt out. And Google has pledged it will not combine data from its ad-tracking network DoubleClick with personally identifiable data without user's opt-in consent. Facebook does not offer an opt-out in its privacy settings.
Instead Facebook asks members to visit an ad industry page, where they can opt out from targeted advertising from Facebook and other companies. The company also says it will let people view and adjust the types of ads they see.
We contacted Facebook to ask them about their tracking habits. They didn't respond.
Read our recent story about how online tracking is getting creepier, and a piece from our archives rounding up the best reporting on Facebook and your privacy.
The couple alleged that during May 2014, they were not allowed to use the esclator facility at Coimbatore station under the pretext of 'out of service', but found it being used to ferry family members of some railway employees
An elderly couple recently filed a complaint with the Indian Railways, with regard to the alleged irresponsible and illegal behaviour of the railway employees at Coimbatore Station. The couple alleged that during May 2014, they were not allowed to use the esclator facility at the station under the pretext of 'out of service', but found it being used to ferry family members of some railway employees.
Padma Raghvan, one of the passengers said, “my husband and I travelled on the 3 May 2014 by Shatabdi Express from Coimbatore to Chennai. The tickets were booked online in advance and the date of travel was unfortunately a couple of days after the bomb blast. In spite of this, there was only cursory checking and also, there were no porters to carry luggage. Eventually, we found a porter willing to move our luggage to the designated platform, which was two floors above. Upon enquiry we were told that there was no escalator, lift or ramp at the station. The only alternative was to climb the stairs - not an easy proposition for us.”
She further stated, “when we eventually reached the platform, the porter showed us to a shed and asked to wait until the train arrived. The shed seemed to be the exit point of the escalator. As we watched, a man in white uniform without any name badge, inserted a key near the escalator and it began to ascend. He switched it off and handed the key over to a person in mufti (not in uniform). He did not appear to be a Railway employee. The man in mufti started it with the key given to him, reversed the motion and right in front of us a group of people with very little luggage got on to the escalator and went to the platform below where the escalator then stopped.”
A government official using state property meant to be used in the service of people is against the law and strict action must be taken against concerned officials.
Railway activist Samir Zaveri, who also runs a Railway Helpline with Moneylife Foundation said, “Railway should immediately respond to the complaint of harrased senior citizens, compensate them and take serious action against the designated officers. Railways cannot discriminate between passengers for offering basic services like escalators which is especially beneficial for senior citizens.”
Padma Raghvan too said, “I expect to be compensated by Railways for porterage, inconvenience and discrimination in the treatment of passengers.” She also tried to file a complaint on http://www.indianrailways.gov.in but encountered an 'error' while submitting it. Hence she wrote a letter to [email protected] but till now has not get any response from the Railways.
In her letter to Railways' customer care she asked, “What does this mean? The escalator was in working order at the time we asked about the facility, it was not used for the purpose for which it was installed in the first place - that is for the convenience of passengers. The uniformed man misused his position by allowing young and healthy passengers to have a joyride on it and also reversed its motion to the utter inconvenience of deserving passengers. We, paying passengers were told that it was not working, when, in fact, the escalator was in good working order.”
Moneylife contacted the chief public relations officer (CPRO) from Southern Railway at Chennai. He said he would forward our mail to the divisional railway manager (DRM) at Salem division, as Coimbatore falls within this zone. We are awaiting a reply and would incorporate it as and when we receive it.
If you have any complaints and suggetions regarding railways you can file it online on: http://customercare.indianrailways.gov.in/criscm/home.seam
OR you can also file your complaints on http://www.pgportal.gov.in/