Parents seeking the best opportunities for their children are being targeted by high-pressure salespeople pushing expensive educational software.
Parents have complained to Consumer Affairs Victoria about sales techniques, problems seeking refunds and the failure of the expensive programs to match the salesperson’s representations.
Signing up for these programs – which often begin with a ‘free demonstration’ of educational software, or a ‘free aptitude test’ – can cost about $8,000-$10,000 in the long run.
It’s worth doing your homework before you agree to anything.
Don’t assume that your child will necessarily benefit from the programs. Parents have complained to us that after being pressured into signing up, the software proved unsuitable for their child. Some have reported that it actually reduced their child’s confidence in the subject.
Others thought they were protected by a ‘money back guarantee’, but then found that there were strict conditions attached to the guarantee. These oblige their child to spend hours on the program each week for a year, to qualify for a refund.
The Consumer Action Law Centre also receives complaints about these sales techniques and products. In their article about education software, they point out that many of these complaints come from people who have arrived recently in Australia, who may not understand the education system.
Do the maths – can you afford it?
If you are asked to sign up for one of these programs, figure out the total cost over the life span of the agreement. It could add up to thousands and if you sign a credit contract, you will pay the additional cost of the interest.
Don’t agree to any contract until you have shopped around. There may be much cheaper programs available and despite what a salesperson may tell you, price is not necessarily a guide to quality .
Ask your child’s maths teacher whether they think the program will help your child. Then consider whether the software being offered can provide the help it promises.
You can cancel if you’re quick enough
If a salesperson turned up at your home uninvited, or gained an invitation under false pretences, any contract you signed may be considered an ‘unsolicited consumer agreement’. This means that, by law, you could have a right to a 10 business day cooling-off period. This lets you cancel the agreement, if you act quickly. If the agreement is considered an unsolicited agreement you would also be entitled to a refund within the cooling off period.
Know your rights. See Consumer Affairs Victoria’s website for information about unsolicited consumer agreements and cooling off.