Govt Cautions Parents on Ed-Tech Companies Asking for Auto-Debit while Offering Online Courses
Moneylife Digital Team 24 December 2021
Given the pervasive impact of technology in education, many education-technology (ed-tech) companies offer courses, tutorials, and coaching for competitive exams online. However, the Union government has warned parents and students to be careful while opting for online content and coaching being offered by a host of ed-tech companies.
 
In a release, the Union ministry of education says, “It has come to the notice of the department of school education and literacy that some ed-tech companies are luring parents in the garb of offering free services and getting the electronic fund transfer (EFT) mandate signed or activating the auto-debit feature, especially targeting the vulnerable families.”
 
“The decision has to be well considered with several do’s and don’ts. Most importantly, the offer of free services that some companies promise has to be carefully evaluated,” the ministry says.
 
At present, ed-tech companies have seen rapid growth, increasing the number of students and teachers subscribing to their learning platform. The increasing number also means that platforms must be careful about the claims made regarding the services offered. 
 
“It is very much evident that the ed-tech companies which may be considered e-commerce entities have to comply with the Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020 to prevent any untoward liability in the future and need to establish a dedicated mechanism in place to check for compliance with the law,” the ministry says. 
 
The education ministry had made free e-learning content, textbooks, and digital labs available for all classes. Here are names of some of these portals that offer free content to students:
 
 
SWAYAM PRABHA TV Channels for class 1 to 12-
 
 
Here are the dos and don’ts to be followed by parents and students while using opting for online courses
 
Dos
  • Avoid automatic debit option for payment of subscription fee: Some ed-tech companies may offer the free-premium business model where a lot of their services might seem to be free at first glance but to gain continuous learning access, students have to opt for a paid subscription. Activation of auto-debit may result in a child accessing the paid features without realizing that he/she is no longer accessing the free services offered by the ed-tech company.
  • Do read the terms and conditions before acknowledging the acceptance of learning software/device as your IP address and/or personal data may be tracked.
  • Ask for a tax invoice statement for the purchase of educational devices loaded with contents/app purchase/pendrive learning.
  • Do a detailed background check of the ed-tech company that you want to subscribe to.
  • Do verify the quality of the content provided by the ed-tech companies and make sure that it is in line with the syllabus and your scope of study and is easily comprehensible by your child.
  • Do clarify all your doubts/questions regarding the payment and content before investing any amount for your child’s learning in any ed-tech company.
  • Activate parental controls and safety features on the device or in the app or browser as it helps restrict access to certain content and limit spending on app purchases.
  • Help your child understand that some features in education apps are used to encourage more spending. Talk to them about possible marketing strategies used by ed-tech companies and the consequences.
  • Look for student/parent reviews online on the ed-tech company for any registered grievance and marketing gimmicks. Also, provide your suggestions and reviews which may be beneficial for others.
  • Record the evidence of spam calls/forced signup for any education packages without complete consent for filing a grievance.
  • Go through the child safety guidelines mentioned in the PRAGYATA guidelines by the ministry of education before using any ed-tech platform.(https://www.education.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/pragyata-guidelines_0.pdf)
 
Donts
  • Do not blindly trust the advertisements of the ed-tech companies.
  • Do not sign up for any loans of which you are not aware.
  • Do not install any mobile ed-tech applications without verifying the authenticity.
  • Avoid credit/debit cards registration on apps for subscriptions. Place an upper limit on expenditure per transaction.
  • Avoid adding your data like emails, contact numbers, card details, addresses etc. online as the data may be sold or used for later scam attacks.
  • Do not share any personal videos and photos. Use caution against turning on the video feature or getting on video calls on an unverified platform. Keep your child’s safety at the utmost priority.
  • Do not subscribe to unverified courses because of their false promises.
  • Do not trust the “success stories” shared by the ed-tech companies without proper check as they might be a trap to gather more audience.
  • Do not allow purchases without parental consent. To avoid in-app purchases; OTP based payment methods may be adopted as per RBI’s guidelines.
  • Do not share your bank account details and OTP number with any marketing personnel. Beware of cyber frauds.
  • Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from sources you are not familiar with.
Comments
sathya2011
8 months ago
It is better to be late than never. The auto debit feature in India is not desirable and i believe the card issuing banks are insisting on 2 factor authentication for payment to get completed. The guidelines given are to be read and followed. It is now becoming a pattern of non regulation of various products under the guise of " let the buyer beware" principle and truly populace had to be extra careful.
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