Sometime back I had enrolled my child into one of those premium coaching institutes for IIT/JEE entrance training program under parental peer pressure. While most parents and even children are clear about their core-options inclinations’ we were still undecided, hence we enrolled him for all four core subjects PCM and B.
During the orientation session the center head of the coaching institute, a typical North Indian with Kota disorder, categorically and condescendingly proclaimed that the child has to decide if he would go for IIT or Medical and pick PCM or PCB accordingly! Just then yours truly unhesitatingly asked one of those 4.5 something like primitive minded questions which almost sent the man into bouts of intermittent explosive disorder but since it was a session amidst some 50 odd parents, the gentleman somehow controlled his temper! I had asked him what about those who were not decided yet and wanted to keep both options open! As if to pay obeisance to Ashish Chanchlani, there was silence for a while before he vented out his shock and frustration at our casual tone, in a life or death moment! It is another thing that he was not so shocked when receiving the full payment for all four subjects nevertheless he put us at ease by telling us that we were not the only ones as he expressed his concealed contempt by saying that he had been encountering this kind of a laid back approach only in South India and Bangalore in particular and was visibly quite aghast with the liberal dose of South Indian parenting.
After that sermonizing session, soon, we decided on the inclined batch and soon enough were trained to become responsible parents who would chase their children like werewolves.
After the decision was made I approached them for a refund of the additional amount we had made initially towards the extra subject which had to be dropped now because of the segregated batch system.
I was told that the amount would be adjusted against the fees for the next year and that no refund would be possible which meant that we had to remain trapped like bonded laborers and invariably enroll for the course next year as well whether or not we would be satisfied with their service. This was an unacceptable business module to me as it was not communicated in advance at the time of enrollment. I was not willing to relent and hence kept following up with them. After much insistence they asked me to fill up a refund request form and sent it across to their head office. I even got an acknowledgment call from their staff saying a refund would be processed in a short time but it never happened, my subsequent telephonic reminders and emails evoked no response and after midyear they simply refused to refund at all. I told them that I would certainly continue for the next year’s course provided they showed some professionalism and good ethics in administrative matters but to no avail. I felt let down that an educational institute had to behave so unprofessionally.
A year had passed by but there was no sign of any refund, I began searching and reading about how to seek redressal with Consumer Forum, I came across http://www.nationalconsumerhelpline.in and tried signing up online. Although the site did create a login and sent me a password, when I logged in and went to their Ingram page, where one records their complaint, it never allowed me to register a complaint, the captcha code never verified and the submit button never worked. When I tried again after some time, this time I had forgotten the password and when I requested for a password reset the site never responded. Digital India is still a long way with so many flawed applications and mediocre softwares and last but not the least the unskilled folks interfacing behind those shoddy softwares and tools.
I later tweeted to the various Consumer Forum twitter handles but there was no response.
As a last resort, I called up the toll free number on the consumer forum helpline website and luckily it was answered. I narrated the whole episode and finally a complaint was registered but with a wrong spelling in my name. The executives attending these calls are not so well trained but they did a decent job keenly hearing to the complaint and registered the same. A couple of days later I got a mail from the Consumer Forum with a complaint docket number to be followed up. A week later I called and I was told that it would be taken forward and asked me to follow up after 15days time. After the due period I called up again and the operator again assured me that it would take some time but it would certainly be processed and that they would do their best to resolve the matter within the ambit of the Consumer Forum without further having to go to the COnsumer court.
Although there is no difference between the Consumer Forum and Consumer Court where you don’t have to take any legal help are on your own where you narrate your side of the story with clear documents and receipts that stand your case, Consumer Forum is the first step where matters of lesser monetary value can be resolved if the company/brand you are complaining against is not so much of a crook but if he proves to be one then the matter might go to Consumer Court where you have to write to the Consumer Court with your detailed complaint, you may also be required to go physically to the Consumer Court where your case will be heard. However the Consumer Forum helpline operators will guide you to the extent of giving you the jurisdictional address and the right people to contact in case the matter is unresolved at the Forum level.
Coming back to my case, almost after a month’s time after the complaint I received a call from my coaching center guys inviting me for a discussion. It was heartening to know that something had worked and those guys who were refusing to respond to my calls or mails were now calling to have a discussion with me. During the discussion the coaching institute asked me to settle down for the next year’s course where the pending refund amount would be adjusted against taking the matter back to square one. I clearly declined the offer and once again reiterated that I would like to start afresh after they had refunded.
When they sensed that I would not budge, he agreed to refund the money and settle the matter however for his ego massage he did say that I could never ever enroll anybody with them ever again to which I said Amen!
Clearly it was bad business practice demonstrated yet again but for his ego massages, anyway I came back home a happier person.
But even after 20days nothing had moved, this time the Consumer Forum guided me to send a written communication to the institute reminding them of their commitment and I did the same. And after some 15 days of my letter I received my refund cheque.
Thanks to the Consumer Forum, it really worked for me all within a span of 2months.
Now I am back looking for other coaching classes but it is hard to find people with values and commitment in this world of greed. It is not the student’s burden that the HRD ministry has to reduce it is the parent’s burden that needs to be addressed by making these IIT/JEE/NEET training available at the schools itself as a part of the curriculam because if it is the NEET ranking or the entrance scores that decides the fate of the child why can’t such coaching be made mandatory in schools, why should parents pay extra elsewhere and be over burdened when they are shelling out in lakhs as school fees. Currently our educational institutes are nothing more than loot bazaars especially for the General Merit category which is well encashed by these coaching institues.
What did I achieve going through all this? Nothing much but ethics matter and if left unquestioned unethical practices will be normalized everywhere. I still wonder what is it that held back the institution to honour my simple request in the first case, if he had refunded, he would have made some more business for another lakh plus rupees today but for his dishonesty which is what I am against.