A 'free' gift could cost you thousands

Before you sign up for a Vocational education and training (VET) course, the ACCC is encouraging you to understand exactly what you are committing to, what it will cost and what the course will deliver.

VET providers include technical and further education (TAFE) institutes, adult and community education providers and agricultural colleges, as well as private providers, community organisations, industry skill centres, and commercial and enterprise training providers. In addition, some universities and schools provide VET.

Understanding your rights before signing up for a training course may help you avoid a large, unexpected debt.

Do your research

Find as much information as you can about the course, including how long it takes to complete, the type of qualification you will have on completion and how much the course costs. Shop around to find the course that suits you best.

  • You can search for a training course on the My Skills website, which was set up by the Federal Department of Education and Training.
  • Find out if you need to have any work experience, previous study or other prerequisites in order to take the course.
  • Check with the National Register on Vocational Education and Training (VET) at www.training.gov.au to see if the training provider is registered to provide the course.
  • Ask about the total cost of the course, methods of payment and cancellation or cooling off periods.
  • Check if the training provider is approved to offer VET FEE-HELP student loans at www.studyassist.gov.au.
  • Check requirements for loan fees, interest and paying back the loan.
  • Read the contract carefully, checking for cancellation fees and conditions.
  • Ask about cooling-off periods (called ‘census dates’ for VET FEE-HELP courses), cancellations and refunds.

Take your time

  • Don’t sign up ‘on the spot’ for a training course if someone approaches you.
  • Don’t feel pressured by ‘limited time only’ prices.
  • Don’t give out your personal details, such as your tax file number, unless you have done all the checks and decided to enrol.

Beware of ‘free’ offers

  • Don’t be swayed by offers of ‘free’ items such as mobile tablets or laptops or even cash payments. Your course costs may be higher than the cost of the ‘free item’ or the promised payment.
  • Take extra care to explore any claims that the course is ‘free’ or ‘Government funded’ - A VET FEE–HELP loan is a real debt that impacts on your credit and must be repaid when your income reaches a certain level.

Check if you have already signed up

  • If you are unsure whether you have signed up to a training course or a VET FEE-HELP loan you can check with the Commonwealth Department of Education and Training through StudyAssist. Visit www.studyassist.gov.au.

Cancelling VET course enrolments

If you want to cancel a training course that is not under a VET FEE-HELP loan:

  • Check if your contract includes a cooling-off period allowing you to cancel without penalty. If you were approached and signed up on the spot, you automatically have a 10 working day cooling-off period by law.
  • Cancel in writing or by email.
  • If the provider refuses to cancel, lodge a complaint with your local consumer protection agency.

Remember: Keep copies of emails, other correspondence and all the paperwork you sign.

Complaints

To lodge a complaint about the course quality or conduct of a registered training provider contact the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) on 1300 701 801 or at www.asqa.gov.au

Training providers are required to comply with the Australian Consumer Law and must not mislead you about the goods or services they supply. To lodge a complaint about your consumer rights, contact the ACCC or your local consumer protection agency.

Published date: 
2 April 2015

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