Students seeking to study overseas and their parents should spend more time comparing the quality of agents offering overseas education advisory services before hiring one, the Consumer Council said.
Every year, about 18,000 students in Hong Kong are inclined to pursue overseas studies in the next five years, hk01.com reports, citing the watchdog’s estimation.
As the search process and application procedures for studying abroad are oftentimes not only complicated and cumbersome but also costly for parents and students, the demand for customized advisory services is strong.
However, the consumer watchdog, which conducted an in-depth study of such services, found that many of these advisory service providers tend to put their commercial interest before students’ best interests and actual needs while lacking in disclosure and transparency.
Between 2015 and 2017, the council received seven complaints regarding such services, and they involved improper business practices, poor service quality and disputes over prices.
In one case, a complainant claimed to have paid as much as HK$68,000 for the consultancy service but ended up failing to be admitted to the desired course.
Gilly Wong Fung-han, the council’s chief executive, urged students and parents to pay close attention to the reputation of overseas education advisory service providers and compare multiple service providers before making a choice.
Opinions of secondary school teachers are also worth seeking, Wong said.
Professor Wong Kam-fai, who chairs the council’s Trade Practices and Consumer Complaints Review Committee, reminded parents that after talking with consultants or agents, they should also go to the web pages of schools in which their children are interested to obtain more information or even contact the schools directly if possible.
The council urged service providers to offer consumers contracts in which the terms and conditions should be explicitly set out for both parties to understand their rights and obligations as well as establish a redress mechanism for dispute resolution by the Hong Kong International Education Consultants’ Association, an independent complaint review committee to handle unresolved complaints from consumers.
It also suggested that the government proactively put the conduct of the industry under scrutiny and develop guidelines, in cooperation with the industry, on marketing and promotion so that consumers can obtain accurate information.
– Contact us at [email protected]