Derek has given his backing to the warnings from Halton Citizens Advice Bureau about signing up to distance learning courses from unscrupulous private companies who try to cash in on those desperate to gain new skills to enhance their employment prospects.
Hitesh Patel, Chief Executive at Halton CAB, said:
"For many people the prohibitive costs of further and higher education at a college or university make distance learning an attractive proposition but this market is not properly regulated by the law. Some companies do not properly assess the suitability of the course, and often its just a way to encourage you to take out a loan. More importantly there is a danger that such companies are short-lived and that when they go bust you are left with nothing but a meaningless piece of paper.
In recent weeks we have seen two very disturbing cases where local people have had an agent come out to their home and pressurise them to sign up to a distance learning course, only to find that the course materials arriving in the post were nothing like what was promised. When the individuals went to complain they have found the company had gone bust, yet the banks are chasing them for thousands of pounds in course fees!"
Derek, who is on the case and has written to Skills Minister John Hayes asking for clarification of the law, said:
"We must ensure that the law protects people from at best high-pressure selling tactics, at worst a licence to print money scam. I want the law to be changed so that anyone who signs up to distance learning courses gets an extended cooling off period to review all the course materials so they accurately reflect how they are marketed to potential students. I also want the banks which are lending the money via these companies to be held to account if the firm fails to deliver. It is terrible that people wishing to gain more qualifications are being saddled with hundreds of thousands of pounds of debt with precious little to show for it through no fault of their own."
If you or someone you know has been affected by this problem then please contact the CAB on 0151 257 2449 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Halton CAB's public advice number is 08451 30 40 55.