One of the key underlying principles of consumer law is that a student must be given sufficient information, in a sufficiently transparent manner, to make an informed decision about whether or not to enter into a contract with the institution rather than one of its competitors. The clear and unambiguous structure and presentation of an institution’s contractual suite of documents making up its “student contract” is therefore essential, including its set of student “terms and conditions”.
Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA), there is a general requirement for all contracts to be “transparent” which incorporates the concept of using “plain and intelligible language” and, if written, the requirement to be “legible”.
Students’ obligations and the institution’s powers should be clearly documented.
Students should be given a clear indication as to when certain rights arise (e.g. when the institution may make changes to, or terminate, the contract). Institutions should also ensure that particularly onerous terms (such as powers of expulsion or withdrawal of awards) are given greater prominence in the contract.
In addition, the volume and content of the documents making up the student contract should not be overwhelming for students and should be straightforward to navigate (including lists of regulations, policies and procedures which will bind students).
Institutions may wish to review the suite of documents making up their student contracts (including sets of student terms and conditions, offer letter, prospectus and student handbooks) to ensure that their content meets these consumer law requirements and to avoid student challenge, scrutiny by regulators and reputational damage.
Next time: “CMA” Implications of Collaboration Agreements