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GoI Issues Advisory to Citizens, Urges Exercising Caution Against Ed-tech Companies

GoI  Issues Advisory to Citizens, Urges Exercising Caution Against Ed-tech Companies 

23.12.2021 | Education News | EduLegaL  | www.edulegal.org | mail@edulegal.in

23rd December 2021, the Government of India through the Press Information Bureau (PIB) of Delhi released “Advisory to Citizens Regarding Use of Caution Against Ed-tech Companies.” The advisory enumerates the do’s and don’ts to be taken care of by the parents, students and all stakeholders in school education while deciding on opting for online content and coaching being offered by several Ed-tech companies.  

Under the advisory, attention is drawn particularly to the free services promised by some edtech companies which must be carefully evaluated. This was following the many instances that came to the notice of the Department of School Education and Literacy wherein some ed-tech companies were seen luring parents under the pretence of offering free services and getting the Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) mandate signed or activating the Auto-debit feature, especially targeting the vulnerable families. 

Below are the do’s and don’ts as stated in the circular: 

Do’s  

  1. Avoid Automatic debit option for payment of subscription fee: Some ed-tech companies may offer the Free-Premium business model where a lot of their services might seem to be free at first glance but to gain continuous learning access, students have to opt for a paid subscription. Activation of auto-debit may result in a child accessing the paid features without realizing that he/she is no longer accessing the free services offered by the ed-tech company. 
  2. Do read the terms and conditions before acknowledging the acceptance of learning software/device as your IP address and/or personal data may be tracked. 
  3. Ask for a tax invoice statement for the purchase of educational devices loaded with contents/app purchase/Pendrive learning. 
  4. Do a detailed background check of the ed-tech company that you want to subscribe to. 
  5. Do verify the quality of the content provided by the ed-tech companies and make sure that it is in line with the syllabus and your scope of study and is easily comprehensible by your child. 
  6. Do clarify all your doubts/questions regarding the payment and content before investing any amount for your child’s learning in any ed-tech company. 
  7. Activate parental controls and safety features on the device or in the app or browser as it helps restrict access to certain content and limit spending on app purchases. 
  8. Help your child understand that some features in education apps are used to encourage more spending. Talk to them about possible marketing strategies used by Ed-tech companies and the consequences. 
  9. Look for student/parent reviews online on the ed-tech company for any registered grievance and marketing gimmicks. Also, provide your suggestions and reviews which may be beneficial for others. 
  10. Record the evidence of spam calls/ /forced signup for any education packages without complete consent for filing a grievance. 
  11. Go through the child safety guidelines mentioned in the PRAGYATA guidelines by the Ministry of Education before using any ed-tech platform. (https://www.education.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/pragyata-guidelines_0.pdf) 

Don’ts 

  1. Do not blindly trust the advertisements of the ed-tech companies. 
  2. Do not sign up for any loans of which you are not aware. 
  3. Do not install any mobile ed-tech applications without verifying the authenticity. 
  4. Avoid credit/debit cards registration on apps for subscriptions. Place an upper limit on expenditure per transaction. 
  5. Avoid adding your data like emails, contact numbers, card details, addresses etc. online as the data may be sold or used for later scam attacks. 
  6. Do not share any personal videos and photos. Use caution against turning on the video feature or getting on video calls on an unverified platform. Keep your child’s safety at the utmost priority. 
  7. Do not subscribe to unverified courses because of their false promises. 
  8. Do not trust the “Success stories” shared by the ed-tech companies without proper check as they might be a trap to gather more audience. 
  9. Do not allow purchases without parental consent. To avoid in-app purchases; OTP based payment methods may be adopted as per RBI’s guidelines. 
  10. Do not share your bank account details and OTP number with any marketing personnel. Beware of cyber fraudulent. 
  11. Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from sources you are not familiar with.

The advisory further details out the legal provisions regulating Edutech services. Since these services fall under e-commerce, it is governed under the Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020 notified by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution (Department of Consumer Affairs) vide NOTIFICATION New Delhi, dated 23rd July, 2020. The same can be accessed here: https://consumeraffairs.nic.in/sites/default/files/E%20commerce%20rules.pdfEd-tech companies have been instructed to adhere to the regulations under this Act. 

Government initiatives that can be opted before the purchase of Ed-Tech services include: 

  • https://www.nios.ac.in/ 
  • SWAYAM PRABHA TV Channels for class 1 to 12-
    https://www.swayamprabha.gov.in/index.php/schooledu 
  • Official Learning portals/apps of the States/UTs

Likewise, in the event of a discrepancy or concern, consumer can report using the following links: 

Read complete advisory here: https://pib.gov.in/Pressreleaseshare.aspx?PRID=1784582  

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