The government warned ed-tech companies on Friday against indulging in unfair trade practices, including misleading advertisements. The center said that it will be forced to bring stringent guidelines if there is no self-regulation by the industry players.
The increase in fake reviews in the edtech space and ways to curb it was also discussed during a meeting by Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh with self-regulatory body India Edtech Consortium (IEC) and other industry players in the national capital.
“If self-regulation does not curb the unfair trade practices, then stringent guidelines would be formulated for ensuring transparency,” Singh said at the meeting.
During the meeting, Singh stated that issues relating to misleading advertising for the ed-tech sector and unfair business practices were discussed extensively. The Secretary also talked about how to effectively protect consumer interests in India’s ed-tech ecosystem.
Interestingly, in December last year, the government issued an advisory to citizens regarding the use of caution against ed-tech companies which support online and remote learning.
The Ministry of Education went on to advise parents, students, and all stakeholders in education to exercise caution when deciding to use online content and coaching provided by domestic ed-tech firms.
The meeting was attended by representatives of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), along with IEC member companies, including upgrade, BYJU’S, Unacademy, Vedantu, Great Learning, WhiteHat Jr. and Sunstone.
Advice for Parents
The HRD ministry also advised parents to avoid the automatic debit option for payment of subscription fee as it may result in a child accessing the paid features without realizing that he/she is no longer accessing the free services.
Edtech platforms are seeing a significant dip in demand for online learning, and some such firms have either shut shop or fired employees in recent days.
Some techs have entered into physical tuition center space, which put them directly on the warpath with traditional coaching classes.
While BYJU has already opened offline tuition centers, Unacademy has announced the opening of coaching centers nationwide, starting with Kota in Rajasthan, which is the coaching hub for engineering entrances, IIT-JEE, JEE Main, and medical entrance, NEET.
What was in Report
A recent report by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) revealed that the education category is the largest violator of the advertising code in 2021-22.
The secretary also advised IEC to continue with their positive efforts to serve the ecosystem and form a joint working group with relevant stakeholders to create the SOPs in this regard.
The industry members briefed the secretary about the progress of the IEC and the direction of ongoing efforts to improve the awareness and welfare of learners.
Also, the members shared the ‘Code of Conduct which is instrumental in enhancing and promoting seamless and transparent offerings about ethical sales and marketing communications.