The Competition and Fair Trading Commission has noted with great concern that there are some independent schools that are taking advantage of the global Corona Virus pandemic to engage in prohibited unfair trading and anti-competitive practices.
According to market intelligence received by the Commission, some independent schools are engaged in discussions with each other and sharing information about the level of school fees to be applied for Online Learning Programmes. The online learning programmes are a novel innovation by independent schools to continue delivering course content during the COVID 19 school lockdown.
The practice of exchanging commercial information such as pricing intentions or pricing formulae among competitors constitutes collusion, which is a blatant infringement of Section 33 of the Competition and Fair Trading Act (CFTA). Likewise, it is an offence for competitors to agree on the level of discount or fee reduction to be applied.
Further, the Commission has noted rising consumer complaints alleging that some independent schools are engaged in unconscionable conduct in the pricing of Online Learning Programmes. According to the complaints received, some independent schools are demanding the payment of full school fees for online learning, despite that students are not able to access all essential school services such as library and extra-curricular facilities.
While the Commission applauds the essential services provided by independent schools to the lives of many children, it is important that the services are delivered within the confines of the Competition and Fair Trading Act and the Consumer Protection Act.
In this regard, the Commission wishes to appeal to all independent schools to directly engage parents and come up with a win-win scenario that allows the schools to continue functioning as a business without unfairly exploiting parents who want their children to learn.
The Commission will not tolerate any unfair trading or anti-competitive practice in any sector intended to exploit consumers in the wake of COVID 19.
Independent schools found engaged in prohibited unfair trading or anti-competitive practices will be fined.