The Office for Students, consumer law and National Trading Standards

The OfS has recently announced a partnership arrangement with National Trading Standards, with NTS committing to examine any notification it receives from the OfS where potential breaches of consumer laws have been identified.  Three “priority areas” identified in the arrangement are:

  • Entities that wrongfully claim to have an OfS registration, degree awarding powers or university title
  • Unfair terms and conditions in student contracts, such as misleading precontract information on which students rely when choosing their course
  • Misleading advertising by essay mills

The Director of Quality at the OfS has commented: "Universities and colleges rightly recognise that the terms and conditions in their student contracts should be fair, and that they should uphold students’ rights as consumers. In the small number of cases where we have concerns, we can now refer a case to National Trading Standards for review and enforcement action where appropriate."

It remains to be seen how the arrangement will operate in practice; NTS has its own arrangements with other trading standards partners intended to enable a co-ordinated response to be taken to consumer law matters across local authority areas.  The OfS has confirmed that the agreement will operate until 31 March 2024 and that it will review its effectiveness prior to that date.  The arrangement does not alter registered providers’ obligations to have due regard to relevant consumer law guidance under the OfS Regulatory Framework, nor does it alter existing obligations and enforcement powers under consumer protection laws.

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