Last updated 9 January 2019

Training colleges are bound by the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) and a student or former student of such a training college can complain to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) about breaches of the ACL, or they may decide to take action in court.

Students may not have to pay for these courses upfront. These courses my be subsidised by loans from the Commonwealth Government (e.g. Vet Student Loans). Loans are repaid through the tax system once the student has reached an income threshold.

Sometimes people are approached in public places or online with offers to undertake a course of study. The offer may include free incentives if the consumer signs a contract. The advertisement of the courses may misrepresent the qualifications that can be obtained, give the impression that they are free or subsidised, that the consumer has the ability to complete the study, that employment in a given field is guaranteed and that the particular qualification will be accepted by employers.

The role of the ACCC is to investigate breaches and, if necessary, take legal action in the public interest. The ACCC does not give individuals legal advice or representation. However, the ACCC can act on behalf of a collection of consumers if it decides to take the matter on.

If the student decides to take court action, this action must be commenced within six years from the date the college stopped providing the training course to the consumer or from the breach of the contract. Legal advice should be sought prior to taking action in court.

The VET Student Loan replaced the failed VET FEE-HELP scheme. It offers greater protection for students and focusses on courses that address industry needs, providing greater employment opportunities. The VET FEE-HELP assistance ceased to be available on 31 December 2018. The VET Student Loans Ombudsman (VET Ombudsman) deals with complaints about VET FEE_HELP debts and provides remedies to students who have incurred a VET FEE-HELP debt as a result of inappropriate conduct by their provider. If the conduct of the provider is determined to be inappropriate, the legislation allows for debts to be waived.

The VET Ombudsman can transfer complaints to more appropriate departments depending on the circumstances including the Australian Skills Quality Authority where the complaint relates to training quality.