Consumer protection

SPA continues to raise awareness and understanding of the issues and implications for HE providers raised in the Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA) advice to UK HE providers on consumer protection law, March 2015. Consumer law is not devolved and therefore the advice and the need to comply relates to HE providers in all parts of the UK. 

The CMA’s advice informs providers about their consumer law obligations to undergraduate students, including advising them to:

  • give students the clear, accurate and timely information that they need so they can make an informed decision about what and where to study
  • ensure that their terms and conditions are fair, for example, so they cannot make surprising changes to the course or costs
  • ensure that their complaint handling processes are accessible, clear and fair

The CMA has also published advice for undergraduate students which includes guidance how to report a potential breach of consumer law by a HE provider.

Higher education regulation is complex and changes frequently. Consumer protection legislation is a relatively new and important issue for all UK universities and colleges to address. SPA has raised awareness of consumer protection legislation at a wide range of meetings and events including the UCAS Admissions Conference, an event for HE providers in Wales and through the the AUA/SPA Applicant Experience Network.  In the light of the CMA advice SPA updated its good practice on applicant complaints and appeals in October 2015, which can be downloaded below.

On 22 July 2016 the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) issued its Consumer law compliance review: Higher Education undergraduate sector findings report and sent an open letter to HE providers setting out the action the CMA expect them to take. The CMA also published details of undertakings secured from three universities to improve how they deal with students. The compliance review findings report and other resources can be found here.

SPA is continuing to work with the sector on this issue and will provide updates and good practice on this page. If you have any queries please contact us.

Please note our presentations and resources on consumer protection are intended for general guidance only. We urge university and college to take their own legal advice in this area.

If you are working in HE admissions within an FE College please see our supplementary information.

Thu, 28/07/2016 - 14:22