Education and training are a big part of life. Education and training providers impart knowledge and teach us new skills, while tutoring can help enhance your child’s performance at school.
Australia has a national system of accrediting vocational education and training (VET) qualifications and courses. Only registered training organisations can deliver nationally recognised qualifications and accredited courses.
This page includes information on private education, training and tutoring services (for example, training organisations, colleges and universities and tutoring businesses). It explains:
Who can help?
There are a few different government agencies and organisations looking after the different aspects of your education and training experience.
- For information and to make a complaint about public education (including kindergarten, primary and secondary schools in NSW), see the NSW Department of Education website.
- For information and to make a complaint about a university in Australia, see the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TESQA) website. Alternatively you can make a complaint about a university in NSW, on the NSW Ombudsman website.
- Contact us for help with your consumer rights. This includes your right to a refund of course, enrolment or tutoring fees if applicable. Call 13 32 20 or make a complaint online. Learn about our complaint handling process or view our complaints register.
- Contact the Australian Tutoring Association (ATA) to make a complaint about a tutor or report a conflict.
- Contact the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) on 13 28 61 if you have given your tax file number to a training provider and are worried you have an unexpected VET Student Loan debt. The ATO manages VET Student Loan debts, which are repaid through the tax system.
- Contact the Commonwealth Ombudsman if you have a VET Student Loan or VET FEE-HELP and have a problem with a provider, loan or debt. You can call the Ombudsman on 1300 362 072.
- Contact the National Training Complaints Hotline if you have other questions and concerns regarding a training organisation. You can also submit a formal complaint to the National Training Complaints Hotline if you have already tried the options above. Call 13 38 73 or visit the website for more information.
Your consumer rights
Australian Consumer Law guarantees your rights when you buy goods and services.
In fact, most products and services purchased after 1 January 2011 come with an automatic consumer guarantee that the product or service you purchased will work and do what you asked for. This includes education and training services.
When you engage a business to provide a service, you have the right to expect ‘acceptable quality’. Services must be:
- provided with due care or skill (taking all necessary steps to avoid loss and damage)
- fit for any specified purpose (express or implied)
- provided in a reasonable time (when no time is set).
What is ‘reasonable’ will depend on the nature of the service, the difficulty of the task and other relevant factors like busy periods and public holidays etc.
Proof of purchase and service documentation
You have the right to receive proof of purchase (like an invoice, cash register receipt, handwritten receipt or lay-by agreement).
Education and training services in Australia are usually supplied under a contract. You have the right to receive a written copy of any contract you sign (including its terms and conditions). Keep this for your records and in case you need to refer to the contract terms during a dispute. For more information, refer to our contracts page.
Tutoring can be provided under a contract too, or on a more informal basis. Whatever the service arrangement, you are entitled to receive documentation confirming what you are getting for your money.
Advertising can be a powerful means of persuasion, so it’s important it is truthful, accurate and easy to understand. Australian Consumer Law protects consumers from deceptive advertising claims and conduct.
Businesses are not allowed to make false or misleading representations about their products or services. This includes advertising for education, training and tutoring.
Any statement regarding qualifications or experience should be supported and if licensed, the licence number should be printed on any advertising.
Learn more about advertising standards.
Remedy when things go wrong
You are entitled to an appropriate remedy from the business when the product or service you purchased does not meet one or more of the consumer guarantees.
This might be a refund, a further service to rectify the problem and in some cases, reimbursement for damages and consequential loss.
The type of remedy will depend on whether the problem is:
If the problem is minor and can be fixed, the business can choose how to fix the problem.
You cannot cancel and demand a refund immediately. Instead, you must give the business an opportunity to fix the problem.
However, if the remedy takes too long, you can get someone else to fix the problem (if possible) and ask the business to pay reasonable costs or cancel the service and get a refund.
If the problem is major or cannot be fixed, you can choose to:
- terminate the contract for services and request a full refund
- seek reimbursement for the difference between the value of the services provided compared to the price paid.
For more information, see repairs, replacements & refunds.
A problem is considered ‘major’ when it:
- would have stopped someone from purchasing the service had they known about it
- is substantially unfit for purpose and can’t be fixed in a reasonable timeframe
- creates an unsafe situation
- doesn't meet the specific purpose or achieve the specific result that the consumer requested.
Businesses do not have to give you a refund if you simply change your mind about a service. This includes if you no longer like the course or found it cheaper somewhere else.
For more information, see repairs, replacements & refunds.
Cancelling VET student loans
If you signed up to a VET student loan to pay for a course, you can cancel your enrolment before the census date and avoid the course fee. In some circumstances (such as significant medical issues), you can cancel after the census date.
Cancelling after the census date
To cancel your course and your VET student loan after the census date, you must apply to your training provider. If your application is refused, you can request (in writing) that they review their decision.
If you don’t receive a response in 45 days, or if they uphold their decision to refuse cancelling your VET student loan, you can contact the Commonwealth Ombudsman on 1300 362 072 or fill out their online form.
When the training provider is no longer trading
Visit the Study Assist website or call 1800 020 108 for more information on the VET student loans program.
Be a savvy consumer
Remember, training can cost tens of thousands of dollars and you can’t always get a refund if you make a bad choice or change your mind.
Don’t sign up or pay for any education, training or tutoring service until you research the qualifications, providers, costs and payment options that best suit your needs.
Courses and training
Take time to do your research before committing to any course or training program. It could save you money, frustration and heartache. Here are some tips to help you:
- Shop around. Find the course best suited to you, compare prices, fees, content and length of the courses, and job opportunities, go to the Smart and Skilled website.
- Make sure the training provider is a registered training organisation (RTO). Visit the Training.gov.au website to search for your provider.
- Check the training provider is approved to offer VET student loans. See a list of approved VET providers online. While there, check the requirements for loan fees, interest and paying back the loan.
- Don’t be fooled by deals, such as ‘free’ or bonus incentives like cash, laptops or tablets, which are built into your course fees or loan. Training providers and marketers are banned from offering students incentives to sign up to courses funded by VET Student Loans. If you see this happening, make a complaint.
- If you are approached and sign an unsolicited consumer agreement , you still have until the end of the cooling-off period (10 business days) to make your decision and pay for the course.
- Only give out your personal details, including your tax file number, if you are confident you want to enrol. Be sure the person is an authorised representative of an approved training provider. Ask for identification.
- Don't get scammed. Never provide training providers with your usernames or passwords from government agencies, such as the Department of Human Services, Centrelink or myGov.
- Be wary of overseas or interstate institutions promoting their services on the internet and be cautious when dealing with a company that relies on web-based communication and doesn’t offer telephone numbers or office locations.
- When you sign a contract , you are legally bound by its terms and conditions and you usually can’t back out. Always read any document you are asked to sign carefully. If you don’t understand it, don’t sign it.
Tutoring for your child
Here are some questions you should ask to help you decide if the tutor/tutoring organisation is the right for your child:
- How long has the tutoring service been in business?
- Does the service belong to a relevant industry association with an enforceable code of conduct like the Australian Tutoring Association?
- Have the tutors been interviewed face-to-face by the tutoring service?
- What are the qualifications and experience of the tutor who will be tutoring your child?
- Are the tutors trained specifically in the subject area in which they are tutoring?
- Is the form of proposed tutoring relevant to the NSW Education course requirements?
- Have reference checks been conducted on the tutors?
- Does the tutor hold the appropriate Working With Children Check?
Tips for overseas students
Here are some tips to help foreign students studying in NSW:
- Before enrolling in a course or training program, you must check if the education provider is registered to deliver training to foreign students, and is listed on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) website.
- If your education provider has not delivered the course you are enrolled in, you may be entitled to a full refund. Contact the Education Services for Overseas Student (ESOS) Helpline on 1300 615 262 or visit the Department of Education and Training’s International Education website for more information.
- If you want to transfer to another training provider, you must first complete six months of your principal course or get a release letter from the original training provider. You should also check your written agreement for your provider's policy on transferring, as well as fees and refunds.
- If you are dissatisfied with a decision or action taken by your provider, you can lodge an internal complaint or appeal with them directly.
- If you are attending a self-accrediting university, for example the University of Sydney, you should contact the International Students Office of your university for any concerns or enquiries.
- If this does not resolve the problem, the Overseas Students Ombudsman may be able to help. Contact the Ombudsman on 1300 362 072 or visit the website.
- For any questions about your visa, contact the Department of Immigration and Border Protection on 13 18 81 or visit the website.
Can’t find the information you’re looking for? Call us on 13 32 20 or submit an online enquiry.
Who enforces Australian Consumer Law?
The following agencies enforce provisions relating to consumer goods and services:
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)
- NSW Fair Trading, and
- other State and Territory consumer protection agencies.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is responsible for financial products and services.