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Govt warns parents against Edu-tech firms' online predatory practices

Govt warns parents against Edu-tech firms online predatory practices

New Delhi: The central Education Ministry has issued a detailed missive to parents of school-going children to warn them of predatory practises used by the growing edtech and online learning sector, such as 'auto-debit' of fees for courses and exercising caution when sharing details such as credit card or payment details to online education suppliers.

Success stories advertised by firms should also be taken with a grain of salt as they could be false advertising, the missive reads.

"It has come to the notice of the Department of School Education and Literacy that some ed-tech companies are luring parents in the garb of offering free services and getting the Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) mandate signed or activating the Auto-debit feature, especially targeting the vulnerable families," the ministry said in a statement.

It warned that children may accidentally opt for paid features in online learning courses, which were camouflaged under 'free' or 'trial packages and that parents should keep a close eye on whether money was being automatically debited for courses they had not opted for. It also advised the users to ask for a tax invoice statement for the purchase of educational devices loaded with contents/app purchase/Pendrive learning.

Parents were also warned against signing up for loans or installing third party applications which had not been independently verified. Personal and financial details should also be provided with caution as they could be sold to advertisers or more predatory entities, the ministry said.

"Do not share any personal videos and photos. Use caution against turning on the video feature or getting on video calls on an unverified platform. Keep your child's safety at the utmost priority. Do not subscribe to unverified courses because of their false promises," it said.

The move comes shortly after Sivaganga Member of Parliament (MP) Karti Chidambaram from Tamil Nadu questioned the quality of online education in the Lok Sabha, and raised issues of predatory practises by edtech firms like Byjus and WhiteHatJunior (which he did not name directly) that allegedly were taking advantage of the aspirations of poor families to fleece them of money and harass them.

"But today, there are online educational companies which are worth billions of dollars. Some of them are worth even more than the entire educational budget of India. These companies offer online courses which are not vetted by anybody," he alleged.

Chidambaram highlighted the cases of Pradeep Poonia, Aniruddha Malpani and Nidhi Bahuguna who were all allegedly harassed by big firms like Byjus after they questioned the company's quality of services or their aggressive marketing strategy which relied on false advertising and pushy sales tactics.

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TAGS:BYJUSEdtech sectorMinistry of educationpredatory practices
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