What are my rights? - Open Colleges denying refund

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28 April 2021
Grateful for any tips or advice. I currently hold a bachelor of digital media, majored in graphic design and a cert 3 in digital media. I wanted to further my knowledge of design by doing some online studying for interior design. I have a fairly good understanding of design language and concepts due to my previous years of study. Open Colleges seemed like a great option, the initial phone calls with the sales agent (I now know she was a sales agent and not just trying to help me) lead me to believe that this course, cert 3 in interior styling, should be incredibly easy for me and I should finish in half the time its predicted to take (2 years at 10 hours of work a week). I asked what the average completion time for this course was and she couldn't tell me as it was brand new and nobody had completed it at that point in time (October 2020). The new course was made up on three old ones mushed together.

With some confidence I paid the $5000+ fee and began my studies. I did all the reading and notes for section 1 of 12, and began the first assignment. I quickly realised that all the questions and tasks in the assignment did not match any of the information I had just studied. I had to use google to complete almost every question. For what I really didn't understand I went onto the OC login portal where I thought I would use their 'superior support' and speak to someone in the chat . This chat was one of the reasons I thought studying with OC would work for me as I work full time and would only be able to study at random hours. I was led to believe the chat could help me with my studies, and was not just technical support. But when I spoke to the person in the chat, they couldn't help me. They told me I had to email my course convener and wait for their reply. I did that, waited 24 hours and got a reply basically reiterating my question and not giving me any answers. It took me, someone with pretty good, basic design knowledge almost 2 months to complete section 1. I really feel for the people who have no prior knowledge, you're not supposed to need any.

By the 5th assignment, I realized that this was not getting any easier and my reliance on google to get through my assignments was a bit ridiculous. You could hardly find any relevance between the information provided for studying and the assignments. I spoke to a couple of other students to see how they were going, one came back and said that it gets harder and the whole course is based upon making assumptions and finding out after submitting assignments if you are right or not. Another was so upset because they had no idea what they were supposed to be doing and it was taking her months to get through the first section, I had to explain things to her which she should have definitely learnt, but I don't blame her for not knowing as it wasn't really addressed in the studies.

I have absolutely no idea how OC came to the conclusion that it should take 2 years with 10 hours of work per week to finish the course. I was spending hours upon hours studying and doing my assignments, way more than recommended, and I was still behind. The OC business model is that if you do not finish your studies within two years you have to pay per month after to continue and finish. I truly believe the education and support provided was designed to make every student have to pay to continue/finish the course as the workload was too hard and there was too much of it to finish in the given time frame.

I complained to the college expressing my sadness and my thoughts. I explained exactly what I thought was wrong with the course and asked for a refund based upon the fact I was misled by the advertisement of the course and am not receiving the support and education I was promised. I explained that I would be using my refund to continue my studies at a different education provider as I do not have the time to wait for this brand new course to be fixed. They denied my full refund but offered me $2000 back. I sent a complaint appeal expressing my belief that I have a right to receive a full refund, even quoting the 'Guarantees under the consumer law'. They have denied this also.

I am planning to report them to ASQA and the Student Ombudsman. Does anyone have any advice on what I should be doing/saying. Thanks in advance!


Well-Known Member
7 October 2020
Okay, first – there is no such thing as a ‘Cert III in Interior Styling’ (current, superseded, or deleted). The nearest I can find on training.gov.au register is: Cert III in Interior Decoration Retail Services (MSF31018), Cert IV in Interior Decoration (MSF40118), or Diploma of Interior Design (MSF50218). If it doesn’t exist on training.gov.au then it is not a national recognised qualification, and shouldn’t be presented as ‘Certificate III in …’ or equivalent. You can’t just ‘mush up’ courses and call it a new course – it has to go through a proper validation process (which eventually enables it to be on the register).

The above qualifications were all originally released on 3/12/18, all superseding previous versions – so none of them are ‘new’, let alone ‘brand new’.

Open Colleges has the Cert IV and the Diploma on their scope of registration (it must be on their scope to be able to deliver it).

I definitely suggest going straight to ASQA, they’re the RTO regulator (everywhere but WA) and any complaints about them should end up there. ASQA is not a consumer protection agency (they’re more like the ‘police’), so they won’t help you in regards to compensation. If Open Colleges is advertising/offering courses that don't exist - ASQA should be extremely interested.

You should also make a complaint to the ACCC. They’re not the best with getting individual outcomes either.

You should also make a complaint to your state’s fair trading department – they tend to be more helpful.

In terms of the Student Ombudsman, my understanding is that they won’t be able to assist as that scheme only applies to public bodies, or to international students – and Open Colleges is a private provider. The state training ombudsman schemes usually relate to apprenticeships and traineeships.