OfS responds to CMA statement on consumer law and the admission process

The OfS is concerned that some registered higher education providers may have clauses in their contract with students which allow them to withdraw offers if a course is oversubscribed. Our view is that providers should not use such clauses as doing so would likely contravene consumer law.

Ongoing condition of registration C1 requires providers to have regard to relevant guidance about how to comply with consumer protection law, including that published by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), when developing and implementing their policies and terms and conditions.

A potential breach in consumer law may prompt the OfS to investigate and, if appropriate, carry out enforcement action to address any failures to comply with one or more of the conditions of registration.

The Minister for Higher and Further Education has issued a letter today to vice-chancellors in England about their admission policies and contract terms. In addition the CMA has published a statement, which re-iterates its views on consumer protection law as set out in its guidance ‘UK higher education providers: advice on consumer protection law’.

The CMA’s message to the sector restates its guidance, which says that terms are likely to be unfair if they allow a provider to withdraw offers to students when the terms of the offer have been met and exclude or limit the liability of the provider if it fails to provide the place it has agreed.

All registered providers should familiarise themselves with the CMA’s statement and guidance and take action to review and change their terms and conditions where necessary.

Published 24 November 2021

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