By Jenni Hill, personal finance writer and owner of Can’t Swing a Cat.
Online courses have seen a surge in popularity in recent years. Some of these courses are created by professional institutions but others are unregulated and don’t lead to formal qualifications. Whether you take a Pinterest marketing course or sign up for an online fitness training programme, it’s possible to find online courses in almost any industry. Unfortunately, due to a lack of regulation, creators sometimes get away with charging high prices for content that some consumers argue isn’t up to scratch.
So what happens if you change your mind, you’re unhappy with the course material, or you feel you were mis-sold the course? Let’s look at your rights…
Why might you want a refund on an online course?
There are plenty of reasons why you might want a refund on an online course. For example:
● You weren’t sure what you were signing up for
● You don’t feel the course was good value for money
● The course didn’t help you achieve the desired outcome
● You changed your mind
● You struggled to find time to complete the course
● The contents weren’t what you expected
Unfortunately, getting a refund on an online course can be challenging, particularly if you didn’t have time to complete the course or you’re unable to prove that its contents weren’t of a certain standard. For example, while you might have purchased the course with much higher expectations than other people, this doesn’t make the contents of the course unsatisfactory.
Are you classed as a consumer?
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 offers some protection to consumers who’ve purchased unsatisfactory digital products such as online courses.
However, what a lot of people don’t realise is that the definition of ‘consumer’ according to the Consumer Rights Act is an individual acting for purposes which are ‘wholly or mainly outside of that individual’s trade, business, craft or profession.’
If you’re booking a course which is closely related to your job or small business, you might not be considered a consumer. For example, if you’re a personal trainer and you attend a course about kettlebell workouts, you may not be protected by the Consumer Rights Act.
Look at the course creator’s returns policy
Visit the course creator’s website and read through their sales page, FAQs, and terms & conditions to find out what their stance is on returns. Ideally, you should do this before parting with your money but if you’ve already made the purchase, try to find this information now.
Some creators offer 30-day ‘no questions asked’ policies which can be really helpful if you change your mind or are unsatisfied with the content within this time period. However, others aren’t quite as flexible and may refuse refunds on digital products.
Even if the terms & conditions state that no refunds will be given, it’s worth contacting the creator anyway to express your dissatisfaction. In some cases, the creator may refund your money just to avoid further hassle and/or a bad review.
Is it possible to get a refund on digital products?
With so many course creators insisting that digital products are non-refundable, what are your rights?
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 states that digital content (such as apps, eBooks, films, games or music) must be:
● Of satisfactory quality
● Fit for a particular purpose
● As described by the seller
If you’ve purchased a digital product that doesn’t meet the above criteria, you have the right to a repair or a replacement.
What counts as a repair or replacement?
If you’re unhappy with your digital product, the retailer has one opportunity to repair or replace the content.
You can choose whether you’d like the item to be repaired or replaced but the retailer can refuse if they have proof that your choice isn’t of the same value as the alternative.
If it’s not possible to provide you with a repair or replacement or it would be extremely inconvenient or time consuming, you’re entitled to a full or partial refund.
Proving a digital product is unsatisfactory
One of the biggest obstacles standing between consumers and a digital product refund is an inability to prove the content was unsatisfactory or not as described.
If you find yourself disappointed with the contents of an online course, refer back to the sales page and compare what was promised to what you’ve been given. Unfortunately, sometimes the content can be exactly as described yet still disappointing. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of a new course and purchase content that, in hindsight, was clearly unsuitable from the beginning.
14-day cancellation period
Thanks to The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013, consumers are entitled to a 14-day cancellation period when purchasing items at a distance such as over the phone or online. Your right to cancel starts the moment you place the order and ends 14-days after you received the item. If you change your mind within this time frame, you may be entitled to a refund. However, if you download the digital content within this 14-day window, you must waive your cancellation rights.
Have you ever bought an online course you were dissatisfied with? Were you able to get a refund or did you become more cautious when purchasing new digital products?
Thank you once again Jenni for this guest post with some great consumer advice. Jenni’s website is www.cantswingacat.co.uk and she can be found on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.