Pakistan News

Private school fees: Competition Commission also swings into action

Private school fees: Competition Commission also swings into action

ISLAMABAD: After failing to get a response from their managements, the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) on Monday directed eight private schools to provide the required information in connection with an inquiry.

“The CCP issued the directives under Section 36 of the Competition Act 2010 to the chief executive officers (CEOs) and directors of eight private schools after they did not voluntarily provide the information,” an official of the CCP told Dawn on the condition of anonymity.

He said that on August 19 the CCP had initiated the inquiry into allegations of anti-competitive practices by the schools, including unreasonable increase in fee and tying of their products and services.

“The main allegation, apart from the fee hike, was linking various services required by the students such as uniforms and books to specific outlets incurring an additional financial burden on the parents,” the official added.

However, despite repeated reminders, there was no response from the CEOs and directors of City School, Beaconhouse, Elementary Montessori School, Headstart School, Roots Millennium School, the Lahore ALMA, LACAS and Salamat School System. “Therefore, the CCP has decided to use its powers and direct the school managements to provide the required information by September 28. If they failed to abide by the directives, fines would be imposed on them,” the official added.

The CCP is currently investigating allegations of potential anti-competitive behaviour by private educational institutions across Pakistan. The investigation is aimed at determining whether the fee raise by the private schools was a result of anti-competitive practices such as cartelisation or abuse of dominance or capitalising on the lack of opportunities available to the parents as they did not want to send their children to government schools.

The inquiry encouraged some parents to protest against the unreasonable fee hike by the private schools. During the inquiry, the commission received over 1,000 complaints from all over the country.

More than 100 schools were asked to provide information about their fee structures, student strengths, reasons for increasing the fee and allied charges, etc. Though many institutions responded, others did not or came up with incomplete and irrelevant information.

The CCP had earlier taken action against some elite educational institutes for tying their services with admissions. For example, the purchase of laptops from a college was made mandatory for students, but the cost of the laptops was higher than the market.

The educational institutes withdrew the ‘tying’ clause with admission but a majority of the CCP decisions have been challenged in various courts of law.

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2015

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