Kim Ho-yeon (Korea University, 2), was thrilled last March when he bought a discount card for movies, theaters, and previews. He bought it from two sellers who came into a classroom. However, he soon found out he had been tricked.
“I was excited to buy the card because the sellers emphasized that we could be invited to the previews for free,” Kim said. “But the previews were too far away and there were also limits to the movies that could be given a discount. However, as I had already paid for the cards, I couldn’t cancel them.”
With the start of the new semester, call sales people are targeting new students. These salespeople go to universities’ classrooms and hallways, and persuade freshmen to sign up for educational programs related to licenses, language study or entertainment, pretending that these are part of a school service. The salespeople promoted as if the programs are offered for free by the school, and when students write down their phone numbers or sign up for the program, they force students to pay for them. Thus, the majority of students sign up for the payment contracts without even realizing it and get ripped off in the end.
According to the Korea Consumer Agency, an increasing number of students has been deceived by call sales related to Internet lecture services. The number of reported cases hit 13 in 2011, 36 in 2012, 67 in 2013, and 91 in 2014. Over 90 percent of them had difficulties in cancellation or revocation of the contracts. Illegal act and breach of contract followed at 6.8 percent and 2.4 percent respectively.
Illegal call sales seem to peak in March and April as approximately 78 percent of the total cases occurred around that period during the last four years, which amounts up to 207 consumer dispute cases.
To resolve the complaints related to the issue, the Consumer Dispute Settlement Commission has officially announced that if the students have signed the payment contract without realizing it and have only signed the ‘special apply process’ contract, they have no responsibility to pay for it. Moreover, even if the students mistakenly sign the contract, the Lifelong Education Act, the law which gives every citizen an opportunity to receive an education, permits students to cancel the contract without any penalties. If the students have participated in the programs, they should only pay for the hours they participated.
“In Ewha, such call sales are forbidden by the rules,” said an official from Office of General Administration who wished to remain anonymous. “We run a tight security system and there are patrols that periodically go through the campus to stop these illegal sales, especially during the start of the semester when sales occur more frequently. However, as we cannot guard the gates day and night, the sellers do slip through our fingers,”
“Ewha students often report the salespeople to the office, and our campus police are dispatched to prevent further damage,” the official said. “Although we cannot prevent every sale from happening, the office is doing its best to protect students from any damage due to illegal sales.”