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    行政処分をする可能性がある

    This morning’s giggle provided by NOVA:

    The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government have conducted on-the-spot inspections at major English-language school NOVA, it was learned Friday, after ex-students complained that they hadn’t had their tuition fees returned after canceling their contracts.

    Among the allegations NOVA faces is a violation of the Special Business Transaction Law. If NOVA is found guilty, it could receive an official order to improve its business practices or have its business activities suspended.

    But then where will people in Japan go to keep from learning English?

    The English Asahi has more detail about the actual complaints people are making. Note that while the article ends with the statement “According to sources, local consumer affairs centers throughout the country hold about 1,000 consultations about Nova-related issues every year. The annual figure is much larger than those of other English conversation schools,” NOVA is the largest of the English conversation schools, so it’s not clear what actual proportion of NOVA students complains or what the relative seriousness of the average complaint is.

    5 Responses to “行政処分をする可能性がある”

    1. Zak says:

      People ask me all the time about how they can learn English. I usually tell them to avoid Eikaiwa schools first.

      Then I ask them why they want to learn English, and it becomes apparent that they just want a new way to waste time.

      So I tell them to go to an Eikaiwa school after all.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Well, let’s not be too, too sententious. If people take pleasure in doing something undemandingly exotic and cool–spending a minimal amount of time talking to native English speakers in a safe, well-defined setting that won’t be permitted to bleed over into the rest of everyday life–then English conversation schools serve that goal pretty much exactly. I don’t see why housewives shouldn’t fill their time with that if they prefer it to, say, embroidery. The point at which it gets potentially harmful is when people are actually going to need to communicate competently in English for work or family or something else important, but I think most such people do recognize that they need more specialized instruction than you get from regular conversation classes.

    3. John says:

      I assume you’ve seen Let’s Japan? NOVA doesn’t seem to be any more popular with the teachers.

    4. Edmund says:

      I’m a bit puzzled by some of

      what Nova’s supposed to have done here.

      The thing about the cooling-off period makes sense; There’s a mandatory period of time when a consumer is allowed to cancel a contract, and Nova allegedly pretended that the contract started when you signed up with them, not when you agreed to buy classes.

      But the “cancelling partway through” thing is a bit strange; Nova have a system where if you buy a lot of classes in bulk (or rather, “points” that can be traded for classes) you get a discount. Normally a class would cost you 2300 yens, but if you buy 600 at once they’ll give you your classes for 1200 yens.

      If I’ve understood the Asahi article right, customers have been buying a bunch of classes in bulk, taking a few, cancelling the rest, and expecting that Nova will continue to let you have the ones they did take at the discount rate.

      Now, if a shop sells cans of beer at 250 yen each, but will give you a 6-pack for 1200 yen, you can’t buy the six-pack, drink one, then return the remaining 5 and expect them to give you 1000 yen back. If the shop was exceedingly generous, they might just do what Nova does and let you return 5, and just pay 250 yen for the one you drunk as if you’d bought it on its own. But in most cases, if you buy something in bulk, then use part of it, you can’t even return it.

      Explanations only go so far, and I’d have thought the only way Nova could reliably avoid problems like this would be by targetting more intelligent customers. Which is probably not compatible with their current business model…

      On a more conspiratorial note, I wonder what Nova _really_ did to upset the bureaucrats…

    5. Sean Kinsell says:

      John:

      I get the impression that none of the big English conversation conglomerates is exactly beloved of the people who come to Japan to teach there. And people have been known to use schools to get working visas and then ditch their contracts when they arrive, too. It takes two to do this particular exploitative tango.

      Edmund:

      “But the “cancelling partway through” thing is a bit strange; Nova have a system where if you buy a lot of classes in bulk (or rather, “points” that can be traded for classes) you get a discount.”

      I don’t know that the complaints about the pro-rating policy itself are what’s being taken seriously; my understanding from the articles I’ve seen is that NOVA wasn’t being transparent about what the refund policy was for people who had used up some of the lessons they’d paid for. You’re right that the policy itself doesn’t seem unfair. I also suspect you’re right that what’s being publicized at the moment is probably only part of the issue.

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