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Advertiser: Trinity College Dublin
Medium: Online - Company Website
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4c, 4.1, 4.4, 4.22, 4.23
Details on the Trinity College Website for a Masters in Cognitive Psychotherapy provided details of the fees for Years 1 and 2.
“Fees for the Masters course in Year 1 are €9,779 (€20,507 for non EU students) and in Year 2 €8, 471 (€17,757 for non EU students).”
The complainant applied for the Masters course and understood that the fees would be €9,779 as advertised. When the complainant received an invoice for his fees he noted that the following additional charges were included in the invoice: Sports Centre Charge at €120, USI Levy at €8 and a Commencement/Graduation charge of €135, bringing his fees up to €10,042. As the additional fees had not been indicated on the advertisement he considered that it was misleading.
In reply, Trinity College provided an explanation of their fee structure as they felt it was important to be aware of the various elements which combined to total the final amount payable at registration. They said that all incoming students were directed to the Academic Registry online for queries in relation to fees. They said that details on their website showed tuition fees, as are agreed each year at Faculty level and then associated levies and charges which combine to the total amount payable by students at the time of registration. They said that such contributions include the Sports Centre Levy, membership of the Union of Students of Ireland (USI) and the Commencements fee. In regards to the course the complainant applied for, they said that the tuition fee was €9,779 and then a Sports Centre charge of €120, USI levy of €8 and a Commencement fee of €135 was added bringing the total amount eligible for payment at the time of registration to €10,042. They said that these would have been contained in the invoice sent to students and a direct reference to the Sports Centre and the Commencement fee were noted in the course handbook available on the webpages concerned.
They said that they were very conscious that their website was open to the public and they endeavoured to ensure the provision of information was in a clear and informative way. They said that the extract from the School’s webpages was compiled with a focus on the potential audience, containing information specific to the course concerned and contact details of those directly involved with the provision of the course. They said that websites were now a standard source of information for third level courses and they were not unique in providing course, application and registration details in this manner.
They said that the content displayed on their website was correct in that the tuition fees for the 2016/17 academic year were as displayed, €9,779. They considered that the information was factually correct and there was no intention to exploit the inexperience of prospective students and that this was one of the reasons why specific content details were
displayed, so that any queries could be addressed to members of staff with direct knowledge of the course.
Finally they said that applicants were directed to the Academic Registry website and received an invoice reflecting all costs eligible for payment at time of registration. They said that details on the school’s webpages were directly related to the Masters in Cognitive Psychotherapy programme and referred to the tuition fees for the course.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee noted that the advertiser had referred to the charges for the course in their response as ‘tuition’, however, the advertisement had used the term ‘fees’ which could be understood to encompass all fees related to the course. As the advertised fees had not included the unavoidable costs of the Student’s Union charge, Sports Centre and Commencement fees, then the Committee considered that the advertising was in breach of Sections 4.1, 4.4, 4.22 and 4.23 of the Code.
The Committee reminded the advertiser that if a price is included in an advertisement, it must include all inescapable charges.