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Advertiser: University College Dublin (UCD)
Medium: Online - Company Website
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4c, 4.22
Details on the UCD School of Medicine website for a two year part-time masters in Clinical and Translational Research offered the following information in relation to fees:
“Year 1 (Part-time) €4,060
Year 2 (Part-time) €4,060”
The complainant said that while the fees continued to be advertised on the UCD website at €4,060 for the second year of the course, it came to the attention of both her classmates and herself that when signing up to the second year of the course through the SISWeb (internal student website) that the fees had increased to €4,475 without any prior notice.
The complainant said that the increase in fees was so significant that it was a possibility that some students would be unable to complete their masters.
In reply, UCD said that the fees information on the School of Medicine website was only intended as a guide. They said the information in relation to fees was also set out on the UCD Fees website to which students were also directed. They said the UCD Fees website is the official source of fees information for the university. They said this website clearly states that fees can be subject to change from one year to the next.
UCD confirmed that €4,060 was the correct EU fee for students who registered in year one and year two in 2016/2017 and €4,475 was the correct EU fee for students who registered in year 1 and year 2 in 2017/2018. Hence the lower fee of €4,060 only applied to year 2 students who registered to year 2 in 2016/2017. They said the higher rate of €4,475 had been correctly applied in the complainant’s case.
The University believed that the information held on the School of Medicine website was accurate at the time of publication and there had been no intention to mislead students in relation to possible fee increases from one year to the next. They accepted, however, that the information provided on their website may have been misinterpreted and as a gesture of goodwill and without any admission of liability on their part, they agreed to charge the lower 2016/2017 year 2 fee rather than the higher charge. They said this action was taken on 29th September and that all students on logging into SISWeb would see that the rate for year 2 of the course had been amended. In addition they said they had removed all fee related information from the School of Medicine website and promotional material, and now referred students instead to the UCD Fees website, in order to avoid any future misunderstandings.
The Executive contacted the complainant who confirmed that on logging into their UCD SISWeb account they could now avail of the fees at the original sum of €4,060.
The Complaints Committee considered the details of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee noted that the College had decided to charge the lower advertised fee. They also noted, however, that the Code required that if a price was stated in a marketing communication, it should relate to the product depicted or specified. In the circumstances, the Committee considered that the advertising had breached Section 4.22 of the Code.
ACTION REQUIRED: As the advertising had been amended no further action was required in this case.