Straight talking, straight teaching: are New Zealand tertiary institutes potentially liable to their students under consumer protection legislation?
Consumerism has become an officially approved fashion. In recent years we have seen the enactment of progressive consumer rights legislation aimed at redressing the balance between consumers and suppliers. In New Zealand the reform of tertiary education, begun with the Education Act 1989, has led to a shift in the relationship between institutes and students. Market culture is progressively being applied to tertiary education. Institutes are holding themselves out as providing an 'educational product' and are actively competing for students both nationally and internationally. In turn students, as purchasers of that product, at an ever-increasing cost, are demanding greater standards of straight talking and straight teaching. There are indications that this is leading to thoughts of legal accountability for any deficiencies in the education product. This is both in terms of what institutes hold themselves out as providing and the quality of that provision. This article considers the effect of provisions of the Fair Trading Act 1986 and the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 on the potential liability of tertiary institutes.