It’s been so long now, I hardly remember why I first went on to the Open Study College website, or why on earth I ever screen grabbed its learn Mandarin course page.
I think it was after a reader got in touch who had signed up after being told there was a discount available – and when I checked some weeks later the same discount was still running.
But, and it makes me wince to confess this, I’ve now been doing it for well over a year.
Bargain: The Mandarin course is just £299 – but when was the last time it cost £449?
Open Study College is a remote learning website. You sign up for one of its courses and it sends you all the reading materials, practise questions and other materials you need to learn whatever it is you’ve signed up for.
Sign up for its Mandarin course, for example, and it’ll send you eight audio language CDs, a handbook, textbook and oral exercise book.
What’s more, its website says that if you sign up before May 8th, it’ll cost you just £299, down from its standard fee of £449.
What a saving! you might think.
Only I can almost guarantee you that come May 8th, the website will say ‘discounts on selected courses end today’. And then the day after, a new date will show on which the unmissable discount will end – probably a few weeks into the future.
This is what it has been doing for well over a year – perhaps longer, but I’ve only been monitoring since December 2016.
The discount NEVER ENDS.
I have never seen the price revert to the ‘standard fee’. In fact, the saving has gone up over the past year, because the standard fee has risen while the discounted price has remained the same.
This makes me angry.
To think that people would rush into signing up for something to take advantage of a sale, that is not really a sale after all.
So it’s not the worst crime in the world. No one’s getting hurt, they’re still paying a price they think is worth it to them. But I think maybe that’s not the point.
It’s so easy to shrug these things off, especially when we don’t end up stung ourselves.
Like clicking through to buy cheap tickets only to find that suspiciously the price is not available on any of the multiple dates and times we try out.
Or seeing a closing down sale on the High Street at a shop that never closes down.
It’s so easy to feel relieved – or even smug – that we haven’t fallen for it, and then move on to the next thing.
After all, why should doing something about it be our responsibility – and anyway isn’t life is too short.
But I’m sick of it. And even if I’m not caught out, I don’t want others to be either. Give them an inch and all that.
So that’s it. I have alerted them to this, and nothing having changed some months later I have sent my bundles of screen grabs to the Advertising Standards Authority. I’ll let you know how that works.
I mention Open Study College because it happens to be the never ending sale I have noticed. But it’s by no means the only business to have a sale that’s not quite as it seems.
We’re publishing a guide today on how you can report these when you come across them. It’ll honestly take you about a couple of minutes. And I think the satisfaction of standing up to it is greater than that of simply not being caught out.
Open Study College said in a response: ‘Our pricing structure is designed to meet the flexible learning needs and financial situations of our wide variety students. 60,000 students have successfully studied with us to date and we offer a variety of payment options to meet student needs.
‘These vary from buy it now, standard instalment plans and finance packages. Throughout the year we also discount some courses in line with student demand.’
The discount message on its website has an explanation that pops up when you hover over a green question mark, saying ‘by paying now you can save money compared to the standard fee’.
‘See Ts&Cs’ has recently been added to this, which if you seek them out explains that the ‘standard fee’ is the cost of a course when not choosing to pay in full, up front’ and which applies ‘when paying via our ‘in-house instalment plan’.
However, I’m not sure that this is how most people would read ‘standard fee’, there is not an option to pay using a payment plan displayed – when you try to click on it it says ‘not available’, and the ‘see Ts&Cs’ is only a recent addition. It also doesn’t explain why the discount price never reverts, despite there always being a date displayed on which discounts end.
I imagine this is of no interest to anyone, but nonetheless I’ve pasted my screen grabs below.
December 9, 2016