Consumer Protection Authority imposes penalty of Rs 5 Lakh on Khan Study Group
By TIOL News Service
NEW DELHI, NOV 10, 2023: THE Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) has imposed penalty of Rs. 5 lakh for misleading advertisement and unfair trade practice on Khan Study Group (KSG). The decision was taken to safeguard consumer rights across the country.
In view of the violation of the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, the CCPA, headed by Chief Commissioner, Nidhi Khare, and Commissioner, Anupam Mishra have issued an Order against Khan Study Group (KSG) for misleading advertisement and unfair trade practice by advertising misleading claims.
Every year when Union Public Service Commission's (UPSC) Civil Services Exam result comes out, various IAS coaching institutes start an advertisement blitzkrieg claiming successful candidates to be their students. Coaching Institutes use pictures and names of toppers and successful candidates to influence prospective aspirants, without disclosing the courses opted by such candidates or the fees paid by them & length of the course so attended.
Therefore, CCPA took suo-moto cognizance & issued Notices to various IAS coaching Institutes and Khan Study Group is one of them.
Khan Study Group in its advertisement made the following claims-
i. 682 out of 933 selected students are from KSG.
ii. All TOP 5 Successful Candidates of UPSC Civil Services Exam 2022 are from KSG.
iii. Ishita Kishore AIR 1 UPSC 2022 is from KSG
iv. Best IAS Coaching Institute for General Studies and CSAT in India.
In its preliminary inquiry, CCPA found out that it KSG advertised various types of courses but the information with respect to the course opted by the advertised successful candidates in UPSC exam 2022 was concealed in the said advertisement. Accordingly, notice was issued to Khan Study Group dated 03.08.2023
The institute in its response submitted that out of 682 successful candidates showcased in the impugned advertisement by KSG, 674 took Mock Interview Program which is a free of cost program.
CCPA is entrusted to protect, promote, and enforce the rights of a class of consumers and therefore DG (Investigation) CCPA was requested for detailed investigation in the matter. It was found in the investigation report that out of 682, only 8 successful candidates took guidance for additional courses that too in previous years. This fact was not disclosed in their advertisements, thereby deceiving consumers into believing that such successful candidates owe their success to said institution.
CCPA found out that All 5 toppers of UPSC CS exam 2022 namely Ishita Kishore (AIR-1), Garima Lohia (AIR- 2), Uma Harathi N (AIR- 3), Smriti Mishra (AIR- 4) and Mayur Hazarika (AIR- 5) only took Mock Interview from Khan Study Group which was free of cost.
Khan Study Group has been found taking full credit of successful candidate's efforts and success by prominently putting their pictures in the advertisement. It is common knowledge that rank of a successful candidate is based on score in written test as well as interview. Thus, UPSC aspirants may get lured by the misleading advertisements.
As per a Press Release by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) dated 23 May, 2023 released by Press Information Bureau (PIB), a total of 11,35,697 candidates applied for UPSC Civil Services Examination, 2022, out of which a total of 13,090 candidates qualified for appearance in the Written (Main) Examination which was held in September, 2022. Further, a total of 2,529 candidates qualified for the Personality Test of the examination. At the end, a total of 933 candidates were recommended by the Commission for appointment to various Services. Therefore, there exist a strong probability that out of 2,529 candidates selected for Personality Test of CSE 2022, 1 out of every 3 such selected candidates will make it to the final selection in CSE.
It is a well-known fact that successful candidates of Civil Services Examination have to clear all the 3 stages of Exams. Viz., Prelims, Main Exams and Personality Test (PT). While Prelims is a screening test, the marks obtained in both Mains Exams and Personality Test are counted for getting finally selected. The total marks for Main Exams and PT are 1750 and 275 respectively. Thus contribution of Personality Test is 13.5% in the total marks. Candidates had already cleared Preliminary and Mains examination by himself/herself, with no contribution of Khan Study Group. By concealing this important fact, such false & misleading advertisement creates huge impact on those consumers who are UPSC aspirants without letting them know that Khan Study Group had offered guidance to only such successful candidates who had already cleared Preliminary and Mains examination of UPSC examination. Thus, the advertisement has violated the consumer's right to be informed so as to protect himself against unfair trade practice.
An advertisement is considered to be valid and not deceitful when it does not mislead consumers by exaggerating the usefulness of the products or services. An advertisement should be truthful & honest representation of facts by making disclosures in such a manner that they are clear, prominent and extremely hard to miss for viewers to notice. In 2022, CCPA had issued Guidelines for prevention of Misleading Advertisements and Endorsements for Misleading Advertisements, wherein conditions for non-misleading and valid advertisement have been clearly mentioned.