NOVA, a major language-school chain, will refund a total of 3.8 million yen to 18 students who were unable to use lesson tickets they had purchased, a Tokyo Metropolitan Government committee said June 12.

Akira Shoji, chairman of the Consumers’ Damage Relief Committee, told a news conference that NOVA has accepted the panel’s proposal to settle the dispute following claims from students that NOVA failed to offer what it had promised its customers. The committee handles claims and complaints by Tokyo residents about products and services.

According to Shoji, the 18 students claimed they were unable to make lesson appointments when they wanted, despite the school’s advertisements stating that its students can reserve classes “at any time.” The students, whose names were not released, also criticized NOVA’s system of issuing lesson tickets bearing expiry dates. According to the students, they purchased hundreds of tickets when they joined the school, but found it impossible to use them all by the expiry date due to inflexible scheduling procedures.

NOVA basically does not offer refunds for tickets that have already been purchased, they said. Yukitomo Ishimatsu, assistant president of NOVA, said the words “any time” must have been misunderstood. “If you call up the school and say, ‘I’m coming in an hour,’ it might sometimes be difficult to arrange that,” he said.

Ishimatsu said such complaints will not occur again because NOVA has rewritten its advertising to clearly provide necessary information, in line with a Tokyo government ruling effective from April. The advisory center said it has received more than 450 claims and complaints related to language schools annually over the past five years.

In a bid to end such problems, the city government has ordered language schools to provide written information on matters such as the total number of instructors and maximum number of students per class. However, government employees disguised as customers visited Tokyo language schools and found that only three out of 50 schools handed out the proper written information with their school pamphlets, according to the advisory center.

The center added that it will continue monitoring and advising schools. There are some 400 foreign language schools with a total of more than 1,500 classrooms in Tokyo alone, according to the center.

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