The department has already taken a significant number of compliance actions against non-compliant providers under the VET Student Loans Program. The following case studies demonstrate the department's commitment to monitoring and enforcing the compliance of VET providers with their requirements, and the potential consequences for non-compliance.
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Case study - immediate suspension of approval under VET Student Loans Act 2016 (the Act)
The Secretary may suspend the approval of an approved course provider without giving the provider an intention notice under section 37 of the VET Student Loans Act 2016 (the Act). Immediate suspension occurs when the Secretary suspects on reasonable grounds that the provider is not complying with the Act, and the Secretary is satisfied that the circumstances require urgent action.
The department has used the new powers to immediately suspend the approval of two VET Student Loans providers who contravened subsection 49(1) of the Act, where the provider entered into an arrangement (whether written or not) that provided for another person to do one or more of the following in relation to an approved course:
- enrol students, or accept applications for enrolment, in the course;
- provide information or advice in relation to VET student loans (however described) for the course;
- assist students to complete or submit applications for a VET student loan for the course;
- assist, or provide support for, students who could be eligible for a VET student loan for the course to complete any assessments required to show that students are academically suited to undertake the course.
In both circumstances the actions of the provider had undermined the intention of the VET Student Loans program to offer greater protection to students.
Case study – infringement notices
An approved course provider must ensure that any marketing of the provider or its courses through social media does not mention the possible availability of a VET student loan (however described) for students undertaking a course.
A total of 10 Infringement notices were issued to five VET Student Loans providers who were found to have contravened section 64 of the Act, specifically section 143 of the VSL Rules which outline the information requirements relating to advertising, and prohibit the mention of VET Student Loans.
Failure to comply with the requirement was established through a provider audit by the department, where information was sought from the provider under the information request powers of subsection 45(1) of the Act. Review of this information established that the providers had made a number of references to the availability of VET Student Loans on social media pages including Facebook and Instagram.
The provider’s paid $10,800 for each infringement notice, amounting to a total of $108,000. Payment of the infringement notices was not an admission of guilt or liability by the provider. These notices were issued by the department as an alternative to pursuing legal proceedings seeking a civil penalty order from a court. The maximum penalty that a court can award for a contravention is five times the amount payable for an infringement notice.