Customers irate as Apax Leaders shut down without offering refunds

By Nhat Le   March 13, 2023 | 02:59 pm PT
Customers irate as Apax Leaders shut down without offering refunds
Parents show up with banners at the last Apax Leaders English center in Ho Chi Minh City's Phu Nhuan District on Mar. 3, 2023 to demand refunds. Photo by HN
Many parents who have spent money to pay for their children’s tuition fees at English language teaching center Apax Leaders are getting back almost nothing as its facilities have closed down.

Minh Phat in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 9 has been sending his child to Apax Leaders for English lessons twice a week since 2018. When the center offered him a 50% discount on tuition fees in 2021, he took the opportunity to pay in advance until 2028.

"I used all my savings and even borrowed from a bank," he said. "I just thought that it was never wrong to invest in my child’s education."

He added that he had paid VND210 million ($8,911) to the company, but after the cost of the lessons that his child has taken has been deducted, the remaining amount is VND135 million.

Thuy in Go Vap District in 2020 paid VND59 million for her three kids’ tuition fees at an Apax Leaders center when it was just launched. In the following year she paid another VND70 million when there was a 60% discount.

"I want to prioritize my children’s education no matter how difficult I am financially," she said.

But both Thuy and Phat started to notice unusual activities in early 2021 when the school repeatedly canceled lessons due to various reasons such as teachers getting sick, an unstable internet connection, lease contract not extended and company restructuring. From the end of 2021 until now their children have not been able to go back to class.

There were some sessions when the teachers only let students watch TV and then let them go home, Thuy said.

This was why on March 5 this year, they and a group of parents showed up at a center with banners to demand a refund.

HCMC was not alone. In Dak Lak, Da Nang and some other localities, parents since September last year have been complaining that the centers failed to provide the teaching quality that they had promised, and that they were taking their money and "running away".

In November the company said that it was restructuring and therefore would close down some centers and transfer students to other ones. All the closed centers, however, would reopen before Mar. 31, Apax Leaders promised.

As of now Apax Leaders had closed down all its centers in HCMC, except one in Phu Nhuan District.

"My child has not finished his curriculum here and I cannot afford to pay for his study somewhere else," said Phat.

Phuoc Truong in District 5 has come back and forth four times to the last Apax Leaders center in HCMC to demand a refund but to no avail.

He had submitted VND180 million in tuition fee for his child to the center.

"I am very upset as this is a loan from a bank and I have to pay interest," he said.

Tran Van Nghiem said that he represents 132 parents in the city and they have paid the center over VND7.6 billion in tuition fees, and that after the fees for the classes that have been taught are deducted, the center now owes them a refund of VND6.5 billion.

Ho Tan Minh, chief of staff of HCMC’s Department of Education and Training, said that the department has completed its inspection of Apax Leaders and that they have transferred the reports to HCMC police as they require.

The department can only resolve issues regarding teaching quality. Refunds, therefore, do not fall under this umbrella.

Nguyen Ngoc Thuy, chairman of Apax Holdings, which operates the centers, said in February that the company was in a major restructuring process and offered to convert the refunds that parents are demanding to loans, in which the company will pay them back gradually with interest.

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