By Richard Kitterman
Special to the Daily Herald
Students working hard to get ahead or preparing for year-end tests like the TAKS or SATs are turning to online sources for help. However, BBB warns students to be wary of TutorNext, an online company which earned an "F" rating from BBB for failure to respond to a pattern of recent complaints.
Complaints to BBB allege poor quality of tutoring services and difficulty connecting to a tutor despite the claim of "24/7 service."
One student stated they waited four hours for a tutor to become available. Other students say TutorNext automatically renews monthly memberships resulting in unauthorized charges of up to $200 on their credit cards. Students further allege that TutorNext does not honor requests for cancellations or refunds. BBB reports the company has failed to respond to all six of their complaints filed in the past seven months. TutorNext's current BBB Business Review can viewed at www.centraltx.bb.org.
The company claims to offer one-on-one supplemental education services for K-12 and college students. The website invites students to ask questions about math, English or science and states, "Connect to a Tutor for Free!" When asked about the free tutoring services, the company replies that the services are no longer free and require a subscription.
TutorNext does not provide a mailing address on their website and encourages students to contact them via e-mail or by a toll-free phone number. In addition, the company's terms of service, available on their website, make reference to the "jurisdiction for any court action (being) in the State of Karnataka," a state in South West India. A BBB investigation also found that the company's website is registered in Canada. Consumers are warned the company may not be operating from a United States-based location.
When looking for an online tutoring company, BBB recommends the following:
Start with trust - Consumers can go to www.bbb.org to check on a company's reputation and record for customer satisfaction. You can look for the BBB Seal and click to confirm that it is valid.
Read the fine print - Make sure to understand a company's full refund policy and how to contact them with any issues.
Confirm your online purchase is secure - Consumers should always look in the address box for the "s" in https and in the lower-right corner for the "lock" symbol before paying. If there are any doubts about a website, BBB recommends right-clicking anywhere on the page and selecting "Properties." This will let you see the real URL (website address) and the dialog box will reveal if the website is encrypted.
Pay with a credit card - Under federal law, consumers have dispute rights for unauthorized charges. In addition, many card issuers have "zero liability" policies under which the card holder pays nothing if someone steals their credit card number and uses it.
For consumer information, business reviews, reports on charities, to schedule a guest speaker or to file a complaint on a company, visit the BBB at www.centraltx.bbb.org or call (254) 699-0694.
Richard Kitterman is executive director of the Better Business Bureau serving Central and South Central Texas.