Debt complaints

The debt complaints page provides information about VET FEE-HELP debt issues and complaints, including complaints about VET FEE-HELP providers. Students with concerns about a VET Student Loans program debt or provider may also wish to use the information set out below.

Normally a "debt dispute" is a matter that is between you and your provider.

Please note that the Department of Education and Training cannot remove VET FEE-HELP debt or VET Student Loans debt except in limited circumstances.  For example, if there is unacceptable conduct by your provider after 1 January 2016.

A new VET Student Loans Ombudsman from 1 July 2017

The Australian Government recently made changes to the arrangements for student loans for higher level vocational education and training students.  As part of the changes, new arrangements have been put in place to strengthen the handling of complaints.

A new VET Student Loans Ombudsman has been established and from 1 July 2017 complaints about VET FEE-HELP debts and VET Student Loan debts are able to be dealt with by the new VET Student Loans Ombudsman. The VET Student Loans Ombudsman is part of the broader Commonwealth Ombudsman's office. The Ombudsman is separate from the department and has its own legal powers to investigate and deal with complaints.

With the establishment of the new VET Student Loans Ombudsman from 1 July 2017 the department will no longer be responsible for dealing with complaints about VET FEE-HELP debts.

Who will deal with my complaint?

Most complaints about VET FEE-HELP debts and VET Student Loans debts will be dealt with by the VET Student Loans Ombudsman. For further information please check the VET Student Loans Ombudsman's website.

The VET Student Loans Ombudsman may however transfer your complaint to a more appropriate body depending on the circumstances, including to the department (such as if your complaint relates to the tuition assurance arrangements presented to you by your tuition assurance operator) or to the National VET Regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) (such as if your complaint relates to the training quality).

Before you contact the VET Student Loans Ombudsman, please read through the information below.  

Resources

Fact Sheet

You should first use your providers complaints process

Please note, the Ombudsman will normally not commence an investigation of a complaint unless you have first tried to resolve your complaint with your provider.  If you have not done so, the Ombudsman may advise you to raise your complaint with your provider in the first instance.

All providers are required to have a formal complaints process.  The provider's complaints handling process must accept your complaint about your VET FEE-HELP debt or VET Student Loans debt.  A provider can cancel a VET FEE-HELP debt or VET Student Loans debt depending on the nature of the complaint.

If you are not satisfied with how your provider has dealt with your complaint you can ask your provider to review their decision about your complaint. All providers are required to have an internal review process as part of their formal complaints process.

If you are still not satisfied following an internal review by your provider you can seek to have your complaint reviewed by an external body.

There are two situations when you do not need to use the provider's formal complaints process:

  • If there are special circumstances within the description below you can apply to the provider for a cancellation of your debt; and
  • If after 1 January 2016, your provider engaged in 'unacceptable conduct' within the description below in relation to your enrolment and request for a loan.

Special Circumstances

You may be able to have your provider cancel your VET FEE-HELP debt or VET Student Loans debt if your provider decides that there are special circumstances.

All providers must have a process in place for you to request the cancellation of your debt because, after you started to study, you encountered special circumstances.

Special circumstances are not all circumstances but only those circumstances that are beyond your control, that occurred or worsened after the census date and that prevented you from doing further study (such as illness or a motor vehicle accident).

Please note you cannot apply for the cancellation of your debt because of 'special circumstances' for units of study that you have successfully completed.

If you think this may apply to you, you should check whether special circumstances apply by reading and/or completing your provider's special circumstances form and submitting the form to your provider.

All providers are required to have a formal review process that applies when your provider rejects your special circumstances request and decides not to cancel your debt. 

If you are not satisfied with how your provider has dealt with your special circumstances request you can ask your provider to review their decision. All providers are required to have an internal review process as part of their formal complaints process.

If you are still not satisfied, following an internal review by your provider you can then apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in your state or territory to have your provider's decision reviewed.

Unacceptable Conduct

You may be able to have the Secretary of the Department of Education and Training cancel your VET FEE-HELP debt or VET Student Loans debt if your provider has engaged in 'unacceptable conduct' under the legislation. 

The legislation which contains a scheme under which the Secretary can cancel a VET FEE-HELP debt or VET Student Loans debt is the Higher Education Support Act 2003 and the VET Student Loans Act 2016.

Unacceptable conduct under the legislation is not all conduct by a provider but is only:

  • conduct that occurred after 1 January 2016; and
  • conduct that falls within the definition of "unacceptable conduct' in the legislation.  For example, for VET student loans, harassment or coercion by a provider or conduct that is misleading, deceptive or unconscionable,

If you think this may apply to you, you should check whether the unacceptable conduct scheme applies to you by completing the department's application form and submitting the form to the department.

If you submit an unacceptable conduct application form the department will make a decision and inform you about that decision.

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of your unacceptable conduct application you can ask the department to review their decision.  The department will then undertake an internal review of the decision, make a new decision and inform you about the new decision.

If you are still not satisfied, following an internal review you can then apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in your state or territory to have the department's decision reviewed.

Further information, including the approved unacceptable conduct form, can be located on the StudyAssist website.

Frequently Asked Questions

All providers are required to have a formal complaints process. The provider's complaints handling process must accept your complaint about your VET FEE-HELP debt or VET Student Loans debt. A provider can cancel a VET FEE-HELP debt or VET Student Loans debt depending on the nature of the complaint.

If you are not satisfied with how the provider has dealt with your complaint you can ask your provider to review their decision about your complaint. All providers are required to have an internal and external review process as part of their formal complaints process.

If your provider has not been helpful, or if the provider has closed and you are unable to obtain any information from them, you may wish to contact the VET Student Loans Ombudsman to discuss the complaints process. Contact details for the VET Student Loans Ombudsman are available at www.ombudsman.gov.au/vslo

Please note, the Ombudsman will normally not commence an investigation of a complaint unless you have first tried to resolve your complaint with your provider. If you have not done so, the Ombudsman may advise you to raise your complaint with your provider in the first instance.

If you want to check your reported VET FEE-HELP debts by logging onto the myUNIAssist portal you will need your Commonwealth Higher Education Student Support Number (CHESSN) to login. Your CHESSN is in the email or letter that you were sent.

You should not incur any loan debt for units of study you enrolled in but formally withdrew from before the census day. If this has happened to you, raise it with your provider through its formal complaints process and ask for the VET FEE-HELP/VET Student Loans debt to be cancelled. A provider has the ability to remit or cancel your VET FEE-HELP/VET Student Loans debt depending on the nature of the complaint. The provider's formal complaints process will provide you with a right of appeal if you do not agree with the provider's decision.

If you believe that your provider has not been helpful, you can contact the VET Student Loans Ombudsman. Contact details for the VET Student Loans Ombudsman are available at www.ombudsman.gov.au/vslo.

When an education institute re-credits your VET FEE-HELP/VET Student Loans balance and remits the debt, the provider must tell the Department of Education and Training. Providers submit data to the department monthly. The department will advise the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), which then applies the revision to your tax records. Please note* there can be a time lag of some months between when your provider tells the department of the decision to cancel a debt and when the ATO removes it from a student's record.

On confirmation that your provider has submitted a revisions file** to the department, you may wish to contact the ATO area that takes care of HELP debts and advise the ATO that a revisions file has been forwarded to the Department of Education and Training in relation to your debt. If you have concerns you can discuss options available to you with the ATO regarding your tax matters.

Contact details for the ATO:

  • visit www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Study-and-training-support-loans/.
  • use ATO online services to view loan accounts and other information such as Payment Reference Number (PRN) and voluntary repayment options,
  • call 13 28 61 for information about your HELP account and personal tax topics,
  • call 13 36 77 TTY or 1300 555 727 TTY for hearing or speech impaired students, or
  • write to: Australian Taxation Office PO BOX 1032, ALBURY NSW 2640.

Please note, the ATO will conduct identification checks for your enquiry, so remember to have your Tax File Number handy.

Additional information about repaying your HELP loan is available on the StudyAssist website at studyassist.gov.au.

*The data on VET FEE-HELP/VET Student Loans debts incurred or cancelled from 1 January 2017 will only be transferred to the Australian Tax Office in late 2017 so the data will not be accurate until after this data transfer

** Due to a retrospective validation process applied to data reported by providers, this may result in the data being revised up to eight weeks after it has been reported. This revised data is then transferred to the Australian Taxation Office.

If you believe your provider has not been cooperative, you can contact the VET Student Loans Ombudsman. Contact details for the VET Student Loans Ombudsman are available at www.ombudsman.gov.au/vslo.

All providers are required to have a formal complaints process. The provider's complaints handling process must accept your complaint about your VET FEE-HELP debt or VET Student Loans debt. A provider can cancel a VET FEE-HELP debt or VET Student Loans debt depending on the nature of the complaint.

If you are not satisfied with how your provider has dealt with your complaint you can ask your provider to review their decision about your complaint. All providers are required to have an internal and external review process as part of their formal complaints process.

If your complaint is about the quality of the course, the teachers or the course materials you should make a complaint to the National VET Regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority. There is information below about Australian Skills Quality Authority.

If the complaint is not about the quality of the course and your provider has not been helpful, or if the provider has closed and you are unable to obtain any information from them, you may wish to contact the VET Student Loans Ombudsman to discuss the complaints process. Contact details for the VET Student Loans Ombudsman are available at www.ombudsman.gov.au/vslo.

If you want to check your reported VET FEE-HELP debts by logging onto the

myUNIAssist portal you will need your Commonwealth Higher Education Student Support Number (CHESSN) to login. Your CHESSN is in the email or letter that you were sent.

Quality of training/student treatment complaints

As the national regulator for VET, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) is responsible for investigating allegations about the quality of training or student treatment by training providers. ASQA uses information from the complaints process to determine how it regulates certain providers. Should you have concerns regarding your experiences, you may wish to submit a formal complaint to ASQA via their complaints page.

Alternatively, you can contact the National Training Complaints Hotline on 13 38 73.

You should read the Tuition Assurance fact sheet on the Provider Closures page.

If you still have questions about the Tuition Assurance process, you will need to contact your relevant Tuition Assurance operator (that will be either the Australian Council for Private Education (ACPET) or TAFE Directors Australia (TDA)). Contact details for ACPET and TDA are on the fact sheet.