A New England-based vocational school offering courses in truck driving has agreed to disclose its job placement and licensing-test pass rates to prospective students as part of a settlement of Federal Trade Commission charges. The Commission alleged that New England Tractor Trailer Training School of Massachusetts, New England Tractor Trailer Training School of Connecticut, and the schools' owner, Mark Greenberg (collectively, NETTTS) misrepresented the availability of jobs, their success in placing graduates in truck-driving jobs, the commercial driver's license (CDL) test pass rate of their graduates, the adequacy of the training offered, and the school's own admissions policies. The proposed settlement would prohibit the respondents from making any representations regarding the benefits or results of the training program without adequate substantiation for the claims.
NETTTS markets and sells vocational training programs to the public, including driver training for tractor trailer and heavy straight trucks. These training programs typically last from one to four weeks and cost from $1,700 to $3,600. According to the FTC's complaint, advertising and promotional material for NETTTS' tractor trailer training programs contained statements such as:
- "With our comprehensive behind-the-wheel training and career placement assistance we can have you licensed and on the road."
- "We have earned a reputation for training excellence by combining the necessary classroom training with hands-on knowledge and operating practice you need to take and pass your state's Commercial Driver's License (CDL) test;"
- "NETTTS puts students in touch with trucking companies that reimburse students' tuition;" and
- "84% of All Graduates Requested Placement. 81% Requesting Placement Are Placed. The 16% of our graduates not requesting placement are obtaining their licenses to upgrade their positions with their current employers or have already acquired employment on their own."
In addition, the complaint alleges that during interviews with prospective students, NETTTS' employees made representations such as the following, to persuade prospective students to enroll in their programs:
- 95% of NETTTS' graduates pass the CDL test;
- NETTTS' placement service places 85% of NETTTS' graduates in truck driving jobs;
- NETTTS' placement service places nearly all of NETTTS' graduates in truck driving jobs; and
- Local jobs are available to NETTTS' graduates.
According to the FTC, NETTTS did not possess and rely upon a reasonable basis that substantiated the representations at the time they were made, and therefore the representations were false or misleading.
The proposed agreement to settle the charges would prohibit NETTTS from making any false or unsubstantiated representations about: the job placement rate or employment success rate of NETTTS' graduates; the opportunities for employment by graduates of the programs; the pass rate for qualifying licensing exams, such as the CDL test; the adequacy of the training programs to prepare NETTTS' graduates to pass these exams; placement assistance provided to graduates; the potential for tuition reimbursement by prospective employers; the equipment used in training; the amount of student driving time allowed; admissions policies; and any other benefits or results of the training program.
In addition, the proposed order would require that a written disclosure of the school's placement rates be given to all prospective purchasers prior to the time they are presented with the enrollment agreement forms. A similar affirmative disclosure would be required with regard to the rate of passing any licensing exam, such as the CDL test.
The proposed settlement also contains a number of recordkeeping and reporting requirements designed to assist the FTC in monitoring NETTTS' compliance with the order.
An announcement regarding the proposed consent agreement will be published in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 60 days, after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final. Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
The Commission vote to accept the proposed agreement for public comment was 4-0.
In a concurring statement, Commissioner Swindle noted that when the Commission issued its revised guides for vocational schools, he had dissented on the ground that the guides were not needed because these schools were already regulated by the United States Department of Education, state licensing boards, and private accreditation bodies, and that these regulatory bodies should act in the first instance to address misrepresentations by vocational schools. In this case, Commissioner Swindle explained that Commission action was justified because the respondents continued to make misrepresentations even after state regulatory authorities had twice issued citations to them.
NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a law violation. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of $11,000.
Copies of the complaint, the proposed consent agreement, an analysis of the agreement to aid in public comment, and Commissioner Swindle's statement are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
(FTC File No. 982 3040)
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