Lawsuit: Trident Tech misled students about textbook prices

Lawsuit: Trident Tech misled students about textbook prices
The suit claims that students weren't allowed to opt out of a textbook program

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A lawsuit filed in Charleston federal court last week alleges that Trident Technical College misled its students concerning textbook pricing and didn’t follow Department of Education requirements that allow students to purchase books and supplies from other retailers.

Textbook dealer Virginia Pirate brought the suit against the college, claiming that Trident Tech announced an “Inclusive Access Program” in August 2018 in which it said Trident Tech contracted with Pearson publishing to offer students online textbooks at set prices. According to the lawsuit, each Trident Tech student is required to purchase the online textbooks only from Trident Tech through the “Inclusive Access Program” with an associated course fee added to a student’s tuition bill.

However, the suit cites a requirement from the Department of Education which requires schools with a digital textbook program to give students a chance to opt out and purchase materials from other retailers to try and find the lowest cost. According to the lawsuit, Trident Tech falsely advertised to it students that its prices through the Inclusive Access Program were already the lowest.

The suit claims that Trident Tech made students believe that eText materials through the program are free, even though the course fee was added to their tuition bill.

A screenshot within the lawsuit shows Trident Tech allegedly advertising the lowest possible price on textbooks (Source: Lawsuit)
A screenshot within the lawsuit shows Trident Tech allegedly advertising the lowest possible price on textbooks (Source: Lawsuit)

While the suit states that students are given an opt-out option through the Trident Tech website, it states that the student is then effectively locked out of any course materials and assignments which isn’t really an option for students.

The lawsuit goes on to cite multiple emails between Trident Tech’s selected contracted publisher Pearson and school administrators as well as a meeting in which Trident Tech told Pearson any TTC faculty using the program “MyLabsPlus” for course assignments will “want all students to have course material and not be able to opt-out.”

A screenshot shows e-text prices at $0.00 (Source: Lawsuit)
A screenshot shows e-text prices at $0.00 (Source: Lawsuit)

Virginia Pirate says in the suit that Trident Tech professors falsely told students that they were required to purchase their course materials from Trident Tech and wouldn’t be able to participate if they purchased books from Virginia Pirate. The publisher claims it has lost hundreds of actual and prospective customers during both the Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 semesters because of it.

Virginia Pirate is seeking actual and punitive damages and claims Trident Tech intended to interfere with the publisher’s “prospective advantage” by giving out what the publisher says is false information about pricing.

Among those named in the suit is Trident Technical College president Mary Thornley.

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