French bankruptcy hits Russian agents

03 February, 2014

Education en France, a company placing students in French academic year courses, and its sister French language school Escapade have been declared bankrupt, leaving Russian agents and students as well as partner schools and host families out of pocket.

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Study Travel Magazine was approached by the Association of Russian Educational Advisors (Area) on behalf of at least four member agencies that had been affected. A lawyer in France working with one of the agencies has indicated that around 40 students may have suffered as a result of the bankruptcy.

STM was given a letter dated 12 November 2013 and sent to partner agencies from Perrine Richard, Owner of Education en France (EEF), which states, “We are currently facing important difficulties and are forced to stop our activity.” The letter says EEF has made an agreement with a partner providing similar programmes and asks for fees for existing students to be paid again in order for them to continue their studies and homestays.

According to Area, EEF was declared bankrupt on 19 November 2013. Caroline Mouton-Muniz, Chargée de programmes at the Label Quality Fle, said, “We confirm that neither Education en France, nor its sister company the French language school Escapade, had ever held the Quality label for French as a foreign language accreditation and we feel it is important to point out that schools are audited on their financial and administrative management as part of the process."

William Slama, Owner of Parta International LLC based in the USA, which has a working agreement with Parta ICC as a Moscow-based recruitment agent, confirmed three students had been affected, ranging from loss of deposit to total loss of monies paid, while one student was sent home for non-payment to the hosting school and host family by EEF.

Slama said the agency had incurred losses of around €6,000 (US$8,100) in legal fees. “This of course does not include the extensive time and effort of Parta LLC and Parta ICC personnel in continuing to act in our clients’ best interests since we learned of EEF’s bankruptcy/liquidation.” The sum of losses incurred by Parta’s clients was €22,900 (US$30,915), Slama said. He confirmed that Parta had worked with EEF for four years.

Julia Alimochkina, General Manager at agency Litera Scripta Manet, said they didn’t have any students with EEF at the time of the bankruptcy, but a former client that made a direct repeat booking had suffered losses of €17,000 (US$22,950). The agency had been working with EEF since 2007.

Global Dialog agency, meanwhile, had to compensate €8,800 (US$11,800) to a family for a student that was the first the company had sent to EEF. Julia Zolotareva at the agency said, “We contacted the other company in France to take over the supervision of our student and [we] confirmed to the client that they would have to bear all the expenses. But the family were so confused and discouraged by this situation that they decided to stop their programme in France and take the student home.”

She added, “More important than the money is that our reputation as an agency is badly damaged.”

At the time of writing, the websites and telephone numbers for Education en France and Escapade were not active. The company has not responded to email requests for an interview.

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