Agencies claim they are owed money following LSI acquisition of HLI

Earlier this year HLI was acquired by language provider LSI Education, following HLI facing “tremendous financial pressure” stemming from Covid-19.

“We’ve been in touch with HLI about our booking till the very end of 2020. They never mentioned once, about changes in the company”

At the time of the acquisition LSI education said that HLI would continue to operate under the same name with the same network of families.

However former clients have raised concerns, saying they have not been able to recover debts from HLI Monaco. Anastasia Makhotina of Russian education agency International Center InterSTUDY – Ekaterinburg, complained about the way “HLI Monaco treated their long-term partners and clients”, and said she represented a group of agencies who are facing similar issues.

“We would like the world to know our side of the story about how HLI Monaco treated their long-term partners and clients,” she said. 

“We booked and paid in full a course for our client in January 2020 which they had to defer due to the pandemic. We’ve been in touch with HLI about our booking till the very end of 2020. They never mentioned once, about changes in the company. Should we have known about it, we would have cancelled the booking. We were shocked to find out in February 2021 about LSI’s acquisition of HLI from a newsletter. 

“As soon as we got the news, we tried to reach the schools about the issue, but till this day LSI and HLI are reluctant to reply and satisfy our claims,” she added. 

Makhotina said that HLI explained that LSI and HLI UK are not accountable for the debts of HLI Monaco, as well as also saying that the industry and the school have suffered from the pandemic. 

“But what should we do? We are part of the industry as well, struggling to survive through these times. According to the legislation in the Russian Federation we are obliged to return money to a client for unused services,” said Makhotina.  

Yuliya Levina, an independent education consultant from Kyiv Ukraine, said that she suggested HLI programs for a family’s daughter in 2020. 

“My clients decided not to ask for a refund, but to leave money in the student’s account at HLI”

“In February 2020 the program was fully paid and an invitation for a visa to the UK was issued. The visa was successfully obtained in March, but due to Covid-19 and travel restrictions, the trip was postponed to autumn 2020; later we postponed the trip again ‘until the situation changed for the better’,” Levina said. 

“My clients decided not to ask for a refund, but to leave money in the student’s account at HLI, because the child really wanted to go to the UK, so as soon as the situation becomes clear, we will book the program for new dates.”

When Levina heard the news that HLI had joined LSI Education she got in touch to see who was responsible for her booking. 

“I waited for an answer, wrote several emails with the same question – who is responsible for my booking that was fully paid and postponed due to Covid-19. 

“Since there was no answer, I called the new phone number indicated on the HLI website [and] talked to [somebody called] Pamela and she assured me that there was no more HLI office in Monaco (note: HLI Monaco office operated with reservations). She said that she sees my booking but they did not receive money for it and she is very sorry that this happened.”

Levina explained that cases like this “undermine the authority of agents” in front of the clients and that she offered HLI to her client and assured the family that the company was reliable and provided high quality services.

“The situation is still not clear to me and looks like a fraud on the part of HLI, because they disclaim all responsibility and state that they have nothing to do with the office in Monaco although all agents know that HLI’s Monaco office was engaged in booking programs, contracting with agents and was a part of HLI company,” she added. 

“The HLI policy of taking money in full within 48 hours after the provisional bookings was made, allowed the HLI owners to keep floating 2020 with tens of thousands Euros/Pounds/US dollars,” said Yana Kiryuhina general director of Moscow-based company Planet of Study

“But it made us and our clients losers and even more, agent’s chiefs could be easily accused and became defendants in case of legal investigation clients might (and actually should) start,” she added. 

The PIE News contacted LSI Education for a comment on the agents’ claims. LSI group director Roy Immanuel replied asking that his response be included in full. 

“It must be made clear that LSI did not buy HLI Jersey/Monaco & is not responsible for its debts

“We are very sorry for the predicament faced by the writers, but it must be made clear that LSI did not buy HLI Jersey/Monaco & is not responsible for its debts. We bought some of the “non-physical” assets which includes the website, operating software & use of the name, sometime after HLI Jersey/Monaco had ceased trading. 

“As previously explained, LSI was never a shareholder or in any other way connected with HLI Jersey/ Monaco and has no responsibility for refunds due by HLI Jersey/ Monaco. However, in order to assist Educational Tour Organisations who have been affected by the demise of HLI Jersey/Monaco, Home Language International Ltd UK has, on a case-by-case basis, offered some substantial additional discounts on future courses booked, which in most cases will enable them to recoup their losses over time. 

“It should be noted that if LSI had not bought the website and name, it is unlikely that the Educational Tour Operators affected would have received any offer, and that accepting our proposals does not preclude them from making claims against HLI Jersey/ Monaco.

“It should also be noted that any payments for courses made to Home Language International Ltd UK will be ring-fenced, so that what happened to HLI Jersey/ Monaco will not be repeated. 

“The whole language school industry has had a traumatic year & we have all faced substantial losses, but I hope that business will improve in 2022 for all of us, including the writers of the email you have received,” he said.

LSI operates 14 year-round schools in seven countries, as well as its international high school and Avenue House preparatory school in London.

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