Are Essay Mills committing fraud? An analysis of the behaviours vs the 2006 Fraud Act (UK)

Are Essay Mills committing fraud? An analysis of the behaviours vs the 2006 Fraud Act (UK)

International Journal for Educational Integrity volume 13, Article number: 3 ( 2017 ) | Download Citation

Many strategies have now been proposed to deal with the application of Essay Mills and other ‘contract cheating’ services by students. These types of services generally offer bespoke custom-written essays or any other assignments to students in return for a fee. There have been calls for the usage of legal ways to tackle the issue. Here we see whether the united kingdom Fraud Act (2006) might be used to tackle a few of the activities of companies providing these services into the UK, by comparing their common practises, and their Terms and Conditions, with the Act. We found that most of the sites examined have disclaimers regarding the usage of their products but there are contradictions that are obvious the actions for the sites which undermine these disclaimers, for instance all sites offer plagiarism-free guarantees for the task and at least eight have advertising which appears to contradict their conditions and terms. We identify possible areas in which the Act could be used to follow a case that is legal overall conclude that such a method is unlikely to be effective. We call for a offence that is new be created in UK law which specifically targets the undesirable behaviours of these companies into the UK, even though principles might be applied elsewhere. We also highlight other UK legal approaches that may be more successful.


The usage so-called ‘contract cheating’ services by students has been a way to obtain controversy and debate within Higher Education, particularly in the decade that is last. ‘Contract cheating’ refers, basically, to the outsourcing of assessments by students, to third parties who work that is complete their behalf in return for a fee or some other benefit (Lancaster and Clarke 2016). These services offer ‘custom assignments’ of nearly every form, although custom written essays look like the most typical. Students tend to be in a position to specify the grade they want (even though there isn’t any guarantee this will be delivered), request drafts, referencing styles and just about any other custom feature (Newton and Lang 2016). Services available are quick and cheap (Wallace and Newton 2014) and students underestimate the severe nature with which universities penalise the employment of contract cheating services (Newton 2015). Probably the simplest arrangements are directly between students and ‘custom essay writing companies’, nearly all whom are ‘listed’ companies with sophisticated promotional initiatives. However there are many ways that students may use third parties to work that is complete them, aided by the contract spread across continents; writers may behave as freelancers, involved in a different country to the student and their institution. These freelance writers will make use of online auction services to market and organise their work and these could be in yet another national country, and there might be another intermediary; someone who receives your order through the student and then posts the task on an auction site (Newton and Lang 2016; Sivasubramaniam et al. 2016). Thus you can find multiple actors in contract cheating, one or more of whom might be liable if their actions violate the law; students, their universities, the persons paying tuition fees, writers, people who employ writers, the web sites which host the writers, advertising companies, those who host the advertising, an such like. Here we focus primarily on UK-registered essay-writing companies.

Across education, a student who completes an evaluation to make credit towards an award is generally necessary to do so in the explicit basis that the submission is the own independent work. Ideally, both students and staff are given guidance as to what constitutes misconduct that is academic the results of these misconduct (Morris 2015), in a manner that promotes an optimistic, constructive approach to fostering ‘academic integrity’ (Thomas and Scott 2016). Then that student will normally face a range of penalties, administered by their university, for academic misconduct if a student submits work that is shown to comprise, in whole or in part, material that is not their own independent work. In the united kingdom these usually include cancellation of marks for the relevant module or perhaps the relevant component of the module subject to any mitigating circumstances (Tennant and Duggan 2008). Historically, these behaviours haven’t been dealt with through legal mechanisms in the united kingdom (QAA 2016) and this applies to plagiarism outside academic circumstances which, when you look at the words of Saunders,”. is certainly not if it breaches an established legal right, such as copyright, or offends against the law of misrepresentation or other legal rules” (Saunders 2010) in itself illegal; it is only illegal.

However, a commonly used test in making legal decisions is to figure out how a ‘reasonable person’ might view a behaviour that is particular. If asked to explain the purchasing of essays for submission when it comes to purposes of gaining credit that is academic seems logical to conclude that a fair person would conclude that such behaviour is ‘fraudulent’, particularly given the language related to it (e.g. ‘cheating’). Then they might reasonably be said to have assisted, conspired or colluded in such academic fraud, cheating or dishonesty if another individual has knowingly assisted in that activity.

If a student has purchased written work from another individual or a business for the purpose of passing it well as his / her own work it is clear that the student commits academic misconduct, exactly what of the individual or company that supplied the task in substitution for payment? From what extent is the fact that individual or company (an ‘assistor’) complicit in such misconduct? What’s the potential liability for the assistor and may action be studied against them? Will be the assistors by their action inciting fraud that is academic? An educational institution cannot normally take action against the assistor under internal disciplinary procedures unless the assistor is a student in the same institution. In addition, and maybe more importantly, can there be the likelihood of fraudulent behaviour when you look at the relationship between the student as well as the company?

Broadly, legal wrongs committed in England and Wales may be addressed through the civil or law that is criminalUK Government 2016a). An action in civil law is taken by a individual that is wronged their initial cost. This cost is often prohibitive and also normally requires the formulation of a claim recognised by the law that evidences loss or damage to the claimant that is individual by the defendant and for which a fix is sought. Thus the power of educational institutions (or a student for example) to take action that is civil assistors is bound.

Action pertaining to UK criminal law is normally undertaken by and also at the expense of the state through the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) but requires a criminal offence to own been committed (private prosecutions at private cost are possible but relatively rare). The Code for Crown Prosecutors sets out of the basic principles to be followed by Crown Prosecutors when they make case decisions. Crown Prosecutors must certanly be satisfied that there’s evidence that is enough provide a “realistic prospect of conviction” and therefore it is the public interest to follow a prosecution (UK Government 2013).

An intention for this paper is to measure the extent that a small business organisation who supplies an essay or written work upon instructions from a student in substitution for money may be liable under the law that is criminal of and Wales for an offence under the Fraud Act 2006 (The Act) (UK Government 2006). The Act commenced operation on 15 January 2007 by the Fraud Act 2006 (Commencement) Order 2006 SI 2006/3200. The Act pertains to offences committed wholly on or after 15 January 2007 and extends to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In August 2016 great britain regulator of Higher Education, the Quality Assurance agency, considered all approaches to deal with contract cheating, a problem which they stated “poses a critical risk towards the academic standards as well as the integrity of UK higher education” (QAA 2016). Their consideration of possible legal approaches under existing law concluded that the Fraud Act was the “nearest applicable legislation”, but they failed to reach a company conclusion on its use, stating that “Case law appears to indicate a reluctance on pay for papers the area of the courts to be concerned in cases involving plagiarism, deeming this to be a matter for academic judgement that falls outside the competence of this court (Hines v Birkbeck College 1985 3 All ER 15)” (QAA 2016).

The QAA state that the UK 2006 Fraud Act is “untested in this context” in their conclusion. Here we explore the detail of the Fraud Act further, and compare it to the established business practises of UK-registered essay-writing companies, with a focus that is particular their conditions and terms.