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

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

Many strategies have already been proposed to deal with the utilization of Essay Mills as well as other ‘contract cheating services that are 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 legal approaches to tackle the issue. Here we determine whether the UK Fraud Act (2006) might be used to tackle some of the activities of companies providing these services in the UK, by comparing their practises that are common and their Terms and Conditions, because of the Act. We discovered that most of the sites examined have disclaimers in connection with use of their products but you can find obvious contradictions in those activities regarding the sites which undermine these disclaimers, for instance all sites offer plagiarism-free guarantees for the work and at least eight have advertising which appears to contradict their conditions and terms. We identify possible areas where the Act could possibly be used to pursue a legal case but overall conclude that such an approach is unlikely to work. We call for a new offence to be created in UK law which specifically targets the undesirable behaviours of the companies into the UK, although the principles could possibly be applied elsewhere. We also highlight other UK legal approaches that may become more successful.


The application of so-called ‘contract cheating’ services by students has been a way to obtain controversy and debate within advanced schooling, particularly into the last decade. ‘Contract cheating’ refers, basically, into the outsourcing of assessments by students, to third parties who complete work with their behalf in return for a fee or other benefit (Lancaster and Clarke 2016). These types of services offer ‘custom assignments’ of nearly every form, although custom written essays look like the most typical. Students are often in a position to specify the grade they need (though there isn’t any guarantee this will be delivered), request drafts, referencing styles and virtually any other custom feature (Newton and Lang 2016). Services available are cheap and quick(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 essay that is‘custom companies’, a lot of whom are ‘listed’ companies with sophisticated advertising campaigns. However there are many ways in which students can use third parties to complete work for them, because of the contract spread across continents; writers may act as freelancers, doing work in a different country into the student and their institution. These freelance writers can make use of online auction services to advertise and organise their work and these might be in yet another country, and there could be another intermediary; someone who receives the order through the student and then posts the work on an auction site (Newton and Lang 2016; Sivasubramaniam et al. 2016). Thus there are multiple actors in contract cheating, one or more of whom might be liable if their actions violate what the law states; students, their universities, the persons tuition that is paying, writers, people who employ writers, the websites which host the writers, advertising companies, those who host the advertising, and so on. Here we focus primarily on UK-registered companies that are essay-writing.

Across education, a student who completes an assessment to earn credit towards an award is usually necessary to achieve this from the explicit basis that the submission is the own work that is independent. Ideally, both students and staff are given guidance in what constitutes misconduct that is academic the consequences of such misconduct (Morris 2015), in a fashion that promotes an optimistic, constructive approach to fostering ‘academic integrity’ (Thomas and Scott 2016). If a student submits work this is certainly shown to comprise, in whole or in part, material which is not their own independent work then that student will normally face a range of penalties, administered by their university, for academic misconduct. In the UK these usually include cancellation of marks for the relevant module or the relevant part of the module susceptible 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 also this applies to plagiarism outside academic circumstances which, in the words of Saunders,”. just isn’t 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 widely used test to make legal decisions is always 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 academic credit it seems logical to conclude that a reasonable person would conclude that such behaviour is ‘fraudulent’, particularly given the language connected with it (e.g. ‘cheating’). If another individual has knowingly assisted in that activity then they might reasonably be thought to have assisted, conspired or colluded in such academic fraud, cheating or dishonesty.

Then it is clear that the student commits academic misconduct, but what of the individual or company that supplied the work in return for payment if a student has purchased written work from another individual or a company for the purpose of passing it off as his or her own work? As to what extent is that individual or company (an ‘assistor’) complicit in such misconduct? What is the potential liability of this assistor and that can action be taken against them? Are the assistors by their action inciting fraud that is academic? Unless the assistor is a student in identical institution an educational institution cannot normally take action from the assistor under internal disciplinary procedures. In addition, as well as perhaps more importantly, will there be the likelihood of fraudulent behaviour when you look at the relationship between the learning student as well as the company?

Broadly, legal wrongs committed in England and Wales might be addressed through the civil or criminal law (UK Government 2016a). An action in civil law is taken by a individual that is wronged their initial cost. This cost can be prohibitive and in addition normally requires the formulation of a claim recognised by the law that evidences loss or injury to the claimant that is individual by the defendant as well as for which an answer is sought. Thus the power of educational institutions (or a student for example) to take action that is civil assistors is limited.

Action in relation to UK law that is criminal normally undertaken by as well as the cost of the state through the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) but requires a criminal offence to have been committed (private prosecutions at private cost are possible but relatively rare). The Code for Crown Prosecutors sets out of the principles that are basic be followed by Crown Prosecutors once they make case decisions. Crown Prosecutors should be satisfied that there surely is evidence that is enough provide a “realistic prospect of conviction” and that it will be the public interest to pursue a prosecution (UK Government 2013).

An objective of this paper is to assess the extent that a company organisation who supplies an essay or written work upon instructions from a student in return for money may be liable under the criminal law of England and Wales for an offence beneath 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 applies to offences committed wholly on or after 15 2007 and extends to England, Wales and Northern Ireland january.

The Quality Assurance agency, considered all approaches to deal with contract cheating, a problem which online homework help they stated “poses a serious risk to the academic standards and the integrity of UK higher education” (QAA 2016) in August 2016 the UK regulator of Higher Education. 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 firm conclusion on its use, stating that “Case law seems to indicate a reluctance from the the main courts to be engaged in cases involving plagiarism, deeming this to be a matter for academic judgement that falls outside of the competence of the court (Hines v Birkbeck College 1985 3 All ER 15)” (QAA 2016).

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

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