Can I sue ETS for not mailing my GRE scores ?
February 4, 2013 9:37 AM   Subscribe

I know your not my atty but.. OK, my dad thinks I might have a legal case. Is he right, should I pursue this issue or just let it go? And, if I should pursue Long story short, I am applying to graduate programs. To do so, along with applying directly to the university, some programs also require that you apply online with an application service. This is a real $ maker because you most likely pay $60 to Mega University and another $45 to Application Service.

For my program, I am also required to submit my GRE test scores, which is another $25. GRE scores are obtained through ETS. I paid my fees to ETS ,in total $50, to be sent to two schools. I used the school codes that I was provided from Mega University and Private University. Application Service told me that I should have my scores mailed directly to the schools I was applying to- which I did. I called Mega University and Private University in the summer to see if they received my scores from ETS. They said that they could not let me know until my application was complete with Application Service. Application Service would not let me start my application until the fall. After I finished my application with Application Service, I contacted Mega University and Private University to confirm that my application was complete. They never received my scores! I contacted ETS and they informed me that the scores were mail to Application Service. Application Service says that ETS changed their policy in the summer of 2012 and that they did not have access to my scores. I called Mega University and Private University to confirm the school codes. They said that even though my codes were correct Application Service was provided with my scores and it was their responsibility to forward them on to the schools. As you can see this is a BIG mess and my scores were never sent to the schools. Now I am trying to jump through all kinds of hoops. Now here is the kicker. Since I tested in 2006, my scores are over 5 years old and they have been purged from ETS' database, in other words, they are saying they have no record of me and my scores. Some schools will accept a scanned copy of my scores and I am hoping it will not negatively impact my application for admission. So hivemind is this a legal case against ETS?
posted by TRUELOTUS to Law & Government (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
To clarify, you asked ETS to send your scores to Schools A and B, but ETS actually sent them to Application Service anyway?

Do you have a record of asking ETS to send scores to schools A and B?
posted by katrielalex at 9:49 AM on February 4, 2013

I am an attorney but I am not your attorney and this is not legal advice. You should talk to a qualified attorney in your jurisdiction.

You may have a case against ETS for some kind of breach of contract, but it seems to me that your damages are fairly speculative. (I.e., you can't prevail upon ETS to make a university to admit you / give you a stipend &c., and it will be difficult to prove economic damages such as lost wages &c. since many people drop out of programs, grades may impact wages, and so on.) I would be surprised if an attorney took your case on contingency, which means that I imagine you will have to pay the attorney up front to work on your case for you.

Accordingly, it is worth considering two questions.

1) What is the outcome you hope litigation would achieve? (Do you want a bunch of money from ETS? Do you just want them to release your old test scores to schools? Do you want to be able to take the test again for free?)

2) Is litigation going to be the best, and cheapest, way to achieve that outcome?

I don't meant to answer your question with a question, but the only other way I can think to answer is to remind you, again, that you should talk to a qualified attorney in your jurisdiction.
posted by gauche at 9:49 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wait... why did ETS send the scores to the application service when you wanted them sent to the colleges?
posted by atrazine at 9:49 AM on February 4, 2013

Wait... when did you request the scores be sent? If you tested in December 2006, five years ran out in December 2011. Is it clear that scores from 2006 would be accepted for an application read in 2013?
posted by hoyland at 10:20 AM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Since I tested in 2006, my scores are over 5 years old and they have been purged from ETS' database


I have quoted what I think is the key issue. According to your question, ETS would have purged your scores sometime in 2011. You are applying to schools now in 2013, so there would have been no scores for ETS to forward to anyone. It would have been impossible for them to be negligent in sending your scores because there were no scores to send. For this same reason, a quick Google search shows that it is standard for graduate schools not to accept GRE scores that are over five years old.

So, no case for you. You will need to take the GRE again. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if part of the GRE application includes a waiver of claims against ETS for sending scores to schools.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:26 AM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just to clarify, at the time you asked ETS to send the GRE scores, they were within the 5 year window (i.e. before June 30, 2012) before they expired? [FYI, everyone, ETS keeps scores for 5 years of the testing period July 1 - June 30, not 5 years from the day you take it].

Do the universities you applied to have a policy about how old GRE scores can be? I would double check before going further -- I only say this because I used to work in graduate admissions for a short stint, and part of my job was to check people's GRE scores, and we wouldn't accept scores that were invalid from the day the application period begins (for us you could apply only 1 year in advance for the semester you wanted to begin enrollment, so the period begins August __ 2012 for admissions in August 2013, for example. And you couldn't send your scores in before that.)

One thing I don't understand is how ETS even knew to send the scores to Application Service in the first place? At the time, were scores sent to those schools automatically sent to the Service instead? And then the policy changed, and they no longer would do that? And so the Application Service can no longer will forward your scores? Who screwed up, ETS or the Service? To me, it sounds like the problem stems from you trying to send the scores before the application period began to make sure the scores were still valid, and so things got messed up. I don't know if ETS is responsible for that; only a lawyer can tell you.

(But gauche has some good advice for practically thinking about this problem. Grad admissions people are usually pretty nice -- they understand getting in all this application stuff on time is stressful, so hopefully this will work out.)
posted by bluefly at 10:45 AM on February 4, 2013

I am not a lawyer, but I don't see what your damages are in that they don't send out scores older than 5 years and I cannot figure out what you would be asking as a remedy. Would you be suing them in order to get them to send the scores? Are you looking for cash? Maybe cash to pay for a tutoring class like Stanley Kaplan?

But, having said that about the 5 year thing, I may be the exception to the rule, but 22 years ago when I applied for graduate school, my GMATs were a little over 5 years old, and I was able to convince ETS to send them to my applied to schools and get the schools to accept them.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:46 AM on February 4, 2013

Yes, schools WILL accept my scores even though taken in 2006. YES, at the time that I requested scores, they were still valid and ETS had them on file. I contacted ETS before the scores were purged :)
posted by TRUELOTUS at 10:46 AM on February 4, 2013

Why on earth are you jumping straight to thinking about a lawsuit, rather than just trying to negotiate with customer service at ETS? Have you tried that yet? Here's what I'd suggest:

1. Call them up, talk to a human being, ask them to either them to refund the $50 since they didn't deliver your scores as requested (it doesn't matter what they DID do with your scores, it matters that they DIDN'T deliver them to the people you requested), OR re-send your scores.

2. If ETS has, in fact, purged your scores, definitely get that $50 refund, AND THEN ask that they let you re-take the GRE for free to get valid, deliverable scores, as the fact that you need a new set is the result of their error.

3. You can try using social media to pressure them, but frankly, everybody already hates ETS and they have a monopoly, so I wouldn't expect it to be terribly effective.

Also, if you requested that your scores be sent to schools in 2010 (an assumption based on your statement that your scores were valid when requested), have you considered the possibility that the scores may very well have been delivered to, and then purged by, the schools? That when your application wasn't submitted in the same application cycle, the school tossed them, figuring you weren't, in fact, an applicant?
posted by amelioration at 11:03 AM on February 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

Your goal is to get accepted to grad school. Call your grad school admissions office and explain the problem. They will either accept a scanned copy or outline your alternatives. You need to present the problem to the person who can give you what you want - that's the admissions office, not a judge.

It's unclear if ETS sent the scores. It seems possible that the application service received them but didn't have a student file for you yet.
posted by 26.2 at 1:04 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Of course I have called ETS :)
posted by TRUELOTUS at 1:43 PM on February 4, 2013

Seconding 26.2: if the goal is to get into grad school, call the Grad Admissions office at Mega University and Private University and explain the situation to them. If you ask nicely, I bet at least Private University might accept your personal copy of your score - Mega University may have legal constraints. (But be prepared to hear that the score is not admissible as it is too old.)

Sucks about your $50. I'm not sure it is worth your while to pursue that.
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:55 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

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