Tens of thousands of students waited months for their student cards this autumn and lost their student discounts in the meanwhile. Despite the delay, the money paid by most of the students will not be returned.
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Almost all students got their student cards late this autumn. Almost 3000 students had to wait for their cards for several months. The cards which were severely late were mostly cards with a payment function.
The delays have affected, for instance, the discounts students without cards were able to get. The Student Union of the University of Jyväskylä (JYY) negotiated with Sonaatti and Ilokivi that students could prove their student status with the certificate of registration only.
The National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL), on the other hand, negotiated the cardless students the right to travel by train or by bus with the certificate of registration only. This right lasted, however, only until the end of September, and most of the cards arrived in October. To be able to get the student discount, traveling students needed to buy VR’s ans Matkahuolto’s own student card.
“This has caused confusion especially among the exchange students. At least one was nearly thrown out of the train and some have been threatened with fines”, office secretary Maija Valkeapää from JYY says.
JYY was in September one of the first student unions to receive student cards.
“Nevertheless, the delay has affected students’ lives a lot, and it deprives them of their right to receive many discounts meant for students”, Valkeapää says.
The problems started as the student card service was transferred to a new producer. Last May, the student-owned student service Frank bought Lyyra, which used to produce the student cards. Frank, on the other hand, buys the card services from Elisa.
There have been problems with the programming of the system, which was not ready as it was opened for use in August. In addition, the press was not prepared for the large amount of orders for international payment (ISIC) cards.
“The problems were altogether caused by the new delivery process, the mistakes of which were difficult to repair on the run”, explains Mikko Jauhiainen, Head of Frank.
The situation has troubled students a lot, and JYY’s office secretary has had plenty of visitors because of the problems. Valkeapää says that most of the students have taken the situation calmly. She can, however, also understand the sharp comments from students frustrated by the situation.
According to Jauhiainen, the money students have paid for the student cards will not be returned. Small compensations, however, will be given. All students who ordered their cards before the second week of September and who received their cards in October at the earliest, are going to get a gift certificate for a cruise.
“Of course, those exchange students who do not need the card anymore get their money back. But the students who will be using the cards from here on cannot get full compensations”, Jauhiainen says.
International students have had even more trouble with the cards than Finnish students.
Behind this is the system where students could choose between three different card types, of which two, including the ISIC-card, were also payment cards. Foreign students were advised to choose the card without the payment function, since the two other ones required the student to have a Finnish social security number. Because many foreign students nevertheless wanted the ISIC-card, problems occurred.
Getting the Finnish social security number and updating the information for the student register is a complicated process, where errors could occur at many different levels and the card order got easily stuck in the system. In addition, some of the international students gave the system wrong information when applying for the card. Valkeapää could not access the applications’ information in the new system, and could therefore only guess at what the trouble was.
Valkeapää hopes that Frank’s problems will be resolved by next autumn.
“It feel bad not to be able to do anything. When something goes wrong, everything goes wrong.”
According to Jauhiainen, all cards should now have been delivered to the student unions. At the moment, people in Frank are working to improve the system for next autumn. They are, for example, planning a tool which will enable the student unions to follow the card orders.
In addition to the delays, students have been angry about Elisa’s customer service, which is subject to a charge and has not been able to answer the students’ questions. Also Jauhiainen admits the failure.
“We failed, for instance, precisely in customer service. But now all defects and technical problems should have been solved”, he says.