Question about the legality of a fee schedule

Not looking for advice, just opinions. The situation is fairly complex and the set up lengthy. Apologies. I appreciate anyone’s input.

Let’s say you have just completed a fairly rigorous training program that will allow you to be a licensed practitioner of X. The license to practice X is issued by The State, simply by virtue of completing the training program. You also wish to obtain certification by the National Board of X (NBX). While this certification is not a legal requirement to practice X, because it is widely viewed as an attestation of competence, and because it is nearly impossible to obtain employment as an X practitioner without it, certification by the NBX is a de facto requirement.

X is a broad field, and for training and certification purposes, it is divided into two general areas, X1 and X2. (This is not the case for licensing, and the license is granted in X generally, which allows one legally to practice both X1 and X2). One can complete training programs in X1 only, X2 only, or a combined X1-2 training program. Likewise, the NBX offers certification in X1 only, X2 only, and combined X1-2.

In order to be eligible for NBX certification, one must complete the appropriate training program. An X1 training program must involve 1 unit of X1 training and 1 unit of training in X generally. Likewise, an X2 training program must involve 1 unit of X2 training and 1 unit of training in X generally. A combined X1-2 training program must involve 1 unit of X1 training, 1 unit of X2 training, and 1 unit of training in X generally. A couple things to note:

(a) By completing combined X1-2 training, one is eligible for certification in combined X1-2, but NOT in X1 AND X2 separately (because in the combined program the required unit of X general training does double duty, so to speak, so if one were to do the certifications separately, one would need an additional unit of X general training); and

(b) If one qualifies for combined X1-2 certification, it is a foregone conclusion that one qualifies for EITHER X1 or X2 certification if either one is done separately.

The process of obtaining NBX certification is: (1) apply for the type of certification you want; (2) have your training credentials evaluated by the NBX to verify that you have completed the required training; and (3) pass an exam. Exams are offered in X1 and X2. If you apply for and are determined eligible for combined X1-2 certification, you must pass both exams.

The fees charged by the NBX, which include the fees for having your credentials evaluated and for taking the exam (although the fees are not itemized), are $1500 for either X1 certification or X2 certification, and $2600 for combined X1-2 certification.

If one applies for and is determined eligible for combined X1-2 certification, then takes both the X1 and X2 exams, and passes one exam and fails the other, one has three options:

(1) Do nothing, and remain certified in nothing.
(2) Retake the failed exam. The fee for doing so is the full single fee, $1500.
(3) Amend your original application for combined X1-2 certification to an application for certification only in the area for which you passed the exam; then your passing score on that exam is applied to the amended application, and you are granted certification in that area only. Note that you are NOT retaking an exam. The fee for that option is $1500.

Thus, considering options (2) and (3), it is apparent that you end up paying the same fee whether you retake an exam or not. In option (3), you end up paying the same fee you would pay if you were to have your credentials evaluated and take a single exam for the first time, even though NEITHER of those activities are required, and you have in fact already paid the fees for both of those activities.

My questions are:

(1) Is this fee schedule legal? (It sounds like double billing.)
(2) Is it ethical?

Thanks again.

It’s pretty hard for a fee schedule to be illegal. You’d have to show how it was fraudulent in its representations, how it discriminates against a protected class or how it violates some other commerce law. I see no reason why any of those apply here.

It’s certainly a good way to be sure that people don’t start by applying for the X1-2 certification unless they really want both. It’s also a good way to be sure that people don’t waste everyone’s time and resources taking tests they aren’t confident of passing. I don’t know the details of testing, but it’s entirely possible the $1500 doesn’t even cover all of the costs. Professional certification tests are not easy/cheap to develop, administer or grade.

Is it ethical? It seems a little punitive for people who take both tests, fail one and then decide to stick with the one they passed. However, since the cost to retake the missed test is the same, it seems like anyone who was serious about getting both certifications is going to retake the test. So… it seems ethical enough to me, as long as the whole system is clearly disclosed up front.

The fee is disclosed, although you really have to look for it, and I agree that it is not discriminatory. But what about the double billing aspect? Does that violate any commerce law?

In my opinion, the fees charged should be commensurate to the services rendered. In this case, the initial services are having your credentials evaluated and taking the exams, and you pay for those services. Later, the services involve having your application amended. I could see tacking on some sort of “administrative fee” for covering the cost of amending the original application. But it is difficult to see how those costs could be equal to the cost of having your credentials evaluated and taking the exam for the first time. It seems unethical to me because (1) the fee for option 3 seems blatantly out of proportion to the services rendered; and (2) a person in that situation has little choice but to pay what ever the NBX demands; there is no competing certification body; this would seem to put an ethical incumbency on the NBX to set fees that are clearly commensurate to the services it renders.

I appreciate that professional certification tests are not easy/cheap to develop, administer or grade. But doesn’t it seem unethical to require people who fail an exam to bear a disproportionate burden in paying for those costs?

Unless the X1-2 was a piece of cake, why would you not certify in X1 then certify in X2; for an extra $400 you avoid the risk of costing $1500.

Not sure how double-X would be required for X1 + X2 training. Sounds weird. “you’re perfectly qualified for X2, except the same X training you took was for X1”???

There are many gates and gatekeepers in certifications and careers. Not all are fair or just and some exist to be punitive because the test givers are trying to keep unqualified applicants from gaming the certification requirements or simply to control admission levels. If the tests themselves are $ 1500 a pop that’s a fairly ferocious test fee unless the test is very involved or resource intensive in it’s requirements, so I’m assuming this is a fairy remunerative or desirable profession with high walls.

Going to war about the legality of a fee schedule on the front end of getting your certifications and docs is not an overly bright move. Suck it up and move on.

In the combined training program you only take 1 unit of general X. If you apply for X1-2 certification, that unit overlaps to fullfil the X1-2 requirement. But if you apply for only one, say X1, certification, then in effect you’ve cashed in that unit of general X training and can’t use it for a future X2 application.

Screwy? Yes. Reality? Yes.

That’s the way life is. Life isn’t fair. “Suck it up and move on.”

I can and do accept all this. I’d like to think I know enough to know I have no choice.

I’m just wondering what people think about it.

Thank you for taking the time to it read through and respond. That alone goes a long way towards helping me suck it up and move on.