Essay mills and other contract cheating services: to buy or not to buy and the consequences of students changing their minds

Michael Draper, Thomas Lancaster, Sandie Dann, Robin Crockett, Irene Glendinning

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Very few parts of the world have legislation that prohibits the operation or the promotion of contract cheating services. This means that commercial companies providing such services can formally register and operate in most countries. If a student enters into an agreement with a contract cheating provider, what rights do they have to change their mind and what are the risks if they choose to do so? This paper examines the question through legal, institutional and societal lenses, showing that although a student has the consumer rights to withdraw from a contract with an essay mill, they may also be putting their future at risk by doing so. Contract cheating providers are now embedded within many institutions, using sharp practices to connect with vulnerable customers, but are also perfectly placed to blackmail students or threaten to report them to their institution if they ask to cancel their order. The paper argues that, while not condoning the practice of contract cheating, supportive processes need to be in place to help students at risk as part of standard institutional duty of care. This must be backed up by institutional policy that considers academic integrity as a core value for all.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13
JournalInternational Journal for Educational Integrity
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
None. The authors confirm that this work is original and has not been published elsewhere, nor is it currently under consideration for publication elsewhere.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Consumer rights
  • Contract cheating
  • Contract formation
  • Educational institutional policies
  • Student behaviour

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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