A Vancouver city councillor says he wants to crack down on companies that sell custom essays for university courses – but admits there might not be much they can do if there’s no law prohibiting the practice.

Kerry Jang said he saw the CTV News investigation into businesses that apear to be helping university students, and was shocked that one had a business licence in Vancouver.

“The fact that the CTV story has brought this to our attention, we’ll be checking more carefully, we’ll flag that business,” he said, referring to the company Essay Experts, which has a storefront on 7th Avenue and Cambie St in Vancouver, and on Yonge St in Toronto.

“But our problem is this is not illegal in Canada. Under what basis can a city pull its license?” he asked.

University professors also asked the provincial government to provide some kind of legal framework to make the process illegal. While universities are able to discipline the student, they’re powerless against companies that operate off campus.

“I, like many other faculty members, am outraged by it,” said Simon Fraser University’s Rob Gordon. “They’re ripping off the system.”

But the province’s new advanced education minister, John Yap, refused an interview request. He sent a statement simply saying that it’s up to the post-secondary institutions.

“Post-secondary institutions are responsible for the academic integrity within their institutions,” he said in a statement e-mailed to CTV News.

CTV’s Investigators sent an intern with a hidden camera into the Vancouver and Toronto offices of Essay Experts, which calls itself Canada’s number one essay writing service and says its essays are original and custom tailored to a student’s needs.

The intern was offered prices around $170 for a six-page first-year Shakespeare essay. The intern signed an agreement at the Vancouver office that said the essays can only be used for research and cannot be handed in as is.

But during the meeting in Vancouver a different impression emerged.

“Can I get into trouble for handing this in?” our intern asked.

“No, you will not get into trouble,” the staff member said. “We do this all the time, no only for undergraduate, we do this for graduate students as well, for Ph. D. and Master’s.”

The employee also offered some advice.

“This is a legal business for us,” he said. “You get the paper delivered to you, at a bare minimum you got to change at least three words. Then you can put the cover page on it and all that stuff, so we’re in good legal standing.”

In Toronto, Essay Experts didn’t ask our intern to sign anything. She warned that her professor was a hard marker.

“What happens if they are suspicious? Could I get into trouble?” our intern asked.

“It’s only if they’re familiar with your way of writing we recommend reworking it in your own words, but if she hasn’t seen anything, it’s very unlikely,” the staff member said.

When the papers were graded by UBC English professor Tiffany Potter, she found an incorrect historical reference and poor grammar. The grades: a C and a C minus.

When contacted by CTV News, Essay Experts management said the incidents in the hidden camera footage do not reflect standard company practice and that the advice given was not correct.