Private schools should be allowed to set their fees in a free market, an education official said yesterday. Principal education officer Ruth Lau Wing-mun said it would be difficult to set a ceiling for tuition fees of private schools. She said students and parents should shop around. Ms Lau met representatives from the Democratic Party yesterday and promised to investigate cases brought to her. Party staff phoned 14 private schools which placed advertisements offering Form Five classes, with tuition fees ranging from $700 to $2,500 a month. They found only four followed education regulations and charged students fees by the month. Four schools demanded enrolment or reservation fees and the remaining schools asked for payments for two to three months in advance. The Democratic Party called on the department to tighten rules and consider setting maximum chargeable fees.