Some tough lessons about how to pay for a driving school | Motoring

In 2021 we gave our 17 year old a voucher for lessons at Ooosh! Driving school and paid £600 by bank transfer. Shortly after, instructor Mike Vallis said there had been a “family tragedy” and he would not be able to start classes for several weeks. After a few months we tried to contact him but he was unavailable.

Oooh! said he was dropped because he was unreliable. It eventually arranged another instructor but said we would have to pay again as the fees are paid directly to the instructors. Since April we have been trying to get a refund of our initial £600 from Ooosh! and Vallis.
SH, Omeath, County Louth

You say you chose Ooosh! because it is a well known name in the North West of England where you lived at the time and offers courses across the country. You trusted the brand.

What you didn’t know is that most driving schools are franchises. Clients’ contracts are with individual instructors, who pay the school a fee for using their name.

They didn’t know this because the terms and conditions on the Ooosh! Website didn’t mention anything about it. In fact, they specifically referred to the school’s responsibility when a lesson is postponed. They say that no terms and conditions were attached to the voucher.

Jamie Traynor, CEO of Ooosh!, tells me he’s helped “over 70” other customers get a refund from Vallis. “The school doesn’t manage any money, all the teachers are self-employed and handle the students’ payments,” says Traynor. “We vet instructors thoroughly and Mike initially had a good relationship with his students, but then we started getting complaints that he was unreliable.”

Traynor insisted the terms and conditions were clear, although the reference to the school’s responsibilities has since been removed.

When I located Vallis, he claimed he had unknowingly overbooked his schedule and was unable to fulfill or refund the lessons clients had paid for.

He said he also failed through his instructor training three times, blaming Ooosh! for failing to look after him. “I firmly intend to reimburse SH if I had the money, but it has affected my mental health and I am unable to work,” he said.

It may come as a surprise that prospective instructors are allowed to provide paid instruction before they pass their proficiency tests, provided they are registered as prospective driving instructors (PDI) in the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) database. .

Customers who have concerns about a prospective or approved instructor can complain to the DVSA, who can ban them from teaching if they are found to have broken any regulations. However, the DVSA can only investigate against registered instructors and Vallis’ PDI registration has expired. Nor is it authorized to enforce refunds.

People can go the small claims route. But that opens a new can of worms. If a district court judgment is won, it may not be enforceable if the person does not have sufficient assets. However, according to Gary Rycroft, consumer advocate and partner at Joseph A Jones, there could be a lawsuit against Ooosh! come.

“The school’s argument that it is acting only as an intermediary is undermined by the terms and conditions indicating that it is an active party in the provision of services under the contract,” he said. “On the face of it, an argument that she is not responsible for the performance of the contract would fail.”

Learner drivers should attempt to pay by credit card so that they can make claims under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act to their bank in the event of a breach of contract. Debit card payments may be protected by the voluntary chargeback system. Most importantly, learners ensure they choose an approved instructor from the DVSA database.

But here’s another surprise. Instructors may choose not to appear on the online database, so anyone wanting to verify an individual who does not appear will have to call the DVSA and endure their automated queuing system.

Why? The DVSA declined to say but they have informed me that they have recently been consulted on possible changes in the release of this information.

On track for good news

It’s healthy for our collective blood pressure to hear from companies that show they value their customers:
I bought my friend a small box of chocolates from Hotel Chocolat. When we opened them later in the day some had melted. I messaged the company on Instagram and within an hour they had apologized. A voucher arrived the next day that exceeded the cost of the original box!
BL, Exeter

I bought a Wilkinson Sword 10 year guarantee pruning shears for £40 two years ago. They developed a bug and I contacted EP Barrus who owns the brand. I received a response within an hour and a replacement three days later.
Stroud NP, Gloucestershire

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