Not aibu but have I been scammed?

(18 Posts)
monkeymamma Thu 12-Nov-15 09:59:01

I have failed my driving test several times despite being actually a very competent driver outside of test conditions. To say I'm desperate to pass is an understatement (mainly tbh the reason for so many fails - I put stupid amounts of pressure on myself). I have young children and elderly parents and hate the thought of not being able to get to them when they need me.

I decided an intensive course might help and signed up to a company online called one week driving. The deal was to book a week that suited you, pay most of the money upfront (£300ish in my case) and give the rest (£200 ish) to the instructor on the week itself. I booked and paid, then got an email to confirm which said something along the lines of 'don't book any time off work until you hear from the instructor'. When I checked the faq section it's obvious you don't get confirmation of the dates etc until the week before. I panicked then as dh (like its people surely??!) has a two week notice period on time off where it's a whole week. (I need dh to have the week off to look after dc). This is the dodgy (?) bit. I phoned and was put on hold for nearly two hours, still no answer. Lots of reference to their 'live chat' feature which also puts you in an unfeasible queue then times out). I emailed and was ignored for a week, no acknowledgment even. When they did get back in touch they said they'd try to get the instructor to get in touch sooner than the week before. No word from them since... And the course is/was (?) due to start on Monday. So they haven't even done what they said in their FAQ section!! I've tried all the usual channels of communication again today, same dead end.

I probably sound paranoid and I realise that if it was a scam it would be a fairly elaborate way to get £300 out of someone! However i can't help feeling that a proper, legitimate company doesn't make itself non-contactable in this way.

However I don't know what I can do about it? I am now a bag of stress and had hoped this would be a less anxiety-inducing way to sit the test. (Wrong!)

(Also have major issues now with getting childcare etc... But I'm so stressed at the actual fact of not being able to get through to this sodding company that I can't even think about that yet!)

VimFuego101 Thu 12-Nov-15 10:00:48

Did you pay on a credit card? They may be able to help you recover the money.

monkeymamma Thu 12-Nov-15 10:02:50

No, vim, it was on debit. I'm more upset about the lost opportunity than the money if that makes sense, feel like I'm running out of options :-(

SoupDragon Thu 12-Nov-15 10:02:55

I would say it does sound like a scam.

LineyReborn Thu 12-Nov-15 10:04:01

I was also going to ask how you paid.

SoupDragon Thu 12-Nov-15 10:04:57

When you paid by debit card, did you put in all the card details including the 3 digit security number? If so, I think I would contact my bank and have the card cancelled and reissued.

TheOddity Thu 12-Nov-15 10:05:38

I'm not sure if you have been scammed but I think in your situation I would be asking for my money back via email as they have not kept up to their end of the bargain and promise to take them to small claims court and write bad reviews over the internet if they don't get on it within the next 48 hours. And stick to that, I.e. Get proceedings going if you don't hear.
I did an intensive course and failed after already having done the test twice before. The intensive course was worse stress wise for me, as all you think about in the preceding days is driving! If you really want to pass, I'd recommend maybe doing two or three lessons a week, give yourself a good 6 weeks to run up to the test date itself and find a really kind, relaxed, reassuring instructor who will drive you around LOCAL test routes. Knowing the roads and likely pitfalls on those roads is half the battle. You'll get there, it's just harder when there is pressure to pass. Good luck.

monkeymamma Thu 12-Nov-15 10:05:46

Thanks, soup. What should I do?

Whoknewitcouldbeso Thu 12-Nov-15 10:06:45

Have you googled the company and seen if there are other people recognising it as a scam? Otherwise does your local radio station of a consumer program at all? I know ours does and this sounds the perfect story that they would follow up and get answers for you.

DriverSurpriseMe Thu 12-Nov-15 10:08:10

I doubt it's a scam in the traditional sense of the word, but they DO sound incredibly unprofessional and I would no longer want to go ahead with the course.

monkeymamma Thu 12-Nov-15 10:22:30

I can't find anything online about scams associated with the company. I might take Oddity's advice and ask them to respond in 48 hours or go down small claims court route. My spidey sense is saying unprofessional rather than out and out scam, but the awful thing is that I'd still want to try and do the test/lessons if they do sort it in time and I can get childcare. Even if I have to miss a lot of the paid for lessons etc. that's how desperate I am just at another shot of the test. I don't even know which test centre it will be as we're not near one obvious one (I've tried a couple of different ones). I'm due back to work after Mat leave next week so it feels like 'last chance saloon' - which is daft given that I still have to arrange childcare anyway so it's not like I'm 'free' to do it when I am on mat leave!!

monkeymamma Thu 12-Nov-15 10:23:34

If it is a scam I'm royally fucked as they don't just have my card details but passport/ID etc too.

Chchchchangeabout Thu 12-Nov-15 10:26:28

Why would the need your passport and ID??!?

MegCleary Thu 12-Nov-15 10:28:47

03454 04 05 06 Dedicated consumer helpline run by citizens advice they may be able to help. Also as you bought online you may qualify for the 2 weent distance selling act protection period. Your bank may help recover the money if it is a scam. Consumer law changed in oct you have a lot more rights now.

monkeymamma Thu 12-Nov-15 14:41:50

Meg, thanks so much for that. That's really good to know!
Chchchange, it's so they can book the test. In some ways it has helped that this is in their hands. It means I haven't spent six weeks worrying about the test itself (which is what usually happens, as the lead time is so long) because I haven't been sure if it's happening or not!
They have now emailed saying instructor will be in touch by Saturday afternoon latest. In childcare terms this is as good as eff all, as dh's office will be closed at the weekend obviously and he can hardly tell them on monday that he's having the day off!
My expectations of them are now very low but in a strange way it helps - I'm seeing it as an opportunity rather than a pressure if that makes sense.
They are awful and unprofessional though!
(And potentially still a scam - I'll keep you posted!)

AliceInUnderpants Thu 12-Nov-15 15:54:19

Doesn't sound good at all.

Why did you go to an external 'company' for intensive lessons. Did you not talk to your usual driving instructor?

AnchorDownDeepBreath Thu 12-Nov-15 16:01:30

You don't need your passport to book your driving test.

There's usually a few weeks notice needed to book a driving test, like you've said. You can pick up cancellations but they are usually a day or two away, rarely more than that, and if they were aiming to do this, they'd need to do your intensive lessons first so that you have time.

If you fail, you have to wait 10 working days before retaking.

There are one-week driving schools around my area, but you pay the money and then agree a week to take your lessons with the instructor, depending on both of your availabilities. The instructor tries to book the test at the end of the week, if it's booked far enough in advance, or the test takes place as soon as possible after the week and you get a few hours practice the day before.

Not agreeing the dates is confusing. Providing your passport is even more so. They should have just needed your theory test certificate and your provisional license.

goddessofsmallthings Thu 12-Nov-15 16:22:42

Contact your bank asap as a chargeback can be applied to payments that have been made by debit card - see here www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/problem/how-do-i-use-chargeback

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