Taking driving lessons can be a stressful time.
For reader OU of Northfleet in Kent, there was added stress because she needed to pass her test in a relatively short space of time. That’s because she was applying for a job to start after her university course, which required a driving licence.
Late last autumn, she looked for a suitable driving course that would give her intensive two-hour lessons twice a week to allow her to take her test by the end of March. She chose BSM and that was when her troubles started.
She told me: “When I booked BSM it was suggested I use an instructor who was a PDI (potential driving instructor). I was told he was studying for his driving instructor exam. That seemed fine.”
She handed over around £1,340 in the next three months to pay for the lessons.
But what she hadn’t been told was that there was a huge risk that her instructor would not pass the course and would leave her in the lurch just weeks before her test was due.
That’s exactly what happened. He failed his exam and, as he had twice failed before, was removed from BSM’s books and his BSM instructor car seized.
“When BSM phoned and told me in March, I was left annoyed and confused. How had it left me in this situation?” OU says.
With her test less than three weeks away, she declined BSM’s offer of having another driver and asked for a refund of her remaining already-paid-for lessons. She also asked for compensation for the distress caused.
The company handed back £262 but refused her appeal for compensation. I approached the firm, now owned by the AA, and told them: “My view is that BSM let her down and should apologise and refund her cash.”
In a statement the company said: “We have listened to the initial call when she booked her lessons with us. During this call it was made clear by our call handler that the instructor she was being allocated was a PDI instructor and it was explained that this meant the instructor was one qualification away from being an ADI (approved driving instructor). This training process is endorsed by the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency).
“It is unfortunate that the instructor failed the last part of their qualification and was unable to continue teaching and we are sorry for the inconvenience that this has caused.”
That’s all very well, but OU says it wasn’t made clear that there was a high risk that the instructor would fail the exam, given they had already failed two. Further, she says a BSM member of staff “admitted that BSM does not check or ask their PDIs how many attempts they had for the Part 3 [exam] before assigning them to learner drivers, despite knowing that three failures means they have to disrupt learner drivers through removing the PDI from their books.” She reckons: “This is very irresponsible and short-sighted,” and I agree.
BSM refused to return the cash OU had paid for the lessons she took. Its reasoning: “At no point did she raise concerns about the standard of the tuition she received, so we are unable to refund any of the lessons that she received.”
However, it offered her two free lessons as an act of goodwill. When she pointed out she wanted to avoid BSM in the future, it agreed to switch the goodwill offer to £50 cash, which she accepted.
But she was understandably far from pleased.
“Not only has this ordeal affected my confidence in driving, but it may have a negative effect on me career-wise and, therefore, financially,” she said.
It’s a shame BSM didn’t refund the cost of lessons, as I believe it failed to provide OU with the full services she had paid for.
Notwithstanding that, I hope in future it finds out how many times its potential driving instructors have failed their exams and pass that information on to learners so they can make informed choices about whether it’s worth the risk.
Anyone thinking of using BSM should certainly check the facts to avoid potential future distress.
OUTCOME: Reader gets disappointing £50 goodwill payment