Scrutinise your Driving School

14/11/2017 12:31

Knowing how to drive and having a license is an essential requirement in people’s life. Whether it is for business or personal use this often involves seeking the services of a driving school.

Without a doubt, there are numerous driving schools operating all over Fiji, some with unreasonably high teaching fees. The driving school fees can range from $500-$750 for training the learners till they secure a driving license or on an hourly rate of $30 to $40 per hour. The duration taken by many is approximately three - four weeks to prepare the learners for a drive test with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to obtain a provisional drivers licence.

With such high costs associated with driving schools, consumers when selecting one need to be informed what price they will be paying for the driving course. In other words, the driving schools need to outline their costs for manual driving classes and automatic driving classes as the costs vary. The Council, through its findings, has ascertained that the cost of teaching manual driving is approximately $100 more than the cost of teaching automatic driving.

Consumers who choose to learn manual driving, need to get their values worth. However, some driving instructors tend to charge consumers for the manual driving lessons, but teach them automatic driving skills.

The Council’s National Consumer Helpline recently received one such complaint from a frustrated consumer who paid for manual driving lessons but was taught driving in an automatic car.

Ricky engaged the services of a driving school in the Central Division to learn manual driving at a cost of $550. During initial discussions with the main instructor, everything seemed fine and Ricky did not see the need do any further background check on the driving school to gauge whether their services were satisfactory or not. Unfortunately, Ricky was in for a surprise ride when he started with his driving classes.

Every time the driving instructor came to pick Ricky for the driving classes, he brought an automatic vehicle. Due to this, Ricky had no choice but to engage in automatic driving classes. Initially, he thought that this was a normal practice whereby the instructor would start with the automatic driving lessons and gradually proceed to manual driving lessons. However, after two weeks, Ricky realised that manual driving lesson will not be offered. He then questioned the instructor as to when he will be taught manual driving. The instructor advised him that he will teach automatic for one month, followed by manual driving for two days.

Such an explanation from the instructor frustrated Ricky who had paid the required sum to learn manual driving and not automatic. He then lodged his complaint with the Council. The Council liaised with the Driving School who agreed to teach manual driving lessons to Ricky.

In another interesting case the complainant paid $300 upfront to a driving school as a deposit for her daughter’s driving lessons. After receiving the payment, the driving instructor delayed the teaching process. On a few occasions the complainant was informed that the vehicle to be used for the lessons had broken down while at other times the driving instructor claimed that he was out of town.

Seeing such attitude, the complainant lodged her complainant demanding full refund of $300. The Council’s intervention led to the complainant getting a full refund of the deposit sum paid.

In light of such cases, the Council calls on consumers to pay heed to some key factors before engaging a driving school. Consumers should:

  • Search for driving schools which are approved and certified by the LTA. If need be, seek second opinion from family and friends who may have used the services of that driving school.
  • Check the experience of the instructor you hire. Experience makes a great impact in teaching driving lessons.
  • Negotiate the driving school fees based on what you already know.
  • Clarify the time, place of pick up and the duration of lesson per day.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for a better quality of vehicle for your driving lessons. Sometimes, driving schools have old cars that are not functioning well.
  • Ascertain the payment breakdown. For example, the deposit sum to be paid upfront and the remaining to be paid after completion of course.
  • Ensure theory part of the driving lessons is conducted in a classroom as it is a mandatory requirement.
  • Do not wait too long to raise concerns against the driving instructor should you be dissatisfied with the services. Be prompt and get the matter addressed.

Remember a bad driving school will do more damage than good and consumers need to exercise their responsibility in reporting against unethical driving schools