A Driving Instructor's Blog

DVSA

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Old story from 2011. DSA is now DVSA, but the warning is still valid. Go to gov.uk and book your test there.


An email from the DSA:

Unofficial driving test booking websites: advice for customers

Directgov is the only official driving test booking website.

Other websites offer driving test booking services, but might charge extra administrative fees on top of the Driving Standards Agency’s (DSA) fee. Those websites are not run by or connected to DSA or Directgov.

DSA recommends that all learner drivers book their driving test through the official booking service on Directgov by visiting direct.gov.uk/drivingtest

If you have used an unofficial website

DSA gets complaints from customers who have used unofficial booking websites. In most cases these websites are doing nothing illegal. This means that DSA’s powers to respond may be limited.

If you have used an unofficial booking website, you might have seven working days to cancel your order and get all your money back. However, this will depend on the terms and conditions of the website you used.

You can find more information about your consumer rights on Directgov. You can also use template letters to complain to businesses. Each letter includes details of the law that you want the trader to follow.

  • Internet, mail order and telephone shopping
  • Making a complaint – what to do first
  • Create a complaint letter from a template

What DSA is doing about unofficial booking websites

DSA takes consumer protection very seriously. So, DSA is:

a) protecting its trademarks to make sure they are not:

  • used to advertise unofficial booking sites in search engine results
  • used as part of website addresses for unofficial booking websites

b) asking the Advertising Standards Authority to make sure unofficial booking websites are following the rules in the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing

c) asking local Trading Standards to investigate those unofficial booking websites that appear to be misleading consumers

What DSA is doing to promote the official booking service

DSA makes improvements based on learner drivers’ feedback to promote the official booking service. For example DSA:

  • made sure that the official Directgov website pages appear at the top of search engine results where possible
  • created videos showing how to use the practical test booking service – videos are being developed for the theory test booking service too
  • reminded learner drivers on Twitter and Facebook about using the official booking service on Directgov

What approved driving instructors (ADIs) can do

DSA is encouraging ADIs to remind their trainees to use the official booking service by visiting direct.gov.uk/drivingtest.

If ADIs run their own websites they can also link to the official booking service. The best links to put on your website are:

  • direct.gov.uk/booktheorytest – Book an official DSA driving theory test
  • direct.gov.uk/bookpracticaltest – Book an official DSA practical driving test

There is also a Facebook page about it.

I’ve had the proper links on here for some time on my Information Page, along with a lot of other useful stuff.

I was talking to a pupil the other day – one who had taken their theory test before coming to me – and he reckoned he’d paid £70 for his test! It costs £31 through DSA – and I charge £6.50 for a copy of Driving Test Success (DVD ROM), which is the ONLY thing you need in order to revise for the test. if you pay any more than that you’ve been had.

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This is a very old story from 2010.


I caught an episode of Rip Off Britain on BBC One this morning, and it was laying into trainee driving instructors. You can watch the episode in question on BBC iPlayer for a limited time.

Rip Off BritainThis episode focuses on transport, though it is worth bearing in mind that Rip Off Britain is one of those BBC shows aimed at old(er) people who fancy a moan about something.

At 2:00 into the programme there is a segment about the average comprehensive insurance quote being over £1,000, and then it homes in on an old couple who contacted the show about “their grandson, Josh”. They say “he’s a good boy”, so it must be the insurance companies who have it wrong, eh? Just as a reality check, my insurance is less than £300 a year on my private car, and has been for many years.

Grandad became Josh’s driving instructor (they are seen moving off and driving around without any L plates at all on display). And Grandad’s logic about how those who have never had a claim (his learner grandson) shouldn’t be penalised, when the statistics show that 17 year old males (like his learner grandson) are a major risk is seriously flawed. And keep showing said grandson on the Go-kart track racing around is just further reason why 17 year old males ARE such a risk. Attitude.

I wish old people would get it through their heads: just because he/she is YOUR grandson (or granddaughter) doesn’t mean he/she is different to anyone else’s grandson (or granddaughter). He or she is more likely to be the same as most other people of the same age group.

At 22:00 into the programme, they have a segment on “scam” theory test websites (they have a thing about scam sites, and educating older people to use the Internet wisely). I’ve mentioned these sites on this blog previously.

In a nutshell, don’t book your theory (or practical) test through anything other than the official DSA (now, DVSA) website. There’s not much more you can say – and it doesn’t matter how “unfair” it is (according to one of the interviewees). What those websites are doing is not illegal, although it is morally questionable.

The segment on trainee instructors/PDIs is at 29:56 into the programme. Apparently, 1 in 10 learner drivers in the UK is being taught by a PDI, and it costs “most people around £1,600” to learn to drive. The show then homes in on a young girl who signed up with “a well known school” (I note that her offside wing mirror was gaffer-taped on) to learn.

Her tale centres on her instructor not being professional, using his mobile phone, and not turning up sometimes. She claims she didn’t learn much and her confidence was low (as you will see, it turns out her instructor was a PDI).

Now, I don’t want to take anything away from what she says, but all those things can happen with a fully-qualified instructor. And they do happen.

Pink or Green?The programme’s main thrust, though, is the fact that learners pay full lesson prices to train with PDIs. There is also the claim made that PDIs are told to try and conceal the “pink” badge from their pupils with one large school, at least.

It is made clear that charging full price is not against any rules or laws, and it appears that all schools who use PDIs do charge full price. The AA, who only uses qualified ADIs, claims that you’re 25% less likely to pass your driving test if you’ve been taught by a PDI. BSM reckons that pupils taught by its PDIs have a pass rate 10% above the “DSA national average”.

The young girl “reckons” that schools are responsible for letting people know they are being trained by a PDI and for charging appropriately.

What puzzles me is how much they should charge. Half price keeps being mentioned, but why? Why “half price”? If you get taught by someone who turns out to be crap just because they are a PDI, why stop at half price? Why not totally free? After all, over 70% of them won’t make it to become ADIs anyway, so they will always be substandard in the end.

At 35:20 they carry out an interview with the DIA. Basically:

  • ask to see the badge of your instructor: if it’s green, he’s qualified; if it’s pink, he’s a trainee
  • ask his grade: 5 or 6 is good
  • there is nothing wrong with the PDI system as such
  • it isn’t properly supervised. THAT’S the problem
  • driving schools shouldn’t be charging the full rate for lessons with a PDI

I have my own views. I didn’t go via the PDI route, but I know a lot of people who did and who became ADIs using it. I find that a lot of ADIs change their tune once they qualify – they might do the PDI route, or use the hated Red Driving School, and yet even before the examiner’s signature has dried on their Part 3 pass certificate they’re at Red’s throat and vehemently anti-PDI or anti-anyone else wanting to become ADIs.

I have always been wary of the PDI route, because as I mentioned earlier, with only around 10% of people who set out to become ADIs making it (less than 30% of those who get to Part 3 pass that), PDIs teaching learners just doesn’t make sense. And yes, it isn’t supervised properly, so many PDIs end up using the pink badge as a way of making money and not learning – which is totally against what it is supposed to be for.

Edit: I notice this is cropping up on various forums now. Some ADIs are wetting themselves over it – but they all fail to appreciate that what the programme was trying to show (i.e. charging full price for trainee instructors) is not what they want to believe (i.e. that all PDIs are bad and any company who uses them is also bad). It’s another example of ADIs twisting every detail to fit in with their own biased opinions.

The programme didn’t specifically state that any of the learners mentioned were using BSM, but the self-styled “experts” are making all sorts of stupid claims and statements on the forums. One says:

That the first time i had seen BSM pointing out that it majority instructors are not fully qualify (sic).

I didn’t hear any of that when I watched it. Another – who apparently went down the PDI route with BSM – says:

Anyway, lets hope that the long awaited reform on pink licences is just around the corner. I guess then we will see the demise of B$M.

They’re on a different planet! And they call themselves “experts”.

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