Driving school doesn't come through on promise

May 6, 2010 7:29:06 PM PDT
This is a story of a woman who speaks little English and was having trouble learning the rules of the road. A driving school catering to immigrants did not help.

When her husband's not home, Nhi Ong has to walk or ride a bus to get around.

She would like to get her driver's license, but as a newcomer who speaks only Vietnamese, it's not so easy.

"I picked up the Vietnamese newspaper, and have heard of the Eagle Driving School advertisement before," Ong said through a translator.

An ad in a Vietnamese newspaper caught her eye. Eagle Driving and Traffic School of Oakland could teach her in Vietnamese. And the price was reasonable; $450 for all the lessons she needed until she received her license.

"I trusted the way the advertisement was presented in this page and called the school myself," Ong said. "Eagle Driving School promised to teach me for three days a week, each day for two hours."

Ong said Eagle school owner Harrison Tran arrived at her home to give her first lesson. She paid him $250 up front. However, she says the lesson lasted just a half hour, and then, no one showed up for her next lesson.

She called to find out what was going on.

"My Eagle Driving School instructor told me over the phone that he will not teach me anymore and will reimburse my money back," Ong said.

However, Ong says the owner didn't come through with the refund.

That's when she and her husband contacted 7 On Your Side and we called Eagle Driving School.

The owner, Harrison Tran, said there was a misunderstanding about the scheduling of lessons. He said he offered a partial refund right after the cancelation on March 10 and the couple refused to take the money .

He even faxed 7 On Your Side a copy of the Western Union money order he says he provided.

However, we checked with Western Union. It said the money order was not purchased until March 15, five days after the couple contacted 7 On Your Side and four days after they sued Tran in small claims court.

"Right now we have an investigative unit that is looking at the driving school to see what kind of violations there are that have occurred," DMV spokesperson Jan Mendoza said.

The DMV has received other complaints against the school too.

"Currently the DMV is investigating Eagle Driving School and if there are any victims out there who feel they didn't get their money's worth," Mendoza said.

Eagle Driving School is licensed by the state, however, it has an "F" rating with the Better Business Bureau. Also, 7 On Your Side found several similar complaints posted online saying Eagle took students' fees and left them stranded.

Ong and her husband were about to go to court when Tran finally mailed them a money order with a partial refund of $176; six weeks after we got involved.

The DMV has a bit of advice for choosing a driving school. Check the state license, check the bond and check with your friends.

"I think word of mouth is the best advertisement a company can have if they're a good reputable company they're getting good reviews," Mendoza said.

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