INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- An Indianapolis man says an online defensive driving course crashed as he attempted to take it, and then he had trouble contacting the company to request a refund.
Ricky Wilkinson contacted CBS4 Problem Solvers for help. Wilkinson had to take a defensive driving class because of points on his license, and he picked up a piece of paper from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles with a list of approved programs.
Wilkinson said he picked Indiana Online Driver Improvement off the list and paid $35 to take a class online. With about an hour left in the program, Wilkinson said the website crashed and he couldn't figure out how to restore it. He ended up going to an in-person class through another company in order to meet his deadline, but he wanted a refund from the online class.
"Maybe 30 dollars doesn’t seem like much to some folks, but to me it’s out of my food budget," Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson told CBS4 he tried a number posted to the company's website, as well as an address found under the "Contact Us" tab. He couldn't get through on the number and at the address, he found no one staffing the office so he left notes.
"The first letter, I stuck (on) the door. The second letter, I put it in an envelope and I stuck it under the door," Wilkinson said.
CBS4 Problem Solvers also had trouble getting through on the number Wilkinson called. We got a message that said, "The number you have dialed is unallocated." We also found no one at the address. The company's name is on the directory but its corresponding office is an unmarked, locked door.
We tried another phone number we found on the website and did get through to a representative, who said he would close Wilkinson's account and issue a refund.
"You don’t need to worry about anything, we are going to submit his request," the representative said.
Given all the trouble, though, we contacted the BMV and the company's CEO Jeff Pairan. We also requested a copy of the contract Indiana Online Driver Improvement has on file with the state.
Pairan's company, American Safety Council, recently bought Indiana Online Driver Improvement. He and a BMV spokesperson both said the address is meant to be a mailing address only. They also said that, in part because of our inquiry, the company discovered a problem with its phone system.
"We believe that there were about eight to 10 days of intermittent service," Pairan said.
Since CBS4 Problem Solvers started investigating this story, the phone number on the website has changed and is now working properly.
Pairan also ensured that Wilkinson received his refund.
"We've always had a 100 percent satisfaction policy in terms of refunds, no questions," Pairan said.
The company is contracted through the state through August of 2018. It does not receive state money, but instead the contract allows it to offer the approved online classes to Hoosiers and sets a limit on how much it can charge.
Wilkinson said he's happy to have his refund, and to know that changes were made to make it easier for the next customer after him.
"It wouldn’t have happened without your help," Wilkinson said. "Just follow up, don’t let go, because they owe you what you paid for. Whether it’s in person or online, you should get what you paid for."