More than 500 student drivers who paid in advance for classes are grounded for now after their driving schools closed without warning.
The Automatic Driving School, with locations in Dallas, Richardson and Mesquite, along with the co-owned Rockwall Heath Driving School in Rockwall, closed last week, according to the Texas Education Agency.
"We'll have to pay another school because they're not going to offer it for free," said parent Sharon Rush.
She paid $375 to send her daughter to the Dallas location at Audelia Road and LBJ Freeway.
"And there wasn't even a sign on the door until several days later," Rush said.
Now, fliers from the TEA are available at the Dallas location telling customers that school records have been seized. The TEA will send letters to students by the end of October with information about how to complete courses at other schools, the fliers say.
The TEA is hoping to offer refunds from the schools' surety bonds, but spokeswoman Suzanne Marchman in Austin said there may not be enough money to cover all 520 students who were enrolled.
Jeanette Kopko, of the Dallas Better Business Bureau, said customers who paid with a check or debit card would have trouble seeking refunds from the company. But those who paid with a credit card may have some hope.
"There are some rights that you have with your credit card if you don't receive the product or service or it's not right," Kopko said. "You can dispute it directly with the bank."
The BBB had graded Automatic Driving School with an "A," because until recently it had satisfactorily answered customer complaints.
But Kopko said new complaints were pending against the company.
"In June, we heard from someone who said the school was operating without lights and electricity, and they were concerned about that," she said.
Kopko said a parent complained last week that instructors did not show up for class.
"They looked inside and saw the place was empty and maybe they had moved out."
The Automatic Driving School's Web site says the company is under new management. But phones ring without an answer.
No one with the company could be reached for comment.
The flier from the TEA said students and parents can call 512-936-0215 for more information. The TEA also lists licensed commercial driver-education schools on its Web site.