Surrey online tutoring service disappears, leaving parents scrambling

SURREY — A Surrey online tutoring service quietly shut its doors late last year, leaving some parents wondering where to turn for help.

Jason Chorney signed up with School Wizard Inc. last year for a tutoring software package for his two teenage daughters, who were struggling in school.

Chorney said he didn’t notice a difference in his daughters’ grades a year later and tried to take advantage of School Wizard’s one-year money-back guarantee.

He found the company’s phone number had been disconnected and no one was answering his emails. When he called the help line, he was told School Wizard had closed down. No one seemed to be able to tell him where to go for a refund.

“I’m frustrated,” Chorney said Wednesday. “I’d rather take that money and put it into something that will help my kids.”

Chorney’s not the only person who’s had issues with School Wizard over the past year.

The Better Business Bureau has received 12 complaints. Two of those have been resolved, but 10 complaints remain outstanding because the BBB failed to get a response from the business.

Eight complaints deal with problems with the product or service, while two are guarantee or warranty issues.

A complaint filed in April states that the user tried to get money back, but found the business was closed.

“We paid $7,000 for this program and they just took our money and ran away,” the person wrote.

Another person had a similar complaint: “According to the contract we have an option to cancel the services after a year if we are not satisfy (sic) but there is no response from the company or their representative to solve the problem.”

Clients have also filed three small-claims cases in provincial court asking for refunds for different reasons.

“We want to cancel this program because of the lack of help it gives my son and because of having a single-family income,” Lakshmi Perera wrote in her claim. “Our repeated attempts to contact members of School Wizard resulted with no response.”

In another case, School Wizard was ordered to pay a Surrey couple more than $7,000 because no one from the business showed up at a mediation hearing.

According to B.C. Registry Services, School Wizard is registered in Ontario and is still an active company. However, attempts by The Province to contact the people listed as representatives on the registration were unsuccessful.

School Wizard’s office in Surrey has no signage, the blinds are closed and the door is locked. The phone line is not in service, but the website is still up and running.

A Vancouver company has taken over customer and support services for School Wizard, answering emails and taking calls on the toll-free help line.

AcademyOne Learning, which is not affiliated with School Wizard in any way but uses the same tutoring software, was asked to take care of School Wizard’s customers beginning last December, and despite reported issues a representative said the transition has been smooth.

“School Wizard made arrangements to ensure that families will continue to get the same programs and services they have paid for,” said AcademyOne CEO Mark Neil. “At no stage has client support provided been compromised.”

When asked why School Wizard’s customers hadn’t been informed of the office closing, Neil said there has been no disruption in service.

Neil said School Wizard closed “for personal reasons” and is not bankrupt. Those seeking refunds under the one-year money-back guarantee can submit their requests to AcademyOne for assessment.

“If there is a legitimate claim there they will get their money back,” Neil said.

For more stories from the Province, click here.

jensaltman@theprovince.com

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