THOUSANDS of learner drivers will get a refund after being overcharged for sitting their driving test.
The Road Safety Authority (RSA) has been charging motorists an increased fee of €85 since last Tuesday because of an administrative cock-up -- even though the new rates were not due to come into force until yesterday.
And the Irish Independent has also learned that the amount charged to take the driver theory test has also increased from €35.60 to €40.60 -- a hike of 14pc.
As a result of the administrative blunder, motorists will be refunded almost €29,000 over the coming days.
The increases are designed to make drivers pay the full cost of completing their tests which are subsidised by the taxpayer at a cost of €20m a year.
The RSA introduced the new fees regime last Tuesday with the cost of sitting a driving test for a car rising from €75 to €85, and for trucks and buses from €110 to €120.
The increase was approved by Transport Minister Pat Carey on January 24, but it was not due to become law until February 1 -- yesterday. During that week, a total of 2,859 motorists applied to sit the test. They will each receive refunds of €10.
The mistake was a serious embarrassment to the new Transport Minister who was just one day into his new job when he signed the order allowing for the increases.
The RSA admitted the "administrative error", saying last night that the introduction of new fees for the driving test was due to come into force on January 25.
However, the statutory instrument signed by Mr Carey making the changes legally binding contained the wrong date -- meaning that drivers were incorrectly charged.
"As a result the RSA will, with immediate effect, refund the increased fee portion of the driving test to all driving test candidates who booked a test between January 25 and January 31," a spokesman said.
"The RSA is committed to providing the highest levels of service to its customers and deeply regrets any inconvenience," the spokesman added.
The price of doing a driving test has risen twice in the last five years. In 2006, it cost €38 to sit a test, which doubled to €75 in April 2009.
The Consumers Association of Ireland said the latest increase in the fees was a blow to consumers.
"Acknowledging the realities of the cost, there's still a cost for consumers who are struggling," chief executive Dermott Jewell said. "A double-digit increase is quite a blow to anybody trying to manage a budget."