Transport for London unmoved on issue of equality

It’s 2018 and 8 years since the implementation of the Equality Act 2010. You may be forgiven for thinking that companies and organisations had got their act together and were ensuring that all services were accessible. However, recent investigations into London Underground (LU) show there is much work to be done to improve services.

Let’s loAlison dressed in black trouser ad black patterned top with her guide dogok at just one case. Last year Alison travelled from Walthamstow Central to Oxford Circus on the Underground with her sister-in-law Claire. Alison’s guide dog is not escalator trained. At most Underground stations, there is a choice of escalators or stairs. At Oxford Circus there are three escalators but no stairs or lift.  A fellow passenger saw that they needed help and offered her assistance in carrying the guide dog up the escalator.

Claire then went onto St Paul’s where a member of LU staff told her to ‘phone customer services and inform them of time of travel back as it may be possible to stop the escalator so they could walk down. After ten minutes on hold, Claire gave up. At Oxford Circus another member of staff also said it may be possible to stop the escalator but at the discretion of the station manager. Alison needed to get back to Kings Cross but the Station Manager refused to stop the escalator as 5.00pm was a busy period. The nearest station was Green Park and not convenient. Alison and Claire got a cab to Kings Cross where the driver waived part of the fare.

“Switching off one out of three possible escalators to allow a blind passenger with their guide dog to walk down would not have caused any inconvenience to other passengers as they still would have had the option to walk down or wait for an escalator.  The time that it would have taken us to walk down the escalator would have been approximately five minutes, however this was deemed too inconvenient” says Claire.

A recent poll on Facebook showed overwhelmingly that the general public agreed with her. People were asked if they would object to one of the 3 escalators being stopped for five minutes to allow an untrained guide dog and its owner to walk up or down the stairs.

Lots of people on FB saying they would not object to the escalator being stoppedOthers, although significantly outnumbered said they would object were worried about overcrowding and safety, particularly at this station.

FB comment about the station being too busy so would be dangerous from overcrowding

FB comment object to stopping escalator but policy should be clear

guide dog owner comment on FB safety issue as escalator takes time to stop and start and narrow platform can cause safety concern if no overcrowding should stop

However, others were just as pragmatic, saying little different to finding an escalator broken.

FB comment no different to escalator being out of ordercomment people will always complain e.g. two women gave birth on train and people complained about delay!

 

A tube driver who wanted to remain anonymous said “To be honest, they seem more interested in targets and budgets rather than caring for the safety of customers, most outside tube stations are left unstaffed with just a phone number to call for help, how is that caring?”

There is certainly some confusion regarding policies and what if any of this is part of any training staff have to ensure everyone has the same message and treats people equally. The Accessible Network 2015 document states “We provide our customers with alternative travel arrangements, if needed, when lifts or escalators are out of service. This may mean a taxi provided at our cost.” So not if they are working but can’t be used?

Transport for London also states in Help from Staff that “On the Tube, TfL Rail and Overground, station staff will also accompany you to the train and help you on board and, if needed, can arrange for you to be met at your destination. Anyone can use this service, but it is particularly used by blind and visually impaired passengers and people using boarding ramps onto trains.”

The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination. A company must make adaptions for people with disabilities where possible. Here it was possible? Even if the escalator could not have been stopped where was a member of staff to carry the dog to enable a disabled person to use the services?

The TFL underground policy with regards assistance dogs which are not trained to use escalators  and believe restricting disabled passengers to non busy travelling times is discriminatory and therefore illegal. The Transport for London’s People with sight or hearing loss policy states that station staff will help find an alternative route however the alternative route suggested would have been a further distance away from the required destination and they gave no further help.

As a result of the service Alison and Claire incurred a black cab fare of £12.60 and despite paying money onto an Oyster card, did not make the journey from Oxford Circus to Kings Cross.

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 Alison is entitled to receive services carried out with reasonable skill and care. 1) The customer services line clearly does not have enough people to deal with calls, 2) staff from two different stations said that they should be able to stop the escalator showing a lack of training across customer facing staff 3) no alternative was provided and service was refused. This was refused on grounds of disability which is a breach of the Equality Act 2010.

Claire wrote to TFL about the issues and after chasing twice finally got a response from London Transport over three weeks later. She received an apology and the cab fare.

When I asked the Transport for London Press Office for some clarity regarding their policies regarding stopping escalators for untrained guide dogs, stations able and unable to do this and providing taxi fares, it took 8 days to find out saying that it had had to “…co-ordinate with a lot of different areas in the business which has taken some time”, indicating that there is not a clear understanding across the network. In a statement it said:

“We want blind and visually impaired people to be able to travel around London with confidence and we are putting more staff than ever before in the public areas of stations to provide assistance. Assistance dogs are very much welcome and for a number of years we’ve been working with Guide Dogs to provide a training package so that guide dogs can use escalators.

When a customer travels on the network with their assistance dog, they will usually be helped to access the platform via a staircase or lift. If the station only has an escalator, assistance dogs that have been trained can use that.

For their safety, dogs that haven’t been trained should, if at all possible, be carried. Where this option is not possible, a member of staff can stop the escalator to help a blind or visually impaired person and their dog walk up or down safely.

At some times of day the Tube can be very busy, so there may be occasions when, to avoid overcrowding, we are unable to stop an escalator. In that case our staff will offer blind or visually impaired customers a taxi.”

I emailed the London Transport Commissioner asking for comment on the following:

1) Why it took over 3 weeks to receive a reply.

2) There was not a thorough investigation as clearly shown by the very brief email from Vernon. Every single paragraph is a standard one and does not refer to the individual case in any shape or form other than a sentence acknowledging that a taxi should have been paid for.

3) The policies referred to in the letter were not mentioned at all. Where is any comment regarding the breaches?

4) No reference is made to the unacceptable length of time Ms Williams was left on the phone before giving up, please provide an explanation for this time and what you will be doing to improve wait times

5) No reference is made at all to identifying members of staff despite being provided with dates and times or how you will ensure staff provide correct information in future. “I will make sure our staff are reminded of our policy and apply it”. How, what parts and how will they apply it and over what period of time?

6) Vernon states that LT is not in breach of the Equality Act but makes no reference to staff providing differing information and not providing an alternative and how this does not breach the Act. How is this not a breach?

7) Vernon makes no reference to the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the breach by not providing services with reasonable skill and care. Please do so.

8) Why weren’t these points answered in the email Ms Williams finally received?

The response? Back came the Managing Director,  Customers, Communication and Technology.

“I am very sorry that you that you do not consider my response to have been timely and that I have failed to cover all of your points. 

All I can add is that we are committed to making public transport accessible to all Londoners, backed up by record investment in new step-free station schemes and better information and other support to give people with disabilities greater confidence to use our services. We are also human and sometimes make mistakes, as we did in this case.”

tube train and "Transport for London stuck in inequality jam"

 

As you can see from the extent of the above, London Transport does not appear to investigate complaints properly, does little to help disabled passengers and nothing to ensure that what help there is, is widely communicated to both staff and passengers.

 

 

 

Share your stories of transport and discrimination in the comments below. I have a feeling that there will be a few….

 

All you need to know when an event is cancelled

concert or festival cancelled your rights on top of people dancing on beach

The Summer of 2017 saw a lot of concerts and festivals cancelled. Due to bad weather, poor planning or something else, thousands of people were left disappointed and many of them out of pocket. So what do you do if the event for which you have booked cancels at the last minute?

Well, it depends on what the reason for cancelling was and how much notice you were given really.

So let’s take a few examples…

 

Event cancelled due to not enough sales
The organiser informs you that it has not made enough sales and so is cancelling the concert. This should mean an automatic refund of the tickets. If you made special arrangements, such as buying train tickets, booking a hotel you may be able to claim consequential loss. The organiser is in breach of contract so should be liable for consequential loss. However, you would have to prove that you would not be using the tickets or booking and that they were bought with non refundable terms. You probably have a good chance because not many people know how to complain about this and claim! However the organiser may well argue in which case your only option is to claim in the Small Claims Court. It would probably be a test case though, so if you do it, please let me know!

The closer to the concert they cancel the stronger your case may be. You could also argue that under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 they did not provide services with reasonable skill and care because they did not market the concert well enough.

The concert organisers should have insurance too!

Event cancelled due to ill health
Here the organisers may offer tickets for another day. This is up to you whether you want to take or not as you are still entitled to a full refund.

Consequential loss will be as above but you couldn’t argue not carrying out services with reasonable skill and care.

Event cancelled due to health and safety reasons
It can be a little bit sticky here because it isn’t as simple as there was so much rain and mud we had to cancel. One word “Glastonbury” which sticks two fingers up at bad weather! That’s partly because they put measures to ensure the safety of festival goers. So when you hear of another festival cancelling due to rain and mud you are probably well within your rights to claim consequential loss because the organisers are in breach of contract for not providing services with reasonable skill and care. Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Event cancelled due to organisers going into administration
In short, you are stuck. It means that the company doesn’t have the money to refund you the cost of your tickets. It will owe money all over the place and you will be at the bottom of the list. However, you should write to the administrators as soon as possible with proof of your purchase and you will be added to the creditors list. It is unlikely that you will be paid out, but if another company takes over it is possible and if your name is down you have more chance that for those who aren’t.

Overall
In all cases where the CRA has been beached you should follow the 20 top tips for complaining effectively outlining the reasons for claiming for consequential loss with evidence of these costs being non refundable. Take a copy of the tickets if you are posting your claim and send that, you know, just in case they say they didn’t receive your letter!

When you complain follow the Top 20 Tips for Complaining and if you still aren’t satisfied with the response take it up with the festival organiser CEO you can get their contact details at ceoemail.com

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

And for everything else to complain about effectively GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

 

 

Tasty solutions for food delivery troubles

picture of Chinese takeaway food laid out on plates on tableHave you ever ordered a takeaway that has taken significantly longer than advertised to deliver?

A consumer is totally within their rights to reject the order when it arrives. Consumers have a right to a discount on the order if they decide to keep it.

pizza pieces Takeaway troubles? How to get your appetite back.In fact, if the delivery was so late that the consumer has had to order another takeaway at additional cost to the original order, they could argue that in law they are entitled to the difference too. One must be reasonable, so the delay would need to be unreasonable and within the delivery company’s control.

Any food delivery company not delivering when promised would be in breach of a number of laws.  Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) services should be carried out with information given verbally or in writing to the consumer which is binding where the consumer relies on it. Any service must be carried out within the agreed time. Secondly, The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (amended 2014) (CPUTRs) prohibit trading practices that are unfair to consumers and there are bans on Misleading Practices.

You may already have paid for the delivery before it arrives and the find it difficult to get the refund/discount. Take a picture of the delivery with the time and making copies of any evidence showing the delivery time. (Always make a note of the time you placed the order). Then write to the manager of the company with who you paid the money whether this is the actual delivery company or not, your contract is always with whom you paid your money.

Give details of date, time of order and time of delivery with any evidence. State that the company is in breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and The CPUTRs (using the information above). State that should you not be fully satisfied with the response then you will take the matter further which will include but not be limited to informing Trading Standards and detailing your experience on relevant review sites. You could even threaten the Small Claims Court but few people would carry this threat through. Quoting your legal rights in this way usually gets the redress you are owed!

If you are still unhappy you can always write to the CEO, contact details for CEOs can be found at www.ceoemail.com. The CEO won’t necessarily respond personally but the matter will be escalated and taken more seriously. If more people started to complain and assert their legal rights then service would have to improve or companies would go under from providing refunds and discounts. As for companies who repeatedly breach the CPUTRs a breach is a criminal offence. The maximum penalty on conviction is a fine and two years’ imprisonment!

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

 

For more information, tips, advice, consumer law and template letters for most consumer complaint scenarios GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

How to look a Gift Horse in the mouth…

Know your rights on unwanted Christmas gifts

2 wrapped presents on green background can I return this please?

Over the Christmas period many of us will be given presents that sadly we don’t want.

I’ve been answering questions from consumers about what their rights are.

1) Will stores take back any item?
There is no legal obligation for any trader to give a refund or exchange for an item (unless it has breached consumer law often referred to as “your statutory rights”). Many of the larger companies will do though out of good faith and because it makes them appear customer-friendly!

2) Do all stores have an extended return policy over Christmas time, or do I need to check first?
There is no legal obligation for a trader to do this (unless the item is faulty) so you should check on the receipt or on the company’s website.

3) Is there a way that I can get around ‘exchange-only’ or ‘store-credit-only’ policies?
If the item is faulty or not as described then these policies are illegal, as they breach the Consumer Rights Act 2015. If there is no problem with the item then be grateful for the exchange or store credit, as it is more than the store is obliged to legally do.

Christmas jumper on green background unwanted present your rights

4) If an item has been reduced in the sale, can I demand that I am refunded the full price paid for an item?
No, you will need to prove that the full price was paid. The proof will be your receipt.

5) What are my rights if the item is faulty?
You will still need a proof of purchase but under the Consumer Rights Act you are entitled to items of “satisfactory quality”. If the item is returned within 30 days of purchase, the retailer must give you a full refund. After 30 days the retailer can offer a repair or exchange.

6) Are my rights different if the item was bought online?
If the item was bought within 14 days and you can ask the giver for the receipt you can then return the item. Whether you have to pay return postage or not will depend on the terms and conditions of the website. However, if the item is faulty you are covered by the Consumer Rights Act in the same way as above and you would be able to reclaim the cost of the return postage. Some items are not covered by the cooling off period, such as bespoke items, flowers, fresh food.

7) I ordered an item online for a present but it came too late. Am I stuck with it?
Not necessarily. If you paid for a delivery to arrive before Christmas then you are entitled to your money back. If the item had no set delivery date but took over 30 days, that would be deemed unreasonable and so again you could expect a refund. You have the 14-day cooling off period mentioned above but if the company did not meet its obligations for delivery then you are entitled to the cost of delivery and return for the item. Your Rights, Mail Order, Online and Deliveries.

If you are unable to return the item, please think about regifting or donating to charity. More ideas for what to do with unwanted presents see What to do with the ghost of Christmas Present?

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

If you are struggling to return an item or have received poor service and can’t get redress check out the Top 20 Tips How to Complain!

and GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

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Think before you sign – top 10 tips for saving on subscriptions

Think before you sign

Don’t fritter away your hard-earned money on unwanted subscriptions

top 10 tips for savings on subscriptions with picture of contract

In November 2017, Citizens Advice research revealed that in just three months consumers spent an average of £160 on unwanted subscriptions, including gym memberships, television and online streaming services. The consumer organisation also found that between June and August 2017, 9 out of 10 people were initially refused by companies when cancellation of an unwanted subscription was requested.

So what are your rights and the best ways to deal with these subscriptions? Here are my top 10 tips.

1) Be aware of the “free” and very cheap trials of subscriptions. Most, if not all, will ask for payment information when you sign up. Set yourself a reminder to cancel a day before the first payment is due.

2) Check the cancellation rights before signing up to anything but be aware that you may still be able to challenge these in certain circumstances.

3) Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013, you are entitled to a 14 day “cooling off” period, so if you have signed up to something off premises (e.g. online) you can cancel with no penalty.

4) Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, consumers are protected from unfair contracts. So, for example, if a company says that you must give 6 months’ notice to cancel a subscription, that would be unfair.

5) The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2014 state that companies must provide accurate and sufficient information for consumers to make a purchasing decision. For a practice to be unfair under these rules, they must harm, or be likely to harm, the economic interests of the average consumer. For example, when a shopper makes a purchasing decision he or she would not have made had he or she been given accurate information.

6) If you are going to sign up to a subscription, try and use Direct Debit where possible. With Direct Debit, a company cannot change the regular payment amount. Using a debit card or credit card is known as a Continuous Payment Authority which can be of varying amounts which can be changed without your consent.

7) When you cancel with the company, also inform your bank to ensure that the subscription payment is cancelled. You will then also be covered by the Direct Debit Guarantee, which ensures a full and immediate refund of the amount paid from your bank or building society if a mistake is made.

8) Check that the site is genuine. The website address should begin with “https”, have a padlock symbol, a full correspondence address (not a PO box number) and any trade logos should be genuine. Also, search the Internet for reviews and check for warning signs like lots of grammatical errors or a domain name that uses a well-known brand/product but isn’t the official website or ends in .net or .org as these are rarely used for online shopping sites. You can also check who registered the domain via the com website.

9) If you want to cancel, do so quickly and in writing so you have evidence. If you are prepared to discuss the matter because you want to haggle for example, telephone helpline numbers cannot cost the consumer more than the basic rate, so no 084 and 087 numbers. If companies do use these then they are in breach of the The Consumer Contract (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 and Ofcom regulations.

10) When writing to cancel, provide all details of the policy/memberships etc., dates of subscriptions and request that the cancellation is made with immediate effect. Name the laws above and describe how the company is in breach, if relevant.

More at How to challenge terms & conditions (even those you’ve agreed)

Top 20 Tips How to Complain!

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

For masses more information, advice, tips, consumer laws and template letters get the GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!