Left out in the cold by a rail company? Your rights

Well the Winter of 2018 huh? Pretty cold and pretty snowy! Lots of trains delayed and some stuck in the snow for hours. In some cases it probably couldn’t be helped but even in these cases it doesn’t mean you won’t get redress. It is about knowing your rights. So what are they?

Update – now the problems on new timetabling May 2018. Your rights however are the same!

snow on train track Left out in the cold by a rail company - your rights

Cancellations
If your train is cancelled you are due a full refund. If you still wish to travel you should be able to get on the next train then claim as for a delayed journey. If you have a date and time restricted ticket you may not be able to get on a later train. You should check with the station staff before travelling who will be able to advise. If you don’t travel due to the cancellation you are entitled to a full refund.

Delays
If you don’t want to travel because of the delay then you should be able to get a full refund. Under the National Rail Conditions of Travel you are entitled to 50% refund for a delay of 60 minutes. It is the time of arrival not the time of departure that is considered. Most companies now operate “Delay Repay” providing compensation for these delays regardless of cause. For most of the companies operating this scheme you will get at least 50% refund if you arrive more than 15 minutes late. For others it will be 30 minutes late.

Not travelling out of choice
Could be that an event to which you were travelling was cancelled so you didn’t want to travel. Or any reason! So long as it wasn’t an Advance ticket you should be able to get a refund minus an admin fee. The maximum admin fee that the companies can charge is £10.

Season tickets
Different train companies operate different policies. You will need to check with the relevant company. You will need to submit a claim for each journey rather than a discount at renewal. The amount paid will depend on the company’s Passenger Charter.

Companies saying weather related you aren’t entitled?
If this does happen tell them they are wrong! In September 2013, The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that rail passengers are entitled to a partial refund of the price of their train ticket even in these circumstances.

Snowing on train

Consequential loss
Well here is interesting! The National Rail Conditions of Travel (NRCT) state that companies are not liable for consequential loss. (If you couldn’t make use of a hotel stay or theatre tickets for example.) However, they do state that companies will consider exceptional cases. But even more interesting, is that since October 1st 2016 the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) kicked in for travel, including trains. Under this Act you are entitled to services to be carried out with reasonable skill and care. When I asked a few companies about their interpretation of the Act in January 2017, 4 of them gave their views. It is certainly worth trying to claim using both the CRA and the exceptional circumstances of the NRCT. I hope that if a company refuse to pay out for consequential loss that someone soon will take the matter to the Small Claims Court under the CRA. Come back and tell me if you are going to be the one to do it!

On 10 March 2016 the National Rail Conditions of Travel finally removed the warning that operators will not accept liability for a “consequential loss” after delays or cancellations.

How to claim
If you don’t use your ticket to make all or part of your journey take the unused ticket to any train company’s ticket office and receive an immediate refund.

You can usually apply online via the rail company’s website.

Alternatively you can send the claim to the train company. Before you do, take a photo of the tickets just in case they get “lost in the post”! If you are claiming for consequential loss follow these Tips for making you complaint effective.

Make sure you claim within 28 days of the date of travel.

Find your company on the National Rail Enquiries page which will take you to the relevant page.

Missed connection
If you have missed a connecting train due to the cancellation or delay, you can claim a refund for the unused part of the journey should you not go on a later train or use an alternative form of transport. Consequential losses for this as above.

Emergency timetables
Some services ran an emergency timetable. In these instances it is possible that this may affect what you can claim. If you bought your ticket before the new timetable was put in place and decide not to travel then you can claim a full refund as above. However, should you travel and be delayed then the level of compensation will be based on the new timetable.

Not satisfied with response?
Email addresses for CEOs of UK railway companies with links to Delay Repay where applicable.

If you think that the response is unsatisfactory read the NRCT and the train company’s Passenger Charter which will have the details of the procedure you should follow. If still not happy and your journey was outside of London contact Transport Focus. For London (including under and overground) contact London Travel Watch. If still not happy you can take the matter to the CEO of Transport Focus or London Travel Watch (contact details from ceoemail.com) and after that the Local Government Ombudsman. It is hoped that soon the Railway Ombudsman will start.

A note about Southeastern
On its website Southeastern has provided a statement regarding passengers caught up in the disruption due to the weather. It is doubling Delay Repay for delays between  Tuesday 27 February to Friday 2 March inclusive. This is for delays 30 minutes or more. It also states that it will be offering additional compensation for the poor experience so is certainly worth trying to claim for consequential loss as above.

Keeping up to date with delays and cancellations
The National Rail Service website will give you up to date information on delays and cancellations.

Other useful rail travel posts
Stronger consumer rights against rail companies delayed again This provides more information about
Taken for a ride. Passenger complaints are up (& how you can get redress) Transport Focus announced in february 2018 that their latest National Rail Passenger Survey showed that only a third were happy with their last journey. More Statistics in this post and ways to complain.
Are you on the right track with your Christmas train travel plans? Information regarding cancellations by rail companies forcing passengers to pay walk up fares as cheaper tickets for buying in advance were not released.
Rail Ombudsman is finally coming down the tracks – consultation closing soon information about the proposed Rail Ombudsman including decisions and consultation responses.

Other related posts
Freezing energy problems? Your rights all you need to know all the information you need for complaining about aspects of service provided by energy companies.

20 Top Tips for complaining effectively. 
How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS! for more information, tips, advice, guidance and template letters.

 

 

 

 

 

Rail Ombudsman is finally coming down the tracks – consultation closing soon

Press release

Background
Rail passengers will soon get their long-awaited Rail Ombudsman, an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme for disgruntled railway users across the country. An Ombudsman provides an independent escalation process, beyond the railway company, to make decisions on passenger complaints.

 

 

 

Consultation closing soon
The Office of Rail and Road has said that it will introduce an ADR scheme in the rail sector. As this will require changes to rail companies’ Complaints Handling Procedures (CHPs), it is consulting on these changes. The Rail Delivery Group , (working with others as part of an Ombudsman Task Force, has developed proposals which they envisage will see an ADR scheme for rail passengers introduced on a voluntary basis in early 2018.

The consultation on this important issue closes on the 7 November 2017. Yet there has been no coverage in the media nor any push from Government to ensure the general public see this and are given a chance to respond. Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow consumer expert and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! welcomes the consultation but is dismayed at the lack of coverage. “Nearly every commuter has had reason to complain about at least one train journey in recent years! But at the moment very few even know their rights never mind how to take their complaints further!”

Current situation
In 2013 Transport Focus found that almost nine in 10 of passengers eligible for compensation for delays, did not claim. In 2016 it spoke to over 7000 passengers and found that the number claiming compensation has increased to 35 per cent in 2016. The research shows how few people are claiming what they are owed.

Dewdney says that there are other legal rights for complaints in the rail sector but even fewer people are aware of these than those around delays.

“The rail companies all have a passenger charter which links to the National Rail Network guidelines. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 was applied to rail travel from 1st October 2016. You are now entitled to services which must be carried out with reasonable skill and care. If they are not then you should be able to gain redress. Things for which you may gain redress under this Act are:

  • overcrowding
  • not able to use a booked seat
  • claim for consequential losses

If you complain and you think the response is unsatisfactory you can take the matter further. If your journey was outside London then you go through Transport Focus For London and surrounding areas (including those on London Underground or London Overground) contact the London Travel Watch  but decisions made by them are not binding on the rail companies.

Proposed scheme
The proposed Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme would be binding on the rail companies that joined. This means they would be obliged to act upon the ombudsman’s decision.

Marcus Williamson the editor of consumer information website CEOemail.com, who
has been monitoring private ADR schemes since 2014, said “If a Rail Ombudsman is to be effective it must be truly independent and its performance closely monitored by Government. Those running it should have passed a ‘fit and proper person’ test and be fully accountable to the public, as well as to the rail companies.”

Williamson and Dewdney wrote the June 2016 report “Ombudsman Omnishambles” where a number of issues were highlighted regarding the regulation of Ombudsmen. They are concerned that whilst these issues have still not been addressed or resolved by the relevant regulatory bodies, the proposed Rail Ombudsman system could mean that consumers are put at risk again.

What can be done to rectify it?

  • A “Fit and proper person” test, as already required in many business and public sector environments, should be introduced for the trusted “Ombudsman” role and  ADR providers.
  • Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) must implement ongoing monitoring of ADR bodies, rather than rely on an annual review. This should include checking that statements made in the media are true and that the company’s accounts properly reflect the ombudsman’s performance.
  • CTSI, Department for Business, Energy, Industrial Strategy (BEIS) or Ombudsman Association (OA) should provide a means by which the public can lodge complaints about ADR providers and develop procedures by which the relevant body can take the necessary action.
  • The rail ADR/ombudsmen schemes must be established appropriately, effectively and properly.
  • It should be compulsory for rail companies to join the ADR/ombudsman scheme.

ENDS

Update 08 February 2018. Changes to complaints handling guidance – decision letter and the consultation responses.

Further reading for information on misleading consumers, business and the failure of the regulatory bodies:

Ombudsman Omnishambles: New report exposes serious failings in ombudsman approval and oversight

http://CEOemail.com/ombudsman-omnishambles.pdf

The Ombudsman Omnishambles continues… Even on Conflict Resolution Day…

Ongoing Ombudsman Omnishambles

The Retail Ombudsman is no more

ORR Response to consultation by Marcus Williamson and Helen Dewdney

 

 

 

Full steam ahead to a better consumer deal for Rail passengers

It’s good news for rail passengers today, as their rights are boosted by the Consumer Rights Act, giving a much better deal on compensation for delays, cancellations and overcrowding.

When the Consumer Rights Act 2015 was implemented on 1st October last year, Sea, Rail and Air were made exempt from its conditions.

In April last year the Government back-stepped and decided that from October 1st 2016 that Ferries and Airlines would also be included but had delayed Rail until 2017. However, following the Which? campaign to “Make Rail Refunds Easier”, Rail will now be covered from the 1st October 2016.

Designed by Freepik

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Key new rights for rail travel

  • Passengers are entitled to have their compensation paid within 14 days.
  • Compensation must be issued by the same method the passenger paid with, rather than with vouchers that some train companies currently use.
  • Passengers are entitled to payment for additional consequential losses, such as missed connections.
  • Passengers can claim for any length of delay. If you suffer repeated delays of less than half an hour or overcrowding due to an unexpected lack of carriages, you might get money back if you take your case to court. Currently, no compensation is offered.
  • Where a service has not been provided with reasonable skill and care, passengers will now have a right to a refund of up to the full ticket price.

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow consumer rights blogger and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!  says that it will be interesting to see how the companies deal with the changes. “Many of us might say that the companies will try and get out of compensating customers and hope that people won’t know their new legal rights! We need to ensure that people are aware of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and that they use it when they receive poor service and/or delays.”

Passengers should quote the Act, describe the journey times and length of delay and contact the relevant train company. Dewdney will be watching closely to see if train companies compensate for overcrowding. She believes that the companies will not compensate and is watching out for the first person to take legal action through the Small Claims Court.

3 Simple Steps to Gain Compensation for Train Delays – more information on how to claim for delays.

Tips on complaining effectively

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! Advice, guidance, information, stories, templates and your rights!

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