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

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

 

 

 

3 Simple Steps to Gain Compensation for Train Delays

Last week, it was in the media that people don’t complain about train delays and don’t get the compensation to which they are due. Is that you? You WALLY! I always get money back for journeys which are delayed and frankly don’t write up the stories on here ‘cos it’s so simple and boring! All you have to do is fill out a form! So, because I’m a nice person. Ok, I’m not. Well for whatever reason, if only to annoy the train companies so that they spend their ridiculous income on improvements instead of payouts, I’m here to make things really easy for you. You’re welcome.

The rail companies all have a passenger charter. They abide by that which links to the National Rail Network guidelines. From July 2015 amendments were made to the National Rail Conditions of Carriage meaning you can now ask for monetary compensation and you should get it. Companies may still try and give you vouchers but you should refuse and demand money.

Payouts vary on how long the journey needs to be delayed. Most, if not all, would have you believe that you are only entitled to part of full refund and no other costs. Wrong. If the delay was in the train company’s control and you are left stranded for example the company is responsible for putting you up in accommodation so keep all receipts but stay somewhere with reasonable costs! The Rail Passenger’s Rights and Obligations Regulations 2010 gives more protection. So, if you think have a case, go for it and remember my Tips if you do. A “Would The Complaining Cow go for it question” is always a good one. If I would then and if you write it right you’ll get a decent payback.

Train companies are listed here. On that page are links to all the train companies including the underground. (Incidentally, tube refunds take two minutes to request, used to do them on a regular basis when daily using the Victoria line).  Click on the link of the company you need, then click on the website on that page and from that page do a search for “complaints” or “refunds”. Some say form, email etc. so you will need to go through whatever process it details and each will pay differently.

There is more information in the National Rail Conditions Of Carriage, look up that too and use that too!

If you think the response is unsatisfactory you can take the matter further. If your journey was outside London or the National Rail Enquiries Service then go through Passenger Focus.  For London and surrounding areas (including those on London Underground or London Overground) contact the London Travel Watch. If you’re unhappy with the response of either of these organisations get in touch again and raise a complaint with them about how your complaint has been dealt with! (See Tips on complaining) If you’re still unhappy with the way your complaint has been handled, you can take it to the Parliamentary Ombudsman (for Passenger Focus), or the London TravelWatch Chief Executive and, if you are still unhappy with London TravelWatch, the Local Government Ombudsman.

Information about complaining about buses here.

Most recent information on delays and vouchers from Which?

Update 07/09/16 Win! New rail passenger rights announced rail will be covered by the Consumer Rights Act from 1st October 2016. From the Which? post:

“This is good news for rail passengers. In a little over three weeks all rail passengers will be entitled to have their compensation paid within 14 days. Compensation will be issued by the same method the passenger paid with, rather than with vouchers that some train companies currently use.

Passengers will also be entitled to payment for additional consequential losses, such as missed connections, and will be able to claim for any length of delay.”

Good luck and please share your success stories with us here!