Taken for a ride. Passenger complaints are up (& how you can get redress)

Picture of a train 2/3 rail commuters unhappy

Transport Focus announced today that their latest National Rail Passenger Survey showed that only a third were happy with their last journey.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, said:

“For passengers, it’s all about performance – these value for money scores reflect patchy reliability. In London and the South East, Southern, Thameslink and Southeastern passengers have felt performance pick up. However, South Western Railway, TransPennine Express and Arriva Trains Wales passengers, among others, have been buffeted by poorer performance.”

The survey, which included more than 27,000 passengers, showed that satisfaction has dropped to 75% overall and to 64% for South Western Railway. These results contrast starkly with Thameslink, where satisfaction is up 13%, one assumes due to the increase in investment by the company.

“Train companies and Network Rail need to keep to their basic promises and deliver a relentless focus on day-to-day performance and better information during disruption”, said Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus.

Penny Thompson, blogger at Pennyssavings.com  agrees. “Despite really mucking it up when things go wrong, the new 12-car Thameslink trains really have been an improvement. Yes, services are still busy, but those extra carriages have made a difference, as have the in-train information systems which show you live data on the passenger loading across the carriages.”Train trackI’m not surprised by the results. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that investment in the railways will improve the service! Although many people moan about rail services, they don’t complain to the companies and get the redress to which they are entitled. If more people did this then at least they would get some recompense and send a strong message out to these companies.

Network Rail compensates train operators for delays due to track problems which are their fault. But the companies do not hand over this compensation to the customers who were inconvenienced. So, what do we need to make sure we get redress in the easiest way possible?

Here are your rights and tips for getting redress:

1.The Consumer Rights Act 2015 covers rail travel, so you can complain about more than just delays! If that journey was provided with poor service and therefore without “reasonable skill and care”, according to the law, write and complain!

2.Passengers are entitled to have their compensation paid within 14 days, issued by the same method the passenger used to pay for the ticket.

3.Keep your tickets as evidence and take a copy if you have to post them.

4.Make a note of your journey: Date, time, where travelling from/to and how long you’ve been delayed at the time, before you forget!

5.Make a note of the reason given by the train company for the delay.

6.Check how long you have to claim, it is usually up to 28 days.

7.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 for delays less than 30 minutes.

8.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.

9.Put your complaint (unless web based delay/cancellation refund) in writing so that you have a record.

10.You don’t need a third party company to claim for you, just like claiming for delayed airline flights. Instead, do it yourself and get 100% of the refund.

11.If the issue was within the company’s control, be objective, succinct and clear in outlining the issue that occurred.

12.Make it clear what you want to happen as an outcome and what you will do if you are not satisfied with the response (e.g. take it further through Transport Focus or if inside London, London Travel Watch or the Small Claims Court.

13.If you are still not satisfied with the response, write to the CEO of the train operator using contact details from the Ceoemail.com The matter will then be escalated and taken seriously.

14.It may also be possible to claim from your credit card company under Section  75 if the cost of the ticket was more than £100.

Transport Focus press release in full

Key results of the survey:

• overall 81 per cent of passengers nationally were satisfied with their journey (73 per cent for commuters)
• satisfaction with punctuality is up to 74 per cent – this figure drops to 65 per cent for commuters
• value for money ratings continue below the half-way mark, at 47 per cent (down to 33 per cent for commuters)
• satisfaction with how well delays are handled is at 38 per cent overall (30 per cent for commuters)
• in Scotland 85 per cent of passengers were satisfied with their journey
• highest-scoring operators were Grand Central (96 per cent), Hull Trains (95 per cent), Virgin Trains East Coast (92 per cent), Virgin Trains West Coast and Heathrow Express, both with 91 per cent satisfaction
• lowest-scored were Southern (72 per cent), TfL Rail (75 per cent), South Western Railway (75 per cent), Great Northern (77 per cent), Arriva, Trains Wales and Great Western Railway, both with 79 per cent
• TransPennine Express passengers were the least satisfied with the level of crowding on their train, at 58 per cent.

Rail delay compensation – Light at the end of the tunnel?

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

 

For more consumer rights, laws, advice, information and templates for this and other sectors GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Rail delay compensation – Light at the end of the tunnel?

The Southern Railways debacle has caused misery to its many passengers. But whilst passengers are entitled to refunds for tickets purchased and not used, or for services delayed due to a rail company’s fault, are they missing out on compensation for delays as well as other issues?

All rail companies are signed up to National Conditions of Travel which states that the amount of compensation offered by train companies in their Passenger’s Charter varies between them. However, as a minimum, if you arrive more than 60 minutes late at your destination station you will be entitled to compensation.

Currently passengers can claim if they have been delayed for 30 minutes or longer. The first passengers able to use the Delay Repay 15 were those on Southern Rail, owned by Govia Thameslink Rail, from 11 December 2016. It is to be rolled out to the rest of GTR’s services before being extended across the country.

Are we complaining and gaining redress when we should?
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.

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow consumer champion and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! concurs, saying that so few people know their rights even though rail companies should be doing as much as possible to inform passengers that they can claim. If so few people claim for a basic entitlement then it is little wonder that they don’t claim in other circumstances. She says that a strict interpretation of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (Rail companies were covered from 1 October 2016) could mean that customers could claim for higher percentages of the ticket price than companies currently offer and also for shorter delays.

Furthermore, under this Act, services must be carried out with reasonable skill and care and she encourages customers to claim for redress to which they are entitled and looks forward to the first case to be heard in the Small Claims Court! “It is still the large majority of people who don’t claim for delays never mind poor service”, she says, “We have yet to really see whether consumers will really start challenging companies and if they in turn will hold out on compensating travellers if, for example, they do not have accessible toilets in working order or they are having to stand when a company has put on fewer carriages than normal”.

What do the rail companies say?
When given examples of possible claims, a spokesperson for Southern Railways said “We would investigate any claim brought under the Consumer Rights Act thoroughly and take any action as necessary”

A Virgin Trains spokesperson said: “We are fully compliant with the requirements of the Consumer Rights Act.”

A spokesperson for Scotrail said “We judge each complaint on its merits.  For example, if someone was complaining about lack of carriages, we would need to consider if the train had fewer carriages that normal, or whether it ran with the booked or maximum number of coaches permitted on that route. We also consider whether there was advertised special events taking place, and whether we had advised customers in advance that trains were likely to be busier”.

GWR said “Liability under CRA legislation depends on the train operator not exercising “reasonable care and skill” in providing a service/product (section 49), and therefore only covers issues that are under our control. However, we always aim to reasonably consider (and regularly pay) compensation and refund requests where we may not be strictly liable in law. For example, (and something we offered before the CRA came into effect) if you have reserved a seat (which is free) and we are unable to provide one.

What do customers say?
Travellers are taking to social media to voice their concerns:

There are claims that companies are misleading customers

Delay on Delay Repay?
An investigation by BBC Radio 4 You and Yours found that many people are experiencing delays in receiving their payments. Transpennine Express told the programme that their delays are due to a high volume of correspondence and that they’re working on the problem. Northern Rail apologised for the backlog and said they were working to understand and resolve the issues. Arriva Trains Wales said that they’ve recruited extra staff to help deal with the backlog – which they say was due to an increase in compensation requests in December 2016.

What do you need to know if you want to complain?
Dewdney offers this advice for those wanting to complain:

  1. From 1 October 2016 rail is covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which gives you more rights few know about.
  2. Passengers are entitled to have their compensation paid within 14 days, issued by the same method the passenger used to pay for the ticket.
  3. Keep your tickets as evidence and take a copy if you have to post them.
  4. Make a note of your journey: Date, time, where travelling from/to and how long you’ve been delayed at the time before you forget!
  5. Make a note of the reason given for the delay.
  6. Check how long you have to claim, it is usually up to 28 days.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Put your complaint (unless web based delay/cancellation refund) in writing so that you have a record.
  10. You don’t need a third party company to claim for you, just like claiming for delayed airline flights. Instead, do it yourself and get 100% of the refund.
  11. If the issue was within the company’s control, be objective, succinct and clear in outlining the issue that occurred.
  12. Make it clear what you want to happen and what you will do if you are not satisfied with the response (e.g. take it further through Transport Focus [2] or if inside London, London Travel Watch  or Small Claims Court.
  13. If not satisfied with the response, write to the CEO using contact details from the CEOemail.com website. The matter will then be escalated and taken seriously.
  14. It may also be possible to claim from your credit card company under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act for non delivery of services.

Email addresses for CEOs of UK railway companies with links to Delay Repay where applicable.

Top 20 Tips How to Complain!

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

 

For more on consumer rights, laws, tips, advice and templates get the book!

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