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?

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. You are entitled to compensation for a journey delayed 30 minutes or more.

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!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Energy ombudsman shows how to keep heat on your supplier

radiator

I often hear from people how they think an ombudsman hasn’t been fair or impartial in their case. Most frequently I hear the criticism that the ombudsman always sees in favour of the trader because the trader pays for membership. What people don’t realise is that’s the only way an ombudsman can be funded! But more importantly what people don’t realise is that they not only do they pay for yearly membership but they also pay per case whilst the customer pays nothing. So it is in the company’s interest for a case not to go to the ombudsman.

Sometimes, people approach the ombudsman with issues outside of their remit. Typically:

  • The complaint has been made too late – complainants have 12 months from the date the supplier issues its final response (known as a deadlock letter) to raise the issue with the ombudsman.
  • The complaint has been made prematurely (less than 8 weeks from the initial complaint or no deadlock letter received) – complainants need to raise the issue with the supplier and give them an opportunity to put things right before the ombudsman can become involved.
  • The trader does not participate in the ombudsman’s scheme.
  • The complaint is about a product or service which does not fall inside the ombudsman’s jurisdiction.

So, you have your issue, it falls within the remit and you still don’t get the decision you wanted so what do you do? I’ve asked Lewis Shand Smith the Chief Ombudsman at Ombudsman Services to share the traps people fall into and how to make a stronger case when submitting their issue. He looks at energy in particular but the points are valid for all sectors.

Head shot Lewis Shand SmithLewis Shand Smith Biography

Lewis Shand Smith was appointed Chief Executive and Chief Ombudsman of Ombudsman Services in 2009. Ombudsman Services is a not for profit organisation which resolves disputes in the energy, communications, property, and copyright licensing sectors, amongst others. Lewis was also the Chair of the Ombudsman Association. Previously he was the Crown appointed Deputy Ombudsman and a member of the Executive Board at the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO). He is a priest in the Scottish Episcopal church and has served several congregations in Motherwell, Shetland and Dumfries. He was a Canon of St Andrew’s cathedral in Aberdeen. From 1990 to 1999 Lewis was a member of Shetland Islands Council, becoming Convener/Leader in 1994. He has served as a non-executive director or trustee with a number of companies and charities. He is a former Vice President of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, was a member of the Executive of the Scottish Constitutional Convention, and represented the UK on the European Committee of the Regions.

Submitting cases to an Ombudsman service

Ombudsman Services receives complaints in a variety of forms. There are complaints the energy supplier would have resolved if the right person had picked it up. There are complaints where the parties agree on the facts – but disagree on an appropriate remedy. There are complaints where the parties fundamentally disagree on the facts. And there are complaints where neither party has yet been able to understand what happened.

In the period November 2016 to October 2017, Ombudsman Services closed 49,117 energy complaints. Of those, it helped resolve 8% without investigating because the energy company was willing to provide the consumer with their desired resolution.

Of the complaints that Ombudsman Services investigated, it:

  • upheld 66% (finding that the energy supplier had done something wrong and had not done enough to put it right).
  • maintained 26% (finding that although the energy supplier had done something wrong, it had already offered a fair resolution to the customer).
  • did not uphold 8% of complaints, (concluding that there was no substance to the original complaint and the energy supplier had treated the customer fairly).

These figures suggest that the majority of complaints needed Ombudsman Services intervention to ensure a fair remedy for the consumer. But many could have been resolved without Ombudsman Services’ help. In most cases, the complaints reached Ombudsman Services because of a failure in the energy supplier’s complaint handling; but some could have benefited from better complaining from the consumer – or the consumer accepting a resolution that was already fair.

So, below are some common reasons why consumer actions mean a complaint is not resolved with the energy company – along with some advice on how not to fall into the traps.

5 top tips for ensuring you have the best case if you need the ombudsman on picture of electricity pylon

 

  1. Focusing on the problem, not the solution

It is very easy to focus on what went wrong and how it should never have happened. But a complaint normally only ends successfully when the wronged party focusses on what needs to be done to put things right. So, before you complain, think about what you would like your supplier to do to resolve your complaint – and let the supplier know.

 

  1. Disbelieving accurate responses

When things go wrong, people lose trust. So people often lack confidence in energy company’s answers. It can be worth seeking advice online or from friends and family. This can sometimes provide the reassurance consumers desire without the need for an ombudsman investigation.  See All you need to know to make a complaint about energy for advice, tips, information and consumer rights regarding energy complaints and  the Ombudsman website for Energy complaint advice and cases. 

  1. Unreasonable expectations / asking for bills or balances to be wiped

Energy suppliers do offer financial awards – but they are normally goodwill gestures to acknowledge what went wrong. Energy suppliers rarely relate awards to the size of a consumer’s outstanding balance.

Ombudsman Services applies similar principles in our complaint handling. Customers should pay the correct amount for the energy they have consumed. If something has gone wrong and a financial award is due – the amount will be proportionate to the trouble the consumer experienced – not the outstanding account balance.

  1. Failing to engage with an energy supplier

Poor energy supplier responses can leave consumers feeling that the problem won’t be resolved without help. But Ombudsman Services can only help after a consumer has tried to resolve the problem with the energy supplier direct for several weeks. As frustrating as it is, consumers should plug away with the energy company. Be clear about what the problem is and what needs to be done to put it right. Check out 20 Top Tips for complaining effectively to increase your chances before needing the Ombudsman. Hopefully someone at the energy company will understand the complaint and correct the problem. This will mean a far quicker resolution than if you go to the Ombudsman.

  1. Becoming too invested in the complaint

If a consumer feels they’ve been wronged, they’re likely to tell people about it. Sometimes it turns out that the consumer is at fault, and in such circumstances, it can be difficult for consumers to admit their error to other people on the complaint journey. They can reach for excuses and/or change the substance of their complaint so as not to lose face. This rarely leads to success and escalating to Ombudsman Services can sometimes prolong and increase the disappointment. If a consumer realises that they are wrong, there is sometimes value in not continuing the complaint.

If consumers feel wronged they should always complain; but they should do so in a focused way and seek a proportionate outcome.

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!For tips on writing that initial complaint see Top 20 Tips How to Complain!

 

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

 

 

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

The One Show today covers Terms and Conditions. Who reads them? Would you follow them if told?

There are pages and pages of small print. How many of us tick the box that says “Agree to terms and conditions”, only to fall foul later when we need to complain?

The Government thought so too and there was a call for evidence from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills for consumers to provide feedback regarding their experiences. The open consultation ended on 25 April 2016 but there is still no response. I’ve requested details of when this will be forthcoming but as yet not heard anything.

So what can you do in the meantime if you feel that the terms and conditions you agreed to actually turned out to be unfair? Don’t worry, all is not lost!

Consumer Rights Act 2015 and unfair contracts
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) creates a ‘fairness test’ to stop consumers being put at unfair disadvantage. A term is unfair if it tilts the rights and responsibilities between the consumer and the trader too much in favour of the trader. The test is applied by looking at what words are used and how they could be interpreted. It takes into consideration what is being sold, what the other terms of the contract say and all the circumstances at the time the term was agreed. There is an exemption for the essential obligations of contracts – setting the price and describing the main subject matter – provided the wording used is clear and prominent. There is also an exemption for wording that has to be used by law. If you have been misled into making a decision that you would otherwise not have made then the company is in breach of this law.

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (amended 2014) (CPUTRs)

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 or not put under unfair pressure to do so.

The regulations prohibit trading practices that are unfair to consumers. There are four different types of practices covered:

A general ban – on conduct below a level which may be expected towards consumers (honest market practice/good faith).

Misleading practices  a practice misleads through the information it contains, or its deceptive presentation, and causes, or is likely to cause, the average consumer to take a different transactional decision specifically; general misleading information, creating confusion with competitors’ products or failing to honour commitments made in a code of conduct.

Aggressive sales techniques using harassment, coercion or undue influence– significantly impairs, or is likely to significantly impair, the average consumer’s freedom of choice or conduct in relation to the product through the use of harassment, coercion or undue influence – and  thereby causes him to take a different transactional decision.

31 specific practices (that would be two long boring pages of  post! It is pretty thorough though and all of them are listed in the book ). 🙂

How to use
Say for example, your mobile ‘phone is constantly losing signal and you can’t use it like any customer would want to, that is a breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 because it has not supplied you with services carried out with reasonable skill and care and you have every right to terminate the contract. If however, the company tells you that in the terms and conditions of the contract that you signed, you can’t break a contract early under any circumstances, that’s a breach of the above laws, because they have not kept to their side of the bargain! In fact, the telecoms sector is downright awful for customer service so here is some more advice on them. All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers.

Another example. You were told that you could have a free cup of coffee and cake for giving your email address. You signed up. You had your coffee and cake they then tell you that in the terms and conditions you have to clean the floor. You argue that you didn’t know but they say “It’s in the terms and condition”. Tough. For them. Under the CRA it could be an unfair contract, because cleaning the floor could be considered as worth more in payment than the coffee and cake (maybe it would depend how big the floor was?!) But under the CPUTRs it is a big fat breach. You would argue that you were misled into giving your email address.

When you complain use the Top 20 Tips.

To keep up to date with the latest information about consumer rights sign up to the newsletter. You won’t be bombarded with emails because I can’t be bothered to set up all those automatic weekly things trying to sell you Stuff! I probably only get round to doing a couple a year!

 

For more information, advice, tips, consumer laws and template letters covering the majority of issues you might incur with most sectors  GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

 

 

Ryanair flies into oblivion

In the latest apparent “Let’s treat customers as badly as possible” Ryanair business plan, it has decided to cancel 40-50 flights a day from its schedule of over 2,500 flights for  six weeks to the end of October. This is caused by incredibly bad management of staff leave. Not only that, it is so poor that they aren’t even managing the cancellation properly. Giving people little to no notice.

Ryanair’s Facebook and Twitter feed provides little information and people are flocking to share their outrage at the appalling management of the whole situation.

 

 

What the pilots are saying
I was on Radio 5 this morning and there were a few calls from Ryanair pilots who wanted to understandably remain anonymous. They were saying that Ryanair pay poorly and whilst they recognise that pilots are well paid, it is below the industry average. They also have to pay for their own accommodation and training and so staff turnover is high. A pilot for Jet2 said that Ryanair pilots are always leaving and joining them. Pilots are limited to the hours they can fly a year So the problem is not only that Ryanair has mismanaged the leave, it would also appear that it is because they treat their staff badly they get fed up and quit. Of course, if Ryanair paid better, the cost of the flights would go up? Maybe it is something it needs to look at if it is to survive.

On the news this evening (18/09/17) pilots were saying could happen again next year. (I won’t be flying Ryanair, I use them all the time, I won’t be now!)

Not informing you of your rights
But, not only is Ryanair not providing information about cancelled flights quickly enough, it also isn’t giving people their legal rights, most importantly the significant compensation that people are due. Just like BA powercut debacle: Airline keeps passengers in the dark about their rights update 18/09/17 CEO has said will pay EU compensation.

Ryanair has now released a list up to 28th October.  Still no mention of applying for compensation on there!

What Ryanair should be doing
Ryanair should be trying to get you onto another flight, even if that is with another carrier and must pay you compensation. Airline template and information for all the details. You can use their form but you could write, adapting the letter for your circumstances and the costs that you incurred and give a deadline for payment as they will have a huge rise in claims at the moment methinks!

If the flight is more than 14 days away then you will not get the compensation.

You are entitled to the compensation (details in link above) unless you are offered re-routing, allowing you to depart no more than one hour before the scheduled time of departure and to reach your final destination less than two hours after the scheduled time of arrival”.

If Ryanair has left you stranded you are entitled to the hotel and refreshment/food costs until they can get you onto another flight. You must keep these reasonable though and I would advise you keep evidence of searches to find low cost accommodation etc.

Consequential losses
If you have booked a hotel and other things, Ryanair is saying that it will not pay and you may be able to claim on insurance. Again, I’d like to see this tested in court. It is Ryanair’s fault and I don’t see why the insurance companies should pay which will ultimately put our premiums up!

The EU laws don’t cover consequential losses. However domestic law may, but because Ryanair is based in Ireland you would need to sue through the Irish courts. You should be able to get advice from the UK European Consumer Centre. (Court action may mean having to pay Ryanair costs so take advice).

The Association of British Insurers is urging travellers affected by Ryanair cancellations to contact the airline in the first instance to seek replacement flights and compensation. Mark Shepherd, head of property, commercial and specialist lines at the ABI, said:

“Ryanair has admitted it is to blame for the large number of flights currently being cancelled. Travellers affected will be understandably upset and have every right to expect help and support from the airline, whether that is alternative flights with a different carrier or compensation for the disruption suffered and other expenses incurred. If passengers are experiencing additional costs which for some reason Ryanair is refusing to cover they may be able to make claims on a travel insurance policy, but this may depend on the level of cover they bought. Clearly the first port of call must be Ryanair itself.”

Consumer Rights Act 2015 came into force to cover airlines October 1st 2016 but it is such a new law that it’s largely untested and will be until we get a definitive judge-lead ruling. So given the lack of confidence in the airline ADR provider (as highlighted recently on BBC Watchdog) which lost its previous ombudsman title, in circumstances which remain unclear,  The Retail Ombudsman is no more  the consumer really has 2 realistic routes, that’s to go direct to the airline setting out that there has been a breach and the losses and if there is no remedy there it’s on to court for a ruling on both the CRA and contract breach. I think Ryanair will settle they wouldn’t want to risk it. So write to the airline detailing your case I think you’ll find that they will pay out just as BA did with their fiasco in May.

The UK EU Consumer Centres says “Consumers may be able to pursue the airlines under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) as the company should perform a service with reasonable care and skill. Also, another instrument that passengers may be able to use is the Montreal Convention.” The CAA has been looking at how the CRA will work with the Montreal Convention as it is very complicated regarding what and when you are covered as the MC applies once in the sky and over rules anything else. It is far from clear cut!

However, request it as advised in the post and if you follow the tips you’ll get it as people are.

Package holidays
If you have booked a package holiday through a travel company which has put you on a Ryanair flight, it is responsible for getting you to your destination. It, should also be informing you of any issues with your flight. If not, it has not been providing services with reasonable skill and care which is a breach of  the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and also Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tour Regulations 1992. Regulations 12 and 13 refer to alterations in the package holiday or to departure times or location.

Getting another flight
You are entitled under EU rules to “rerouting, under comparable transport conditions, to your final destination at the earliest opportunity”. Unfortunately what exactly “the earliest opportunity” means has not been properly tested and defined in court. Yet.

Ryanair in their continuing poor customer care are telling passengers that hey may have to wait three days or more before they can be flown to their destination. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says that airlines are obliged to book you on a rival airline “where there is a significant difference in the time that a reroute can be offered on the airline’s own services”. The CAA does not define “significant” Different airlines have different rules regarding what they think is “significant”. However, whether they are legal remains to be seen, so if you get another flight at two days and Ryanair don’t pay then please do take them to court and let me know about it!

Accountability
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is the enforcement body for upholding the consumer rights of air passengers, and so it is able to take action against any airline that operates out of the UK, regardless of nationality. (It does not, however, regulate Ryanair from a safety perspective, this is done by the Irish Aviation Authority.   My investigation into airlines charging to sit children with an adult Plane greedy – Are airlines holding families to ransom? uncovered that Ryanair are making a mandatory charge to sit a child with an adult in the group. The CAA categorically stated that the airline should not charge but would not do anything about it because Ryanair is based in Ireland and the IAA have refused point blank to comment. So I don’t hold out much hope here.)

Update – 27th September 2017  CAA has  launched enforcement action against Ryanair for persistently misleading passengers with inaccurate information regarding their rights in respect of its recent cancellations.

Misleading, blatant lie or just incompetent?
See this letter below? Utter utter utter twaddle, codswallop, hogwash to give it the technical terms. Even the CEO, Michael O’Leary has said today that they will pay compensation. NO! You are entitled to the compensation AND the refund, they are two very different things. See Airline compensation.

Ryanair has previous
Just to show that the CAA can take action when it wants to do so, this from September 2015 on the CAA website:

Ryanair faces CAA enforcement action for breach of consumer law. As part of its on-going campaign to safeguard the rights of UK air passengers, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has launched enforcement action against Ryanair. This action follows a review by the regulator that found Ryanair is not complying fully with European consumer law designed to support passengers following flight disruption. Ryanair is now required to make policy changes or face the prospect of further enforcement steps leading to court action, if the airline remains non-compliant.

Contact details for Ryanair COO here.

Price hikes

 

 

All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights for masses of info about booking/taking holidays and flights.

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

Your rights and how to complain about ferries and cruises

Ferries/cruises
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 was applied to ferries from 1st October 2016. You are now entitled to services carried out with reasonable skill and care. If they are not then you should be able to gain redress.

If your ferry service is cancelled or departure is delayed for more than 90 minutes, you are entitled to either an alternative sailing at the earliest opportunity at no additional cost or reimbursement of the ticket price which should be paid within seven days. If you choose an alternative crossing, you’re still entitled to claim compensation for the delay to your original journey.

While you wait (when delayed for more than 90 minutes or it is expected to be cancelled) you are entitled to meals and refreshments if they can be reasonably supplied even if the reason is bad weather.

If an overnight stay is required due to the delay/cancellation then the ferry or cruise operator must offer you accommodation free of charge, if possible. This can be on board or ashore.

Your ferry company can offer alternatives such as permitting you to make your own separate plans to travel and reimburse your expenses. No overnight accommodation has to be offered or costs reimbursed if the delay is caused by weather conditions endangering the safe operation of the ship.

For all things complaining holidays see All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights

For more advice, tips and templates for complaining  see GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!