Rail service improvements and disruptions

11.06.18

Rail companies are misleading customers over compensation

Train companies are giving misleading information about compensation, according to research by Which?

Despite recent changes to terms and conditions which mean that rail companies should offer compensation for reasonable out of pocket expenses when they fail to provide services, just 13 out of 26 operators consistently gave correct, helpful advice to mystery shoppers.

ScotRail, Greater Anglia, Grand Central, Stansted Express, Cross Country and Heathrow Express were labelled as the “worst offenders,” after they all told the secret shoppers that it was not possible to claim for consequential loss to cover the cost of a taxi after the last train of the night was cancelled.

When questioned about the findings, ScotRail, Greater Anglia, Stansted Express and Grand Central told the consumer watchdog that they do cover consequential loss, suggesting that individual staff members are not correctly implementing the policy.

Heathrow Express said that it intends to retrain its staff.

The mystery shoppers found that six companies could improve how they advise on compensation, as staff at Arriva Wales, Greater Northern/Thameslink and Virgin West Coast gave inconsistent advice, with one call providing helpful advice and the other providing unclear information, while staff at South Eastern, Chiltern Railways and West Midlands Trains were “vague and unhelpful.”

Southern, Gatwick Express, Northern, Southwestern Railway, TransPennine Express, East Midlands, London North Western, TfL Rail, C2C, Merseyrail and Heathrow Connect all gave the mystery shoppers consistent, helpful advice.

These results are a vast improvement on the findings of a previous investigation by the publication in March, prior to the rule change coming into force, which found that just five train companies consistently gave correct information.

In addition, Which? audited 26 train company websites and found that a disappointing 18 out of 26 websites were failing to provide good enough information to customers about claiming for consequential loss, with most failing to provide any information on the matter at all.

In fact, East Midlands, Great Western Railway, Heathrow Express, Hull Trains and Stansted Express all had misleading advice on consequential loss, either denying liability or suggesting passengers claim on their travel insurance.

Since the audit, Great Western, Heathrow Express and East Midlands have updated their online information, and Hull Trains have told Which? that it is reviewing its passengers’ charter.

Which? managing director of public markets, Alex Hayman, accused train companies of “treating their passengers with breathtaking disregard.”

He said: “They have been warned time and again about their duties to ensure their passengers are getting the money they are owed when they fail to deliver, yet they fail to act until forced.

“The regulator must now start showing some teeth and take immediate enforcement action or the government has no choice but to step in and stand up for passengers and their rights.”

Top image: Gareth Fuller via PA Wire

 

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