The Consumer initially complained when they had been unable to travel on the RSP service for two days due to widespread cancellations caused by a technical fault. Therefore, they lost two nights of a seven-night holiday booking. The Consumer emailed a few days later to again explain that they had a non-refundable booking (for 7 nights), for which they evidenced the cost. The Consumer attempted to purchase tickets on four consecutive days, on alternative services and investigated using other transport options so as not to lose the non-refundable booking, with no success.
The RSP’s first response confirmed the advice against non-essential travel and advised of the extended validity on the tickets, noting that all claims for additional costs would be considered case-by-case. Later, the RSP declined compensation, but directed the Consumer to claim a full refund on all train tickets, due to the disruption.
What the Ombudsman did
The Ombudsman attempted to get an agreement between the parties, but as this was not possible, the case moved to adjudication.
At Adjudication, the Ombudsman found that the services were cancelled and there was no evidenced means of alternative travel provided by the RSP. The consumer was therefore entitled to a full refund on the cost of their tickets.
The consumer had, though, incurred additional expenses which the RSP initially stated would be considered on a case-by-case basis.
The Ombudsman was satisfied that the Consumer had supported their attempts to travel through the repeated booking of tickets and therefore make use of the accommodation. They also evidenced that the accommodation booking was non-refundable and provided an email from the venue to state that they did not use the accommodation.
The Ombudsman felt it fair that the RSP should take responsibility for the consequences of not providing its service under circumstances which were also beyond the Consumer’s control. Furthermore, the Consumer telephoned the RSP and was given direct advice “not to travel” alongside details of how to claim for costs online. The Consumer’s repeated attempted train bookings supported their efforts to make use of the accommodation booking. In addition to this, the Consumer provided evidence of text messages with the accommodation provider, to explain how she was trying to get there and there were no bus alternatives found or other options put forwards by the RSP. A part refund on the accommodation costs were therefore awarded.
Advice to Consumers
The Rail Ombudsman advises Consumers to contact RSPs in such circumstances to explore and agree all reasonable alternatives to keep additional costs to a minimum. Furthermore, consumers are advised to keep records of evidence to provide proof for cases brought to the Ombudsman to consider.