Case Study – Customer Service / Animals

The Issue

The Consumer’s complaint related to a staff member’s response to his barking dog during a journey. They stated how they were travelling on the train with their small dog on their lap. Their dog had started barking but not aggressively, and it made the guard jump and respond with foul language. The Consumer complained specifically that the guard’s behaviour was ‘aggressive and bullying.’

The Consumer was seeking an explanation or apology, a refund and compensation.

The Response

The RSP explained that the incident had been raised internally, and that the staff member described feeling threatened but accepted that his reaction may not have been entirely professional. The RSP apologised for any offence caused, and explained that sometimes dogs barking, even if not aggressively, may create anxieties in some people, which can lead to out-of-character reactions.

What the Ombudsman did

As this was an incident involving human interactions, the Rail Ombudsman assessed all evidence provided. Both parties were asked for corroborating evidence, but neither could provide objective information such as CCTV footage. It was not disputed that the member of staff swore, but the RSP gave an account from the staff member which conflicted with that of the Consumer on the other points raised.

As neither account of events could be verified by evidence and the Consumer bears the burden of proof in civil cases, the Rail Ombudsman could not reach a conclusion about the interaction and could not uphold the Consumer’s complaint over and above the apology provided.

Recommendations about CCTV Provision

The Rail Ombudsman has made recommendations previously about the provision of CCTV footage where this is relevant to a claim; this should be retained by the RSP where it is relevant. It is noted that there was no available CCTV in this instance and whilst this may have been helpful, it also demonstrates the limitations of CCTV evidence which cannot show the whole, verbal, interaction. Nonetheless, consumers are advised to request this when submitting a compliant to the RSP in order to assist all parties.

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