The Consumer complained to the Rail Service Provider after they had ordered tickets from their website. The Consumer paid for the tickets to be delivered by post, selecting a special delivery option. The Consumer contacted the Rail Service Provider when it was clear that the tickets had not arrived on the expected day of delivery. The Consumer was provided with a tracking number and told to contact the postal service directly. The Consumer was unhappy with this response but contacted the postal service and was informed that the tickets had been delivered to an unoccupied house and were unrecoverable. The Consumer contacted the Rail Service Provider again and was told there was nothing further they could do, and that they could only provide a refund upon receipt of the unused tickets. If the Consumer wished to make the journey, they would have to purchase new tickets.
The Consumer was seeking an explanation as to why nothing could be done to assist further and seeking an apology for how their complaint had been handled. The Consumer was also claiming for a refund for the unused tickets.
The Rail Service Provider reiterated that they were unable to refund or reissue the tickets as their location was unknown and if the Consumer wanted to travel, they must purchase new tickets.
What the Ombudsman did
The Ombudsman noted that the tickets had been mis-directed after they had been sent via post but considered that as they had been informed of the mistake well ahead of the date of travel, the RSP should assume some responsibility.
The Rail Ombudsman took into account NRCOT, the Rail Service Providers Passenger Charter and legal principles to reach the final decision in the case. It was accepted that the Consumer had notified the Rail Service Provider well in advance of the journey that the tickets were not recoverable, and the postal service had confirmed this to both parties. The Ombudsman were satisfied that the Consumer should have been able to travel without incurring further cost or be required to pursue a claim via the postal service.
The Ombudsman also considered the spirit of the Postal Rule – the purpose of which is to acknowledge that the parties have done everything within their power to fulfil their obligations, and that circumstances outside of their control will have no bearing on the Ombudsman’s assessment. However, although it was accepted that the tickets were posted correctly, there was no effort to provide the Consumer with a resolution despite the error identified.
The Ombudsman also had regard to the fact that the Consumer had paid an additional sum for a special delivery option. Since the postal service provider acted as agent for the Rail Service Provider, mis-delivery of the ticket is at their risk, not the consumer’s. Where the tickets were delivered to an unoccupied house, this element of the contract had not been fulfilled.
Furthermore, the Ombudsman investigated how the Consumer’s complaint had been handled by the Rail Service Provider and the extensive effort this Consumer was forced to go through was recognised by the Ombudsman performing the assessment.
Accordingly, the Ombudsman awarded either a monetary sum or a complementary Rail Service Provider return ticket, as a result of the complaint handling. Further to this, the cost of the original tickets including a refund of the postage costs were also awarded as part of the Adjudication.
The Ombudsman recommended that the industry considers a mechanism through which a short-notice cancellation and replacement tickets could be issued under specified circumstances, at the Rail Service Provider’s discretion.