The consumer complained to the Rail Service Provider about not experiencing the full benefits included with two Return tickets booked for £300 each.
The Consumer’s complaint specifically referenced a reduced catering offering, and a lack of information about this prior to boarding.
The Consumer was seeking a partial refund due to the reduced service.
The Rail Service Provider responded to the consumer by apologising for the disappointing experience. The Rail Service Provider explained when they were instructed to close their catering cars the information on their website was updated and this was also available before to the consumer making a booking.
What the Ombudsman did
The Ombudsman took into account the Rail Service Provider’s Charter, the Consumer Rights Act 2015, other applicable legislation and the National Rail Conditions of Travel.
The Ombudsman considered the current online information about restrictions in relation to the advertised service. The Rail Service Provider stated that this information was available on the website at the time of booking, but neither party could evidence this. There was time-stamped information on the website which showed an advertised reduction in service at the present time, but it was not clear as to whether this information was available to the consumer when they booked their travel. It was also noted that the Charter does not refer consumers to the website for more updated information on catering provision, or advise that this could be subject to change. Neither party could provide evidence that the email which should have been sent outlining pre-trip information was actually sent to or received by the consumer. Whilst it is accepted that there is an onus on a consumer to check up to date information before they travel, having considered the evidence about the information provided, the Ombudsman awarded a price reduction for the reduced service provision as there was insufficient evidence that the consumer had been informed of this at the time they made their booking or at any time after that.
In order to help avoid confusion on the part of future consumers, the Ombudsman recommended that the Rail Service Provider reviews its Charter to make it clear that any service changes would be reflected on the website in between Charter publication dates, and that relevant service changes should be highlighted within the ticket booking system, where possible, to enable consumers to make an informed decision about travel. In order to be fully accessible, the Ombudsman recommended that other communication channels were assessed in order to ensure that the information was available to all service-users.