The consumer made an application to The Rail Ombudsman regarding a stain to his coat caused by paint on the seating area of a train.
The consumer confirmed that the coat was 2 years old but had no evidence to prove the purchase date. He was able to provide information on comparable like-for-like products available in style, fabric and cost. He had also provided a report from a dry cleaner in which it was confirmed that the paint was unlikely to be able to be removed.
The RSP accepted the high likelihood of the stain being caused by paint on their train due to the timing of the complaint and their records showing when re-painting had taken place. Prior to the consumer approaching the Ombudsman, the RSP had also had a face-to-face meeting with the consumer to assess the damage and offered the cost of the coat be professionally cleaned.
What the Ombudsman did
The Ombudsman recognised that the cost of dry-cleaning (a remedy we would otherwise consider reasonable) would not be suitable in the situation given that the consumer had brought evidence to indicate that it was unlikely the paint could be removed and sought further proposals from the RSP in response to the consumer’s claim. The RSP responded with an offer of £50 in rail vouchers, or as a cheque.
In the assessment of the consumer’s claim, the Ombudsman requested photographs of the coat, and considered the extent of the damage incurred to the consumer’s personal property. The Ombudsman also considered the RSP’s offer in relation to the claim.
We understood the point of view of both parties, as although it was reasonable to offer the cost of having the coat professionally cleaned, if the cleaner could not remove the paint stain from the coat, this may result in further costs or even further damage. As such, we considered that this offer would not be appropriate since there was no certainty it would resolve the issue. We also noted that as the coat was 2 years old, to replace it as new or refund the original purchase price would put the consumer in a better position, therefore, likewise, inappropriate.
The Ombudsman took into consideration the consumer’s comments as to the purchase date of the coat, the coat type and the amount paid but also that there was no original proof of purchase. Internally, we also looked at the second-hand value of comparable coats.
In addition, the Ombudsman had acknowledged the RSP had acted reasonably in their handling of the consumer’s complaint as they had taken steps to resolve the matter including meeting the consumer directly.
The Ombudsman concluded that the RSP’s offer of £50 as a cheque or in rail vouchers was reasonable and proportionate in light of the evidence provided, noting that the resolution allowed the consumer either to attempt to have the stain removed or provide a contribution towards the cost of a new coat.
Note to Consumers: Claims that are brought to the Rail Ombudsman are decided on the balance of probabilities, therefore the more information you can provide to us to ‘tip the legal scales in your favour’, the more likely a successful outcome is. Where you are bringing property damage claims to us, photographs are really helpful, but where your property is not ‘brand new’, we might need to look at the cost of the fix or the second-hand value to reach a fair conclusion.
Upon receiving the adjudication, the RSP expressed their appreciation as to how fairly the case was handled and thought the outcome to be perfectly acceptable based on the balanced judgement provided by the Ombudsman.