Supplying a travel service
When you pay to travel by train, coach or ferry you’re considered to have purchased a service. The Consumer Rights Act provides obligations on those providing the service.
- The provider must perform the service with reasonable care and skill.
- Information which is said or written is binding if you’ve relied on it.
- If the price is not agreed beforehand, the service must be provided for a reasonable price.
- Unless a particular timescale for performing the service is set out or agreed, the service must be carried out in a reasonable time.
Depending on how severe the failing is, you can claim back up to 100% of the price you paid.
What can I claim for?
If you’re paying to travel by train, coach or ferry you’re purchasing a service, and it must be provided with reasonable care and skill.
In practice this could mean that you can claim a full or partial refund for things like delays, where these are caused by something the service provider has done.
You can claim a refund of up to 100% of the price paid. But, for example if a delay was short, or short in relation to the overall journey time, you may only be able to claim a partial refund.
Other travel delay compensation schemes
You can use our guides to find out more about other delays and cancellation compensation schemes:
If you claim a refund under the Consumer Rights Act it may mean you can't receive compensation from other schemes, as there’s generally a rule that you can't be compensated twice for the same thing. But you’re still free to start both claims.
What is a poor travel service?
If you feel the service you’ve received falls way below the standard you’d expect, you might be entitled to claim a full or partial refund in the following circumstances:
- A severely overcrowded train because too few carriages are available
- A service that’s delayed for less than the time limit that applies under other compensation schemes
- Unavailability of a particular seat, where you’ve paid for a specified seat or a seat in a certain coach or carriage (such as first class)
- A consistently late running service if you have bought a season ticket
- Failure to provide access to a toilet on longer journeys
- Failure to provide food on a train journey if it was part of the described service
- The Wi-Fi service you paid for does not work
You’ll need evidence to prove your claim, and be prepared to argue your case.
Was the delay caused by factors outside of the train company's control?
There are some things that may cause a delay to your journey that are likely to be outside of the train company’s control. Examples of this include:
- Acts or threats of vandalism or terrorism
- Suicides or accidents involving trespassers
- Gas leaks or fires in lineside buildings not caused by a train company
- Line closures at the request of the police or emergency services
- Exceptionally severe weather conditions
- Industrial action
- Riots or civil commotion
- Fire, mechanical or electrical failure or a defect (except where caused by a train company or its trains’ defects)
- The striking of a bridge by a vehicle
It is unlikely that you will be able to make a successful claim if the issue which caused your detail was not a failure on the train company's part to provide the service with reasonable care and skill.
Claiming for consequential loss
Under the Consumer Rights Act you can claim for consequential losses. This means you can claim for financial losses you have suffered as a result of the failure by the transport service.
To make a successful claim you’ll need to demonstrate how your losses are linked to a breach of contract by the service provider.
Your first port of call should be to write to the company asking for compensation. You should explain how their service was in breach of their contract with you and how that breach resulted in further losses to you.
For example, due to a delay or cancellation you may have missed a connecting journey and had to pay for an alternative service.
It’s a good idea to seek out legal advice if your claim is particularly high value or complicated.
What if my claim's ignored?
As things stand, if an agreement can’t be reached when you complain to your travel provider you will probably need to go to court to enforce your rights under the Consumer Rights Act.
You may find that simply threatening to go to court will prompt the train company to take action and deal with your complaint.
Which? doesn't believe this is fair on rail passengers and we’re calling for a statutory backed ombudsman to deal with rail passenger complaints without the hassle or expense of going to court.
Coach and bus complaints
If you need to escalate a bus or scheduled coach journey complaint who you contact will depend on where the service was operating.
- A bus journey within London and the surrounding area: London Travel Watch
- A bus journey in the rest of the UK: Bus Appeals Body
- Any coach journey anywhere in the UK: Bus Appeals Body
If the ferry company doesn't respond or you're unable to resolve your complaint, you can contact the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) which is the official complaint handling body.
Make a Section 75 claim
You can also enforce your rights using Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
If you spend more than £100 and less than £30,000 on your credit card for goods or a service, your card company is jointly liable if something goes wrong.
You can make a Section 75 claim at any time if your travel service hasn’t been provided with reasonable care and skill. But be aware that your card company may refute your claim, so be prepared to argue your case.
Getting your refund
If you are successful in claiming a refund, or damages for consequential loss, this must be paid within 14 days and in the same form you paid for the service. So if you paid in cash, you should be refunded in cash – not vouchers.
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Jane Langley says:
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