Appealing a Northern Penalty Fare

ITO

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22 Sep 2021
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Location
West Yorkshire
Mod Note: Originally from this thread.

Hi

I have a similar issue and would like some advice about an appeal against a Penalty Notice. Thanks in advance!

I was travelling from Saltaire to Leeds on 5 September 2021. This line is operated by Northern. I knew I would need to make two return journeys from Saltaire to Leeds that day so decided to buy a DayRover, details here; National Rail Enquiries - West Yorkshire Train DaySaver . This ticket type is only available from staffed stations or on board the train. Saltaire is an unstaffed station with a TVM so my friend and I tried to buy the ticket on the train. The conductor was too busy and told us to buy our tickets at Leeds. At Leeds we went up to the ticket booth to try to buy the ticket, but while I was talking to the person beind the desk a Revenue Assurance Team member stopped me.

I was issued with a Penalty Notice which fines me £20, payable within 21 days. The Revenue Assurance Officer was really bullying and unreasonable. He insisted that the only circumstances in which it would be acceptable to not have a ticket would be if we had a promise to pay notice. He refused to listen to the fact that our ticket type was unavailable to buy except at staffed stations/ on the train, and that the train conduictor had told us to purchase at Leeds. He behaved very inappropriately; standing in an intimidatingly pose, avoiding accountability, denying that there is any discretion available and seeming to enjoy our distress. His younger colleague whispered that he knew this man was unreasonable but that he was the boss.

I have both appealed the notice and complained about the conduct of the Revenue Assurance Team.

I have had three replies from the complaints team at Northern. Initially they refused to engage with my concerns about the bullying irrational conduct of the Revenue Assurance Team and instead used their emails to defend the existence of a Penalty Notice scheme. Eventually they acknowledged that in the circumstances I have described I shouldn't have been issued with the Penalty Notice and apologised;

"Thank you for clarifying the product you wanted to purchase wasn't available from the Ticket Vending Machine. This wasn't clear in your initial correspondence and therefore I apologise for not querying this. Some tickets that Northern retail have different terms and conditions as the fares are set by the local transport authority. There are a small number of products that can only be purchased at a staffed station or onboard the West Yorkshire Day Ranger is one of these tickets.

The penalty fare policy and our enforcement of this policy takes into account these types of products and where the opportunity to purchase does not exist such as Saltaire Station then customers are permitted to purchase a ticket on board or on at arrival at a station that can retail the requested ticket. If you were prevented from purchasing the ticket at Leeds after requesting a West Yorkshire Day Rover and explained to the revenue officer that the ticket you intended purchase was only available on board or at the station then the revenue officer in question as failed to apply the policy correctly and therefore I sincerely apologise."


(I have asked them for more information about what they intend to do to avoid this bullying and irrationality happening again and they haven't yet replied.)

I am quite confident that my appeal will be upheld (keen to hear any views on this!) however I have received a letter from Penalty Services -from a 'no reply' email address- saying that they will not be able to reply 'as quickly as [they] would like'. My deadline for paying the £20 penalty is 26 September 2021 and it looks like my appeal will not have been determined before that time. I am concerned that if I don't pay the fine within the deadline then Northern (or their debt collectors) will start chasing me for the amount plus additional administrative fees. I am concerned (based on another post I saw on this Forum) that even if the appeal later succeeds that they may continue to chase me for administrative fees. It seems that Northern and Penalty Services don't talk to each other, so my understanding is that Northern won't know/ care that my appeal is outstanding, nor that their complaints manager has basically acknoweldged the Revenue Assurance Team's error.

I have already spent a lot of time dealing with these irrational systems and want to spend as little time as possible in future dealing with Northern & Penalty Services! Do you think I should pay and then if/when my appeal succeeds seek a refund? Does anyone have experience of getting a refund after succeeding in such an appeal? If I don't pay, will they extend the deadline to pay until the outcome of the appeal is known? Will they pursue me for admin fees even if the appeal is allowed?

Hope someone with experience can advise on what would be best.

ITO
 
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Haywain

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I have asked them for more information about what they intend to do to avoid this bullying and irrationality happening again and they haven't yet replied.
You will not be told what (if anything) is being done about that. Any action is a confidential matter between employer and employee.
 

Watershed

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26 Sep 2020
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UK
I was travelling from Saltaire to Leeds on 5 September 2021. This line is operated by Northern. I knew I would need to make two return journeys from Saltaire to Leeds that day so decided to buy a DayRover, details here; National Rail Enquiries - West Yorkshire Train DaySaver . This ticket type is only available from staffed stations or on board the train. Saltaire is an unstaffed station with a TVM so my friend and I tried to buy the ticket on the train. The conductor was too busy and told us to buy our tickets at Leeds. At Leeds we went up to the ticket booth to try to buy the ticket, but while I was talking to the person beind the desk a Revenue Assurance Team member stopped me.

I was issued with a Penalty Notice which fines me £20, payable within 21 days. The Revenue Assurance Officer was really bullying and unreasonable. He insisted that the only circumstances in which it would be acceptable to not have a ticket would be if we had a promise to pay notice. He refused to listen to the fact that our ticket type was unavailable to buy except at staffed stations/ on the train, and that the train conduictor had told us to purchase at Leeds. He behaved very inappropriately; standing in an intimidatingly pose, avoiding accountability, denying that there is any discretion available and seeming to enjoy our distress. His younger colleague whispered that he knew this man was unreasonable but that he was the boss.
Unfortunately that's far from the first time we've heard of such appalling behaviour from Northern revenue protection staff, particularly at Leeds. Even if you had been totally in the wrong, you still deserve to be treated with basic respect and decency.

Of course, in this case you were entirely in the right so the member of staff had no right to require your details, or to make you do anything other than pay for the ticket you had asked for.

Incidentally, a Penalty Fare isn't legally a fine (though it may feel like one). It's simply a kind of higher-than-usual fare levied under the Penalty Fares Regulations, which set out the circumstances in which a Penalty Fare can and can't be issued, as well as the appeals procedure.

I have both appealed the notice and complained about the conduct of the Revenue Assurance Team.

I have had three replies from the complaints team at Northern. Initially they refused to engage with my concerns about the bullying irrational conduct of the Revenue Assurance Team and instead used their emails to defend the existence of a Penalty Notice scheme. Eventually they acknowledged that in the circumstances I have described I shouldn't have been issued with the Penalty Notice and apologised;

"Thank you for clarifying the product you wanted to purchase wasn't available from the Ticket Vending Machine. This wasn't clear in your initial correspondence and therefore I apologise for not querying this. Some tickets that Northern retail have different terms and conditions as the fares are set by the local transport authority. There are a small number of products that can only be purchased at a staffed station or onboard the West Yorkshire Day Ranger is one of these tickets.

The penalty fare policy and our enforcement of this policy takes into account these types of products and where the opportunity to purchase does not exist such as Saltaire Station then customers are permitted to purchase a ticket on board or on at arrival at a station that can retail the requested ticket. If you were prevented from purchasing the ticket at Leeds after requesting a West Yorkshire Day Rover and explained to the revenue officer that the ticket you intended purchase was only available on board or at the station then the revenue officer in question as failed to apply the policy correctly and therefore I sincerely apologise."
A predictably mealy mouthed if-pology.

I am quite confident that my appeal will be upheld (keen to hear any views on this!) however I have received a letter from Penalty Services -from a 'no reply' email address- saying that they will not be able to reply 'as quickly as [they] would like'.
Funny, that. Somehow I don't think they'd be very understanding if you told them you couldn't send them your appeal (or payment) "as quickly as I would like" :rolleyes:

My deadline for paying the £20 penalty is 26 September 2021 and it looks like my appeal will not have been determined before that time. I am concerned that if I don't pay the fine within the deadline then Northern (or their debt collectors) will start chasing me for the amount plus additional administrative fees. I am concerned (based on another post I saw on this Forum) that even if the appeal later succeeds that they may continue to chase me for administrative fees. It seems that Northern and Penalty Services don't talk to each other, so my understanding is that Northern won't know/ care that my appeal is outstanding, nor that their complaints manager has basically acknoweldged the Revenue Assurance Team's error.
They might chase you for admin fees, but as I explained in this post, such fees are completely made up and have no statutory, contractual or other legal backing.

If you've submitted your appeal in time, you cannot be prosecuted unless Northern cancel the Penalty Fare before your appeal is decided, or 21 days after you submit your appeal (whichever comes first). In turn, they can't cancel it unless they have good reason for doing so (e.g. if you lied about where you started your journey).

I have already spent a lot of time dealing with these irrational systems and want to spend as little time as possible in future dealing with Northern & Penalty Services! Do you think I should pay and then if/when my appeal succeeds seek a refund? Does anyone have experience of getting a refund after succeeding in such an appeal? If I don't pay, will they extend the deadline to pay until the outcome of the appeal is known? Will they pursue me for admin fees even if the appeal is allowed?
It's your choice - if you do pay, you shouldn't have too great a challenge in recovering your money. Paying isn't an admission of guilt. But equally, not everyone has the funds to do so and if you can't (or don't want to) do this, you can simply wait for the appeal to be decided, or 21 days to elapse.

I wouldn't worry about the admin fees. We've never heard of a TOC trying to pursue them - they're unenforceable (that's probably why!).
 

sonic2009

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Crewe
I'm 95% sure that if you start your appeal before the payment due date, the date is put on hold until such a time the appeal is heard/looked at.
 

Kite159

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27 Jan 2014
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15,656
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West of Andover
"Please come back to using the trains, if you need a product which isn't sold by the TVM we will treat you like a common criminal when you come to buy said ticket"

Shame Northern will probably just drop it with a weak "we will learn lessons" apology, and not have to pay out for the actions of their member of staff/contractor acting on their behalf for causing stress & you hassle at dealing with their mistakes.

(Maybe if they have to pay out a set fee (say £50) per wrongly issued penalty fare getting overturned it will make them think twice about issuing the penalty fares out willy nilly, are those RPIs on any sort of commission or target driven?)
 

robbeech

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You will not be told what (if anything) is being done about that. Any action is a confidential matter between employer and employee.
Given how many times this sort of thing crops up, and given how many times these hollow apologies are made, and given how many times they promise it will be looked at and given how many times it then happens again, i think we can safely assume absolutely NOTHING will be done about it. The main reason for this is that nobody is making them do anything about it. Incorrectly issue 100 penalty fares, apologise to the 10 people that complain, enjoy the extra revenue.
I'm 95% sure that if you start your appeal before the payment due date, the date is put on hold until such a time the appeal is heard/looked at.
In theory yes, and in practise, almost always although there have been a couple of cases where things have overlapped and people have been chased for things afterwards but they did cancel it (and provide another hollow apology) when it was questioned. I will see if i can hunt down the thread.
 

Vespa

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In my experience complaints department main purpose is to block and bury complaints into oblivion never to see the light of day.

Your only recourse then is to record it on camera and use social media to publicise such behavior, it's amazing how quickly staffs soon adjust their behavior once they realise they are being recorded and for TOC damage limitation for bad publicity.

It may not change the outcome or indeed make it worse, it would still put them on back foot in any case, if more passengers do this everytime they encounter an RPI it may force a general change in attitude.
 

MotCO

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Joined
25 Aug 2014
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2,473
(Maybe if they have to pay out a set fee (say £50) per wrongly issued penalty fare getting overturned it will make them think twice about issuing the penalty fares out willy nilly, are those RPIs on any sort of commission or target driven?)

Maybe passengers should prominently display notices on themselves advising RPIs that a Penalty Fare will be issued to RPIs if any incorrect Penalty Fare is issued to that passenger :lol:. What's good for the goose etc...
 

ITO

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22 Sep 2021
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West Yorkshire
Hello :)

Update and further issue

My appeal was upheld by Penalty Services (fortunately just before the deadline to pay). But the appeal outcome letter stated that I now owe £4.60 to Northern for a single journey, ie. the journey I was prevented from buying a ticket for when I was instead issued with a Notice.

The letter from Penalty Services also refers to potential administrative fees being added to this 'liability' and refers to debt recovery agents, and refers to a team within Northern dealing with prosecutions. It states that the appeal is now closed and the appeal outcome has been passed to Northern.

On the day I was issued with the Notice, I wished to purchase a DayRover in order to save money. This ticket allows unlimited travel within West Yorkshire for a day.

The price of a DayRover - had I been allowed to pay for it - would have been £8.30. Instead, while on my first planned trip of the day inside the West Yorkshire area I was erroneously prevented from buying my chosen ticket, and was issued with the Notice. When I set off on my second trip of the day it was no longer worth me buying a DayRover, solely because I had not been allowed to use a DayRover for my earlier trip. I therefore bought a return ticket for my second trip, for a price of £6.40. I think that it is incorrect and irational that I would now be deemed liable for a further £4.60 for a single I did not want to purchase. I had wanted to buy a DayRover for £8.30, which would have covered all of my rail costs that day, but Northern's unprofessional staff member prevented me from doing so. It is now acknowledged that he was wrong to do so. I think that the maximum that it would be reasonable for Northern to now charge in these circumstances is £1.90, an amount which would make up the difference between the return fare which I bought and the DayRover which I wanted to buy.

I have been in extensive correspondence with the complaints team at Northern about this and at one point they seemed to acknowledge I am right, stating on 28 September 2021;

'I have received an update that our DRPU Team are currently liaising with the Appeals Team to have this amended to the correct amount.'


However yesterday I received and email stating the following;

'The Penalty Services have set the amount based on the appeal information provided and as such the cost of a Single Ticket has been applied and a payment of £4.60 in outstanding. I am sorry if this is not the response you expected and for any disappointment this may cause you.'

I find this irrational. Penalty Services has closed my appeal (because it was successful) so there is no remedy available through an onwards appeal to Penalty Services against the conclusion that I owe £4.60. I don't find it acceptable that Northern would state that Penalty Services have set the amount and absolve themselves of responsibility, when it is Northern who is pursuing me for the incorrect amount.

Does anyone have any advice?
 

AlterEgo

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You are correct, of course. But the easiest way to deal with these things is to pay £4.60 and reclaim the difference through their complaints procedure, involving the ombudsman of necessary.
 

Watershed

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Hello :)

Update and further issue

My appeal was upheld by Penalty Services (fortunately just before the deadline to pay). But the appeal outcome letter stated that I now owe £4.60 to Northern for a single journey, ie. the journey I was prevented from buying a ticket for when I was instead issued with a Notice.

The letter from Penalty Services also refers to potential administrative fees being added to this 'liability' and refers to debt recovery agents, and refers to a team within Northern dealing with prosecutions. It states that the appeal is now closed and the appeal outcome has been passed to Northern.

On the day I was issued with the Notice, I wished to purchase a DayRover in order to save money. This ticket allows unlimited travel within West Yorkshire for a day.

The price of a DayRover - had I been allowed to pay for it - would have been £8.30. Instead, while on my first planned trip of the day inside the West Yorkshire area I was erroneously prevented from buying my chosen ticket, and was issued with the Notice. When I set off on my second trip of the day it was no longer worth me buying a DayRover, solely because I had not been allowed to use a DayRover for my earlier trip. I therefore bought a return ticket for my second trip, for a price of £6.40. I think that it is incorrect and irational that I would now be deemed liable for a further £4.60 for a single I did not want to purchase. I had wanted to buy a DayRover for £8.30, which would have covered all of my rail costs that day, but Northern's unprofessional staff member prevented me from doing so. It is now acknowledged that he was wrong to do so. I think that the maximum that it would be reasonable for Northern to now charge in these circumstances is £1.90, an amount which would make up the difference between the return fare which I bought and the DayRover which I wanted to buy.

I have been in extensive correspondence with the complaints team at Northern about this and at one point they seemed to acknowledge I am right, stating on 28 September 2021;

'I have received an update that our DRPU Team are currently liaising with the Appeals Team to have this amended to the correct amount.'

However yesterday I received and email stating the following;

'The Penalty Services have set the amount based on the appeal information provided and as such the cost of a Single Ticket has been applied and a payment of £4.60 in outstanding. I am sorry if this is not the response you expected and for any disappointment this may cause you.'

I find this irrational. Penalty Services has closed my appeal (because it was successful) so there is no remedy available through an onwards appeal to Penalty Services against the conclusion that I owe £4.60. I don't find it acceptable that Northern would state that Penalty Services have set the amount and absolve themselves of responsibility, when it is Northern who is pursuing me for the incorrect amount.

Does anyone have any advice?
Well done for getting this far. Ignore the nonsense they have said about prosecutions and administrative fees.

You have brought a timely appeal against the Penalty Fare - Northern are therefore legally barred from bringing a prosecution (see Regulation 11(3) of the Penalty Fares Regulations).

There is also no legal basis on which they can charge you administrative fees. They can "demand" them all they like, but they won't get them; the NRCoT don't make any reference to such fees, nor is there any common law or other basis for them.

I would send a letter to Northern enclosing a cheque for £1.90, explaining that you are tendering the outstanding fare as you intended to buy a DaySaver but were prevented from doing so, and enclosing a copy (not the original!) of the ticket you ended up buying.

At this stage, their only remaining option is taking you to (civil) Court, which is unheard of for a TOC. They are obliged to enter into reasonable discussions with you prior to doing so, at which point you would still have the chance to pay the £4.60 if you want to make them 'go away'.
 

furlong

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Well ask them for a sensible amount of compensation for the time and effort you have spent unravelling the problems they caused by their mistake. If they pay that, you'll agree to gift them the £4.60 to which you do not believe they have any legal entitlement? By now you'd think they'd have written this off for such a trivial amount and allocated their resources on real fare evaders. (If you read the regulations for Penalty Fares, you'll see they provide no basis for requesting an alternative fare once an appeal has been upheld so another approach would be to ask them to explain what they believe their legal basis is for this demand.)
 

robbeech

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allocated their resources on real fare evaders.
Real fare evaders are far too difficult to chase and the chances of them paying is far less than that of people either making genuine mistakes or indeed those who had done absolutely nothing wrong at all who will most likely just pay up whatever is asked of them. The person who runs down the platform, bashes through 2 RPIs and hurdles the barrier is not worth chasing because Doris, 76 from Bentley will cough up £200 in sheer fear of going to prison and not being able to look after her husband when she couldn't buy a ticket because the ticket machine wasn't working.
 

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