How genuine mistakes can become much more serious

Discussion in 'Disputes & Prosecutions' started by Parham Wood, 24 Jan 2016.

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  1. Parham Wood

    Parham Wood Member

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    This is another example of passenger ignorance of the rules and regulations regarding tickets. It also shows that in genuine mistake situations people can take umbridge at having to pay a penalty or purchase a new ticket. This leads to refusing to pay as the demand seems unreasonable in the circumstance. They assume by not paying something cheaper can be negotiated later, little do they know!

    I wonder how many times the railway official in these situations actually tells the passenger that the next step very likely will be a court summons which could lead in some circumstances to a criminal record. I have no seen it said on this forum that rail staff have to explain this, but I feel that if people are not advised of the enormity of what is likely to happen next they may be inclined to change their mind. Yes it is buyer beware but to many innocent travellers the draconian railway legislation is completely unknown and unexpected.
     
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  3. GadgetMan

    GadgetMan Member

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    Of the many times I explained the possible consequences of not paying up and instead going down the Ticket Irregularity route not one passenger changed their mind. They seem to think we're just scare mongering etc until the letter drops through the post.
     
  4. CheesyChips

    CheesyChips Member

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    We do live in a world where official correspondence contains so many non-commiting words like "may" or "possibly" that it's difficult to know the difference between scaremongering and genuine courses of action.

    We walk past signs that say "trespassers will be prosecuted" and "shoplifters will be reported to the police" and we all know it's only the most serious offenders that receive much more than a talking to.

    In the context of these things, somebody telling you you'll be put in front of a magistrate because you went past your stop sounds farfetched. Afterall, people feel like they're dealing with a business which would most likely 'just want to charge them a bit extra'.
     
  5. Agent_c

    Agent_c Member

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    Some of it I think can be fixed by a few term changes. "Penalty Fare" to "Invalid or no Ticket Charge".

    Some of it perhaps by attitude changes. Instead of a judge dredd tone as the stories here would have you believe every RPI does more of a concilitary tone "I'm sorry that tickets not valid because XYZ. What I will do is get you on your way with teh right ticket, its going to cost A which includes the invalid ticket charge" and some appropirate language for ticket price shock.

    If the customer refuses to pay give them a second chance with a "I can appreciate its a shock and you didn't understand the rules, that's why I can offer you what I can today. If you don't want to accept it, that's your perogative, but if you don't it gets reported for prosecution which can result in a court order for around B-C. With that in mind, would you like to pay the invalid ticket charge or shall I pass this on back to the company?"

    I know of course thats an ideal world situation, with a customer swearing, ranting and raving it will be difficult to keep that cool... but if it could be done, I think it could only help (and I'm sure most of the nice friendly guard-types who post here are already doing that sort of thing anyway).
     
  6. causton

    causton Established Member

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    I think the best phrase I could think of that I have seen has been Standard Fare...
     
  7. jon0844

    jon0844 Veteran Member

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    Staff don't want to warn of the possible consequences of refusing a PF for obvious (conflict avoidance) reasons and I can't say I blame them.

    I someone is upset about having to pay anything extra, then refuses to pay as a protest (or a simple f*** **u to authority) then warning of criminal records and hefty fines isn't going to go down well. It may also lead to someone refusing to give details or even assaulting staff.

    As a result, I often hear staff remain polite and make it sound like the train company will merely write to ask for an explanation, whereby the passenger can say whatever and that will be that.. perhaps just paying the normal ticket price or maybe then the penalty fare.
     
  8. Agent_c

    Agent_c Member

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    Standard fare to me though means normal price... The walk up fare.
     
  9. LowLevel

    LowLevel Established Member

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    Been there, tried explaining, got rolled eyes or a huff, or called a jobsworth. I don't care now, if they think they know best let them. I don't get to see what they look like if they do get a court summons but I've seen grown men who've pushed their luck burst into tears when I have them taken away by a real live police officer. If all I get is rolled eyes after I've given friendly advice I try my best to hit them with a fare to make their eyes water to make them think. If they're unpleasant then the person in the pointy hat is summoned to spoil their day. Not long ago I had a woman who I've been telling for months not to just keep getting on the train without paying first in quite a state because she'd been slapped with one of Northern's unpleasant little '80 quid presents'.

    There's a common disbelief that railway ticket issues are a serious matter.
     
    Last edited: 26 Jan 2016
  10. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Silly question...if the passenger gives their name and address willingly, why not simply send them a bill for the PF plus an admin fee that actually reflects the admin cost (I guess the standard £10 would be fair), and only prosecute if they *then* don't pay, or indeed successfully appeal, it?

    That would seem fairer than demanding money at the heat of the moment. In the UK almost no other offence requires payment of an on the spot fine; the fine can always be paid within a specified period afterwards.

    (Yes I know it's not legally a fine, but if it looks and quacks like a duck...)

    TBH, I would say a system more like that of parking offences (Council ones with statutory means behind them) would be much fairer. Only move onto prosecution if either you believe there is genuine fraud, false details or if the passenger ignores the demands.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    As for Northern's £80 Penalty Fakes...yes, some of those are valid settlements, but many seem to be issued where a PF would be darn Sarf. I hope Arriva regularise this a bit and consider a proper Penalty Fares system to the appropriate Act of Parliament in their urban areas. Though I don't hold out *that* much hope.
     
    Last edited: 26 Jan 2016
  11. Via Bank

    Via Bank Member

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    I'm not sure in most 'genuine mistake' situations the passenger should really be charged anything extra, or at least not given a penalty fare. In many cases it is vastly disproportionate.

    With regards to the situation linked to by the OP: in my view the passenger should have been sold a return from Hadley Wood to Welwyn Garden City, Anytime rate. (Really they should only have been charged for a single from Hadley Wood to Potters Bar, but I understand there's no way the RPI could have validated this was their destination.) Had they been unable to pay they should have had details taken and been issued with a UFN with, maybe, a £20 fee for deferred payment.

    "Ah, but he should have researched the boundary of the Oyster zone" - and Potters Bar is within breathing distance of the M25, and only two miles or so from Hadley Wood, Cockfosters and High Barnet (which is in zone 5!) so it's not unreasonable to guess that Potters Bar is in the Oyster zone, even if it's wrong. (In other threads I have made my opinion about GTR's advertising of the Oyster boundary well known - that it is simply not advertised clearly enough and is routinely catching people out - but oh well.)

    Am I right in thinking that for almost all TOCs, you must pay the penalty fare upfront (or at least the £20 portion) or it will be withdrawn and you will be reported for prosecution? If so, I think this is rather at odds with the idea of it being a suitable avenue for 'genuine mistakes,' particularly where those 'mistakes' occur as a result of the fares system being oblique and overcomplicated.

    EDIT: apparently, yes. In which case, the idea PFs are appropriate for genuine mistakes is plain rubbish, and outright hostile to customers who are caught up in the complexity of the system. I don't think it's particularly fair to insist someone cough up £20 on the spot for the privilege of being overcarried, or for not realising that their destination doesn't quite fall into Oyster's definition of 'London.'

    At the very least mainline TOCs should go down the TfL model of giving them 21 days to cough up. Preferably not issuing a PF at all if the passenger is clearly confused, or simply bought the wrong ticket, sat in the wrong place on the train, etc., excessing up/selling extensions as required instead.

    But of course, that's never going to happen. Regrettably.
     
    Last edited: 26 Jan 2016
  12. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    I thought it was that you must pay at least the Anytime (Day) Single for the journey made for the PF to be "valid". The rest may be paid later.

    There is an obvious problem with this, of course - if one has forgotten one's wallet in which a pre-purchased ticket was stored, prosecution seems the only option.

    A PF may be withdrawn and refunded at any time, even after it has been paid, if it is felt prosecution is more appropriate.
     
  13. Via Bank

    Via Bank Member

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    OK, that's slightly less bad, but still bad, because...

    Although one would hope in situations like this, the stranded passenger policies would be followed. Given second hand experiences with some RPIs, quite probably not.

    Another reason why it's bad: let's take the out-of-bounds Oyster example again, and let's assume that the passenger has no cash, and no other method of payment. Maybe they're on a low income and don't qualify for a debit card, maybe they're a child, maybe (as suggested above) they lost their wallet/purse/handbag. And after all, why would they need to carry any, if they were (or so they thought) going to pay for their whole journey with Oyster?

    In this case, such a passenger would then be reported for prosecution, simply because they wouldn't have any way of paying the Anytime Single fare - because they didn't realise they would have to pay it.

    And it is exactly this kind of situation that leads to people getting embarrassed, and frustrated, and angry, and potentially abusive in the first place.

    So - at the very least - I think they should be given a reasonable amount of time to pay up.
     
  14. jimbo99

    jimbo99 Member

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    How many times have people on this forum had to explain that a "penalty fare" is not a "fine". The distinction is a nonsense except in the railway world... it's something imposed when you're caught out having made a mistake or been dishonest, is typically a round figure considerably in excess of the normal ticket price and the very term "penalty" is related to "penal" or "penalise".

    So people see it as a fine. A punishment. People don't usually get punished for something they didn't intend to do. They feel they should be able to establish this in a court or in some sense "appeal". They rightly feel by refusing to pay they will be able to challenge the penalty fare. If they lose, they imagine they will then have to pay the penalty (and perhaps some costs). This is where the injustice stems from - simply by following the course of not paying the "penalty" they are unwittingly demonstrating an intent not to purchase a ticket for the journey.
     
  15. Bellbell

    Bellbell Member

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    I don't live (anymore) in London or work there and nor do I travel outside central London much so can't speak either way for how well advertised oyster boundaries are. But, if someone is independent/adult enough to live away from home and be a full time student I don't think it should be beyond their abilities to google their destination and check where it is before setting off.

    Someone on the other thread has posted that there are auto announcements warning of the oyster boundary and frankly I think that's sufficient. At some point people have to take responsibility for themselves.
     
  16. Clip

    Clip On Moderation

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    I fully agree but here on RFUK you have those who like to muddy the waters with scenarios that are hardly ever relevant to the OP and as such threads drag on with no real purpose nor agreement and that the passenger must always be believed and must be right - in a lot of these cases we should do so on the bounds of great customer service.

    However, in reality and as you say, people need to start taking responsibility for themselves but they dont and we now seem to have a culture where we pander to their every whim and cosset them in a big woolly blanket, the poor wee mites.
     
  17. Greenback

    Greenback Emeritus Moderator

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    I totally agree about taking responsibility. People need to learn to accept that making a genuine mistake has consequences and these can often be negative rather than positive. We all make mistakes, it's part of life, and most of the time you just have to put your hands up and say you messed up.

    There are things that can be done to reduce the chances of making a mistake, and these include not making assumptions and looking for information or clarification if unsure of something. There's no way you can guarantee not making an error* from time to time, though, even with the best will in the world.

    *I'm not just talking about rail travel, but everything to do with life.
     
  18. Via Bank

    Via Bank Member

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    sigh here we go again…

    I simply propose that the passenger should not be penalised for making mistakes such as the one in the above linked thread. They should be offered the appropriate fare from the boundary to their destination, without being charged extra. This is not impossible, this is what Guards on SWT do all the time.

    This is not pandering to the customer's every whim, this is selling them the correct ticket for the journey they made.

    The Railway should not be penalising and making a buck off people who have clearly been confounded by the fares system, because it is the Railway's fault the fares system is so complex and poorly-advertised in the first place.

    That is all I shall say on the matter, since some members of RFUK would clearly prefer the Railway to continue to alienate and criminalise potential repeat customers rather than accept that most people have honest intentions.
     
  19. hounddog

    hounddog Member

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    And there are those who take the view that the railway and its staff are perfect and that any passenger who suggests otherwise is a fare-dodging liar.
     
  20. Agent_c

    Agent_c Member

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    I think its a given that many people do have honest intentions and do make honest mistakes. However, many do not.

    Whilst that is certainly the most customer friendly, how much would be lost in people seeing the flaws of the system and intentionally short faring, or intentionally travelling beyond the Oyster boundary, and only paying up if challenged?

    Perhaps a one warning system. You provide ID to the RPI who captures it and puts it on a database (perhaps under the control of ATOC so all operators could access).

    On your first fare anomaly you get the benefit of the doubt and are upsold to the correct (walk up) fare for your journey. The TOC can only skip this if there is a clear element of bad faith (eg - trying to hide in the toilet your entire trip)

    On your second fare anomaly you will ordinarily go through the existing "State your story and prepare for prosecution/huge settlement" process, however the TOC is encouraged to waive it if the route involved is greatly different to their "normal" route (Say anomaly 2 was on an Intercity route, but your normal trip (and the one where anomaly 1 occurred) is by a different operator on a different route.

    Third and subsequent anomalies, regardless of the operator, always go the prosecution route.

    Refusal to give details can lead to the warning being skipped, and straight to prosecution.
     
  21. Puffing Devil

    Puffing Devil Established Member

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    Very similar to the ratcheting of penalties in court. Frequent courts customers progress from Conditional discharges to fines, to community penalties and, eventually, custody.

    Seems a sensible way to go.
     
  22. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    I agree, that seems totally reasonable as an approach - not dissimilar to the way you can get one (but one only) Anytime Return refunded against a season ticket being shown if you forgot it one day.

    Hiding in the bog is a difficult one. I have certainly boarded trains and gone straight into the bog, not to avoid paying but because I needed the use of the facility. I'm conscious of how that might appear of course...
     
    Last edited: 26 Jan 2016
  23. Arctic Troll

    Arctic Troll Established Member

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    The problem, like always, is that there are mistakes and there are "mistakes", and the difficulty is deciding between the two. I understand why railway staff who deal with "mistakes" all day long are a bit more cynical, and less forgiving of mistakes, than those of us who don't.

    I agree about taking responsibility, and understanding that actions- even mistaken actions- have consequences.

    But that responsibility does work both ways. I know I'm always on my soapbox about Northern's actions, but they made all sorts of promises about how they'll give the benefit of the doubt to people who make mistakes, especially on first offences. All of it was lies, it doesn't matter how or why it happened, if you end up getting stopped by an Northern RPI they'll then send you a letter charging you £80 plus the fare due, even if it was the first time and even if it was obviously a mistake.

    There's a responsibility for the TOCs to use their legal powers fairly, and I truthfully do not think that the TOCs do this.

    I'd change things. Firstly, in cases where a Penalty Fare was offered and refused, the TOCs should be forced to still offer a Penalty fare, perhaps with an administration charge that accurately reflects the true cost of posting out a proforma letter (lets be generous and say £20). Secondly, I'd force TOCs that do not operate Penalty Fares to only be allowed to charge the admin fee (again, be generous and say £20) plus the actual fare due. Only when a passenger is on their second offence should the penalties start ramping up.

    Charging £100+ for a first offence is nothing more than profiteering on the back of dubious legislation.

    Of course this will not happen. The likes of Thameslink and Northern make far more on these nifty little out-of-court settlements than they ever would actually selling the correct fare in the first place. DafT are unwilling to do anything to control the TOCs.

    No doubt certain people will be on here shortly to say my views are "anti-rail" :roll:
     
    Last edited: 26 Jan 2016
  24. paulweaver

    paulweaver On Moderation

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    I agree, it should also apply to TOCS. First time they mis-sell an offpeak-peak excess in the evening that's let off with just a refund, second time they do it they get to explain the extenuating circumstances, and third time or longer they go to court.
     
  25. najaB

    najaB Veteran Member

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    An excellent suggestion, Sir, with just two minor flaws. One, there is no requirement to carry ID. Two, just how does this sit with data protection laws?

    Now I realise that is actually two flaws, but they are so glaring that it deserves ruining a Red Dwarf reference.
     
  26. paulweaver

    paulweaver On Moderation

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    ID is a red herring. Currently you provide your name and address. If you provide this correctly, it gets entered into a database that Agent_c suggests just fine.

    If you provide a fake address, then you're in big trouble, however there's no difference between now -- you can provide a fake name and address just as easily, and the penalty fare won't catch up with you. Unless it does.

    For the second flaw, I suspect that as long at it's a voluntary option "you can go in our database or we progress direct to court" that would be doable from a data protection act, same as they can keep records of how many times you've used the "I forgot my season ticket" excuse.
     
  27. najaB

    najaB Veteran Member

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    The suggestion was to provide ID which is distinct to name and address.
    Except a payment for a Penalty Fare is often due there and then.
    "Give me your name or go to court" doesn't sound very 'voluntary' to me.
     
  28. exile

    exile Established Member

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    What is the purpose of requiring name and address if it is not to establish identity?
     
  29. najaB

    najaB Veteran Member

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    You don't need address if you are trying to establish identity - I am still me regardless of where I live. Name and address only proves that someone with that name lives at that address - it doesn't confirm that I am that person.
     
  30. Parham Wood

    Parham Wood Member

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    Nice to see a consensus of agreement on how unjust the current system is for innocent mistakes. The big question is: "How can it be changed?" If the legislation is not changed could the Regulator impose a more favourable penalty scheme before the legal mechanism is employed or could this only be done at franchise award? Would it mean a change to any national ticket regulations? I would feel uneasy that the legal option is still there and technically applicable at any stage, rather than only to be employed as a last resort. A quick legal route is still required for deliberate fare dodging etc. of course.

    Some interesting and seemingly fair suggestions have been made for handling these situations. A big issue is how do you identify someone who is not carrying any ID or indeed has lost/forgotten their wallet? Probably that is why the on the spot penalty system has evolved to date.
     
  31. Bellbell

    Bellbell Member

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    Who bears the cost of administering this system? It's a nice idea but I think unfortunately is probably unworkable.

    I agree that responsibility is a two way street. I actually give the benefit of the doubt to probably 75% of my passengers. You do start to get a feel for genuine mistakes vs 'mistakes' and on my patch there are a few known issues with either tvms or certain route confusions etc - I'm fine with these. It sounds from the info given in the original thread that the son is probably genuine too, although third hand is always hard to get a handle on.

    Edit: X Post. Unfortunately it's quite hard to objectively list reasons why one person is 'deliberately fare dodging' vs genuine mistake. One person going straight in the toilet might have had a dodgy curry and not be fare dodging in any way. Another person going straight in the toilet is just going one stop and is hoping not to pay. How do you prove it either way?
     
    Last edited: 26 Jan 2016
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