Penalties after railcards expire

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Fawkes Cat

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We seem to be seeing a lot of posts that go
- I made my first train journey since Covid and bought a railcard discounted ticket
- I had forgotten that my railcard had expired
- I met an RPI who took my details
- I have been offered an out of court settlement. Do I have to pay that much?

And the advice we are giving amounts to 'pay up, because the alternative is court and that'll cost you more'.

On the one hand, I'm happy with the advice - by the letter of the law, it's the right advice because you shouldn't travel without a valid ticket. But I've got some sympathy with the posters: while in law it is up to the user to check that their railcard is valid, for the last few years whoever it is who runs the railcard system (RDG?) has been sending out reminders that a railcard is about to expire - but not since the pandemic kicked in. And I've got some sympathy for that decision as well - now we're 14 months into the pandemic, there could be people who had bought their second annual railcard in the pandemic after getting a reminder and have got little or no use out of it.

I know we're just a bunch of railway enthusiasts and professionals, but isn't there some way we can flag this problem up? If not to the railway or the media, then can we get Moneysavingexpert or Which or someone else with a bit of clout to mention it? The solution seems easy - get RDG or whoever to send out an email to everyone on their database reminding them that as things open up they need to check that their railcard is still valid.

It's not right that people are getting caught out through making an easy mistake: the railway should remind everyone about this mistake to take away the excuse.
 
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Llanigraham

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I have never received a reminder that my Disabled Persons Railcard was due to expire.
 

H2D

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This happened to me about a week ago (I had a 3 year railcard)

I accept I’m at fault for not taking the time/effort to check and that I either checked the railcard box on Trainline or didn’t uncheck it when buying.

What I find frustrating (terrifying!) is that I could go to court and get a criminal conviction for a stupid oversight. I can’t understand why there isn’t at least the option to pay a penalty when this happens...
 

Farningham

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I had an email from GWR only a couple of days ago headed 'Reminder about your senior railcard' with the message 'before you book, check your Railcard is still valid.' In fact it's valid until next February so the company cannot have access to individual data; they just know I have booked tickets online using a railcard before. So it looks as though at least GWR have taken up Fawkes Cat's idea.
 

ta-toget

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We seem to be seeing a lot of posts that go
- I made my first train journey since Covid and bought a railcard discounted ticket
- I had forgotten that my railcard had expired
- I met an RPI who took my details
- I have been offered an out of court settlement. Do I have to pay that much?

And the advice we are giving amounts to 'pay up, because the alternative is court and that'll cost you more'.

On the one hand, I'm happy with the advice - by the letter of the law, it's the right advice because you shouldn't travel without a valid ticket. But I've got some sympathy with the posters: while in law it is up to the user to check that their railcard is valid, for the last few years whoever it is who runs the railcard system (RDG?) has been sending out reminders that a railcard is about to expire - but not since the pandemic kicked in. And I've got some sympathy for that decision as well - now we're 14 months into the pandemic, there could be people who had bought their second annual railcard in the pandemic after getting a reminder and have got little or no use out of it.

I know we're just a bunch of railway enthusiasts and professionals, but isn't there some way we can flag this problem up? If not to the railway or the media, then can we get Moneysavingexpert or Which or someone else with a bit of clout to mention it? The solution seems easy - get RDG or whoever to send out an email to everyone on their database reminding them that as things open up they need to check that their railcard is still valid.

It's not right that people are getting caught out through making an easy mistake: the railway should remind everyone about this mistake to take away the excuse.
I don't really have much to say, but I just had a quick look on MSE, there isn't anything about it on there yet, but someone could contact them (at [email protected], I think), and perhaps give a whole-RUK submission to them, with the details of the cases that we've seen here. Or indeed they could be tweeted @MoneySavingExp. I'd imagine they have a fair reach, and they might also be able to get it into the media if they deem it important.
 

Turtle

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We seem to be seeing a lot of posts that go
- I made my first train journey since Covid and bought a railcard discounted ticket
- I had forgotten that my railcard had expired
- I met an RPI who took my details
- I have been offered an out of court settlement. Do I have to pay that much?

And the advice we are giving amounts to 'pay up, because the alternative is court and that'll cost you more'.

On the one hand, I'm happy with the advice - by the letter of the law, it's the right advice because you shouldn't travel without a valid ticket. But I've got some sympathy with the posters: while in law it is up to the user to check that their railcard is valid, for the last few years whoever it is who runs the railcard system (RDG?) has been sending out reminders that a railcard is about to expire - but not since the pandemic kicked in. And I've got some sympathy for that decision as well - now we're 14 months into the pandemic, there could be people who had bought their second annual railcard in the pandemic after getting a reminder and have got little or no use out of it.

I know we're just a bunch of railway enthusiasts and professionals, but isn't there some way we can flag this problem up? If not to the railway or the media, then can we get Moneysavingexpert or Which or someone else with a bit of clout to mention it? The solution seems easy - get RDG or whoever to send out an email to everyone on their database reminding them that as things open up they need to check that their railcard is still valid.

It's not right that people are getting caught out through making an easy mistake: the railway should remind everyone about this mistake to take away the excuse.
Well said.
 

bb21

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I can be wrong but I don't think this is a permissible use of personal data, as it comes under the umbrella of "marketing". Under normal circumstances it is not permitted to send reminders to people to renew unless they opted into marketing communication.

I'm trying to find an exclusion clause in Article 9 which would be applicable in this case but struggling.
 

pedr

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I think the civic responsibility of retailers should play a part here too. That GWR email is good customer service, but retailers could (perhaps should) do more to reduce traveling with an invalid ticket (inadvertently or deliberately) or, at least, make design choices which don’t make it easier to accidentally purchase an invalid ticket than to turn off the railcard discount.

Off the top of my head: asking for railcard number or expiry date on first use and prompting once it’s expired, or just not retaining the pre-selected “with discount” option for more than (say) a month would make it harder for these circumstances to arise. Clearly some people are buying tickets in the mistaken belief that they have a valid railcard, but others won’t have addressed their mind to it until they’re challenged - retailers could surely bring that challenge forward with little/no cost and a significant customer service benefit.
 

Titfield

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Interesting when you consider how many "products" we have which expire including:
driving licence
car MOT
Insurance (many types including car, house,)
bank card
credit card
tv licence
passport

Would we expect some form of reminder from all these suppliers given the penalties whether financial or inconvenience if an attempt is made to use an expired product?
 

kristiang85

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Interesting when you consider how many "products" we have which expire including:
driving licence
car MOT
Insurance (many types including car, house,)
bank card
credit card
tv licence
passport

Would we expect some form of reminder from all these suppliers given the penalties whether financial or inconvenience if an attempt is made to use an expired product?

I'm pretty sure I get insurance reminders when my policies are close to expiry.

Given how often one inputs bank card details even in a pandemic (if not more), it's not really a valid comparison.

And as for TV licences... we get threatening letters even when its on direct debit.

Actually, saying that, non-age related railcards should have the option of being on annual subscription, with the onus on the customer to cancel if they don't want to renew. That would solve these problems in one go.
 

Fawkes Cat

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I can be wrong but I don't think this is a permissible use of personal data, as it comes under the umbrella of "marketing". Under normal circumstances it is not permitted to send reminders to people to renew unless they opted into marketing communication.

I'm trying to find an exclusion clause in Article 9 which would be applicable in this case but struggling.
So could a reminder be sent to those who have opted in to marketing communications? Quite a lot of people have said that they used to get reminders, so presumably they have opted in. And to my mind this is one where a partial solution is better than no solution.
 

zwk500

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Off the top of my head: asking for railcard number or expiry date on first use and prompting once it’s expired, or just not retaining the pre-selected “with discount” option for more than (say) a month would make it harder for these circumstances to arise. Clearly some people are buying tickets in the mistaken belief that they have a valid railcard, but others won’t have addressed their mind to it until they’re challenged - retailers could surely bring that challenge forward with little/no cost and a significant customer service benefit.
As this is, in the scheme of things, a temporary issue wouldn't the simpler option just be to have a prompt warning saying 'You've selected a railcard ticket, please check your railcard is still valid on your date of travel'? It will be less effective, but would be quicker to implement and wouldn't change the ticket buying process.
Interesting when you consider how many "products" we have which expire including: ... Would we expect some form of reminder from all these suppliers given the penalties whether financial or inconvenience if an attempt is made to use an expired product?

driving licence
Not sure about this, but think you get told it's expiring
The DfT doesn't, but most of the larger chains of garages certainly do. Even if you didn't use them for an MOT and you'd never want to go near them again...
Insurance (many types including car, house,)
I get reminder from my provider when it's about to expire.
bank card, credit card
I have been sent new ones approximately 1 month before the old one expires by every provider.
tv licence.
Very definitely get reminded of this one!
You are reminded before travelling to make sure you satisfy the validity conditions of the country of entry, as these are so variable it's understandable automated reminders may not be sent out
 

bb21

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So could a reminder be sent to those who have opted in to marketing communications? Quite a lot of people have said that they used to get reminders, so presumably they have opted in. And to my mind this is one where a partial solution is better than no solution.

Possibly.

I don't know how widespread the problem is. I like the idea, but if the number affected is small (ie. excluding those who deliberately tried it on), there may not be the impetus to drive any change, like with pretty much anything in life really.
 

Watershed

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I'm trying to find an exclusion clause in Article 9 which would be applicable in this case but struggling.
Article 9 of the GDPR is about special category personal data. Name and email address aren't special category personal data - that would be things like religious or genetic data.

If an email were sent out which were specifically directed to preventing criminal offences (travelling with an invalid ticket), then arguably GDPR doesn't even apply, as per Article 2(2)(d).

Otherwise one possible lawful basis for processing would be "legitimate interests" - albeit in this case it is really more the legitimate interests of the data subject that would be being protected, rather than anyone else.

I agree that care is needed so as not to breach GDPR, but I don't think it's an insurmountable issue.
 

hawk1911

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So could a reminder be sent to those who have opted in to marketing communications? Quite a lot of people have said that they used to get reminders, so presumably they have opted in. And to my mind this is one where a partial solution is better than no solution.
I got a reminder for mine 4 weeks before expiry in November 2020.

I am opted in for marketing (with my Railcard), something I don't usually bother with but, in this case, it is not much of a problem, as I only receive around 2 marketing emails per month.

Additionally, as with most renewable things, I always put a recurring reminder into my electronic calendar, so I don't forget to renew.

Whilst the above should ensure I don't miss a renewal, I think the way some people have been penalised is a disgrace. After 14 months of lockdown/restrictions/isolating it is going to take many of us time to get back to our 'normal' routines and some leeway should be allowed with things like railcard renewals. Where a rail user, who hasn't come to the attention of the Train Operating Companies previously, has a railcard that is only slightly out of date, then an opportunity to pay for a backdated renewal (as someone else suggested) seems a fair approach, and I would have expected some sort of directive (from the Rail Delivery Group?) to that effect.
 

robbeech

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As this is, in the scheme of things, a temporary issue wouldn't the simpler option just be to have a prompt warning saying 'You've selected a railcard ticket, please check your railcard is still valid on your date of travel'? It will be less effective, but would be quicker to implement and wouldn't change the ticket buying process.
I would think that any retailer where you have signed up for an account, and have purchased rail card discounted tickets in the past would be able to implement an extra warning message if, say you hadn't bought a ticket with them for a while to remind you that you've selected a rail card discounted ticket and it is worth checking to ensure it is still valid. This doesn't have to be a "now" thing. If you haven't bought a ticket in... 3 months? 6 months? 12 months? maybe a one time only reminder wouldn't hurt. No need to hold data about the railcard. I would think the only people that would have a problem with this would be people that wanted to have a problem with this.
 

al78

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Interesting when you consider how many "products" we have which expire including:
driving licence
car MOT
Insurance (many types including car, house,)
bank card
credit card
tv licence
passport

Would we expect some form of reminder from all these suppliers given the penalties whether financial or inconvenience if an attempt is made to use an expired product?
Driving licence: can't remember if I have ever received a reminder.
Car MOT: the local garage reminds me.
Insurance: the company reminds me.
bank card: the bank sends me a new card in good time.
credit card: same as bank card.
TV licence: automatically paid monthly.
passport: no reminder.
 

kristiang85

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That's not much of a solution considering that most railcards are age related.

Well even so, it surely isn't much to enable tech where once your age is verified it can be set to automatically renew until said time you are out of the age range.

But then again we are dealing with a product where one has to start from scratch everytime you do a renewal (including photos), so maybe I'm expecting too much of the desire to make it as easy as possible.
 

Bletchleyite

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Well even so, it surely isn't much to enable tech where once your age is verified it can be set to automatically renew until said time you are out of the age range.

I am personally of the view that Railcards should be offered as monthly and annual direct debit options. The renewed card would be sent out automatically.
 

robbeech

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I am personally of the view that Railcards should be offered as monthly and annual direct debit options. The renewed card would be sent out automatically.
Annual, definitely, i think monthly (at least with a physical, dumb card) comes with several issues, not limited to "pay £3 for a month by direct debit, get a card in the post, cancel the DD" Most staff don't check railcards anyway, and no ticket barriers do, so unless the whole system changes to make railcards smart, or a smart ticket does an expiration and/or payment check on a railcard attached to a ticket on there it seems somewhat open to abuse.

For years people would pay for their car insurance monthly, cancel the DD after the first month but have the certificate. There was no easy way to tell back then and if you had to produce your documents 7 days later many would get away with a cancelled insurance certificate because they would never bother to check. Thankfully that has now changed, so there is potential for railcards to change too, but as it stands i think anything other than an annual payment on a physical card is a risk.
 

davews

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I certainly got an email reminder when my senior railcard was due for renewal in 2018. Whether I will get on in September this time remains to be seen. But I am very aware of when it runs out.
Incidentally I see staff at ticket offices getting quite fussy on checking your card and checking it is still valid when I have bought tickets recently. I expect there are quite a few who have overlooked the expiry date.
 

robbeech

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Really? A 16-25 Railcard bought at a station can use the same photocard for years.
Indeed, and online too. In late 2019 when i last updated my 2 together card i was on year 5 of the same photo for both of us. I was asked to update MY photo, but not the photo of my partner. I haven't had a new one since so its possible that i will need new photos for both of us when i do replace it now. but certainly for many years the renewal process was half a dozen clicks and £30.
 

kristiang85

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Indeed, and online too. In late 2019 when i last updated my 2 together card i was on year 5 of the same photo for both of us. I was asked to update MY photo, but not the photo of my partner. I haven't had a new one since so its possible that i will need new photos for both of us when i do replace it now. but certainly for many years the renewal process was half a dozen clicks and £30.

In person yes it's easy.

But online I always find it a nightmare - whenever I renew my two together and network cards, I always have to reinput everything and upload new photos. It drives me crazy.
 

Llanigraham

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I am personally of the view that Railcards should be offered as monthly and annual direct debit options. The renewed card would be sent out automatically.

None of which would work with a Disabled Card, since the disability can cease.
 
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