- Consumer issues
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Consumer law aims to ensure that businesses are fair and open in their dealings with consumers.
Our powers cover rail passengers and the companies they deal with. ORR is a designated enforcer under Part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002. Our powers enable us to stop breaches of a range of consumer protection laws where there is evidence of passengers as a group being put at an unfair disadvantage. A key set of rules are the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. These prohibit some practices outright, such as misleading advertising and contain a general ban on ‘practices which contravene the requirements of professional diligence’.
The Department for Transport has a central role to play in the delivery/protection of passenger benefits through its operation and enforcement of franchises, as do other franchising authorities including Transport Scotland and the Welsh Assembly Government. Passenger Focus and London TravelWatch also continue to have a significant role in assisting passengers and raising passengers’ awareness of their rights. There are also other consumer bodies such as the Advertising Standards Authority which can intervene to protect passengers – by policing the self-regulatory advertising industry codes. ORR’s approach to its consumer law role is to avoid overlap and to, therefore, intervene only where there is a gap in protection for the passenger, where no other body is taking action or where the powers available to us are more suited to the circumstances.
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has published guidance on consumer protection under Part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002. It has also produced a guide on the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, which implements the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive.
ORR's approach to enforcing general consumer law in services relating to railways (PDF), sets out the approach we will take in exercising our consumer law enforcement role. This document is mainly aimed at those providing services to consumers in relation to the railways, such as train operating companies and third party retailers of train tickets but it should also be useful for rail passengers and those who represent them.
Please read our complaints section for more information. As you will see, we will not normally address complaints where you have not first given the company involved the opportunity to resolve it, and sought assistance from Passenger Focus or London TravelWatch. The steps you should follow are:
- in the first instance, you should contact the company that you are having problems with to allow it the opportunity to address your concerns. Contact details for individual train companies can be found on the national rail website. Most complaints can be resolved in the first instance by dealing directly with the company responsible.
- if you have made a complaint to a train operator, and are dissatisfied with the response you receive, you can contact either Passenger Focus or London TravelWatch for help. Passenger Focus is a statutory body sponsored by the DfT to represent passenger interests and to act as Britain's rail passenger watchdog. London TravelWatch is the official watchdog organisation representing the interests of transport users in and around the capital. Passenger Focus and London TravelWatch cannot become involved until the train company involved has had a chance to resolve the matter for you.
- the frequently asked questions (FAQs) page on our website sets out some common areas that consumer contact us about. You should look at this page and see if any of the answers are relevant to your complaint.
- although we generally cannot become involved in individual disputes, we do have consumer protection powers and will consider complaints after other avenues have failed to resolve the problem and when there is evidence of collective consumer harm.
If you have not already done so, please read our FAQs section, as this may well answer your query.
Your complaint might be about something that happened when you were looking for a ticket, buying a ticket, making a journey or making a complaint about a journey, and which you think is likely to happen to quite a few other people.
When making a complaint to us, you need to supply as much information as you can. We have put some examples of the type of information that we might need, below. Not all of these will be relevant to each complaint, but you should provide the information that you think is appropriate.
- copies of any correspondence that you have had with either the business concerned, Passenger Focus or London TravelWatch
- the type of ticket that you purchased (i.e. Anytime, Advance, Off peak, or a season ticket)
- where your journey was to and from
- the time of day that you made the journey
- the name of the company that sold you your ticket
- how you bought your ticket (i.e. online, phone, at a station, from a machine)
- where did you get the information that your intended purchase was based on.
Last updated: 13 January 2011
- ORR's approach to enforcing general consumer law in services relating to railways ( PDF 125 Kb).
- Consumer programme 2010-11 ( PDF 1588 Kb).