Transport for London (20 011 396)

Category : Transport and highways > COVID-19

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 18 Mar 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We shall not investigate Miss X’s complaint about Transport for London not refunding her Oyster card season ticket for the full period she wanted. An investigation would be unlikely to find fault but for which Miss X would have received the refund. It is also unlikely we could achieve the remedy Miss X wants.

The complaint

  1. Miss X complains Transport for London (TfL) refused to refund her Oyster card for the full period she sought. She states this means she has paid for a service she did not use.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. This complaint involves events that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government introduced a range of new and frequently updated rules and guidance during this time. We can consider whether the Council followed the relevant legislation, guidance and our published “Good Administrative Practice during the response to COVID-19”.
  2. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe it is unlikely we would find fault or we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information Miss X provided, copy correspondence between Miss X and TfL that TfL supplied and information about TfL’s refund policy. I gave Miss X the opportunity to comment on my draft decision.

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What I found

  1. In January 2020 Miss X bought an annual Oyster card season ticket, intending to use it mainly to commute between her home and work. From 23 March 2020, Miss X’s employer told her to work at home in line with the government’s COVID-19 guidance. Miss X says after 23 March 2020 she only used the card to travel about eight times, mainly connected to family commitments and medical appointments.
  2. In August 2020 Miss X asked TfL to cancel her card and give her a pro rata refund of the cost since 23 March 2020, minus the cost of the later journeys she made. TfL refused for two reasons:
    • TfL said customers wanting to cancel a card from a particular date had to apply within eight weeks of that date. Miss X said she was unaware of the time limit and anyway had been dealing with a family bereavement and her own health problems during the first eight weeks after the government’s lockdown.
    • TfL also said it would only refund a card for any period after the customer’s last journey using that card. It explained Oyster cards cannot be ‘paused’ so if Miss X had stopped using her card in March 2020, then used it again for occasional journeys later, TfL would not refund for the period between journeys.
  3. TfL’s refund policy is not to provide pro rata refunds, but to base any refund on the difference between the cost of the Oyster card and the cost of the equivalent travelcard for the period a customer travelled using the Oyster card. I understand that policy is part of TfL’s terms and conditions for buying an Oyster card.
  4. Miss X says TfL refused to refund her card from March 2020 because she did not apply within eight weeks. However, that was only one reason. As explained above, TfL also declined to backdate a refund to March 2020 because Miss X used her card after then. While I appreciate Miss X used the card less after March 2020 than if the COVID-19 restrictions had not happened, she did nevertheless use the card. I do not fault TfL for taking account of that.
  5. TfL is entitled to have a policy that calculates refunds in a different way to the pro rata refund Miss X wants. Therefore we would not be able to achieve Miss X’s desired outcome of a full pro rata refund.

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Final decision

  1. We shall not investigate this complaint. This is because we are unlikely to find fault with TfL for taking account of Miss X using the card after March 2020 and because we are not able to achieve the pro rata refund Miss X wants.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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