The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: There was some fault in the way TfL managed Mr X’s annual membership of the Santander Cycle Scheme in 2017. TfL has already remedied any injustice caused to Mr X by its fault.
- Mr X complains about the way Transport for London (TfL) managed his annual membership of the Santander Cycle Scheme regarding two incidents in 2017.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether an authority’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered information from:
- Mr X’s complaint and email exchanges with him;
- TfL’s responses to Mr X through its complaints procedure; and
- TfL’s responses to my enquiries.
What I found
- The Santander Cycle Scheme is run by TfL. The Scheme’s terms and conditions set out the way it is run.
- Mr X used the Scheme before 2017. In December 2016 Mr X renewed his yearly access to the Scheme’s bikes by paying a £90 annual fee. He already had a registered key.
- Yearly access gives a customer access to the bikes for a year. There will be no extra charges for any bike journey taken which is under 30 minutes long. But for any journey that takes over 30 minutes the scheme charges a customer an extra £2. The £2 extra ride charges are deducted from the payment card the customer uses for the scheme.
- Customers need to provide a valid credit or debit card from which the Scheme can deduct extra ride charges. Customers also have to agree not to cancel that payment card without first telling the Scheme and providing an alternative card for deducting charges.
- The Scheme’s Cycle User Policy explains the Scheme reserves the right to suspend or cancel access to bikes if is unable to collect outstanding charges because of insufficient funds or invalid payment method.
Issues relating to events on 2 April 2017
- On 2 in April 2017 Mr X was unable to release a bike using his registered key. TfL acknowledges there may have been a temporary technical problem. Mr X resolved the situation by buying one day’s access as a casual user for £2. He says this caused him delay on the day and it was an extra cost to him. Mr X considered the Scheme was in breach of its contract with him and asked TfL for a refund of £2.
- TfL initially refused to give a refund. It said Mr X’s access had been prevented for a short time and he had been able to use his registered key the next day.
- Mr X complained to TfL on 23 May 2017. He asked for compensation as well as the £2 refund. An officer responded the same day and agreed to make the £2 refund. The officer said as he was still able to hire a bike as a casual user his inconvenience had been minimal and compensation was not appropriate. The officer asked Mr X to provide either his access ID or his payment card details for the casual user transaction so TfL could process the refund.
- Mr X replied the same day. He said he had already provided pictures including the scheme’s reference which should allow the scheme to trace his journey. He would not provide details of his credit card as he considered this a security risk. He told the scheme to take his email as a request not to use his credit card for any further payments, for example extended hires, as he considered the Scheme’s systems did not work properly. He said if the scheme made any further debit to his credit cards he would treat it as fraudulent. He asked for compensation again and for his complaint to be progressed further.
- Mr X got no response to his email. He sent a further email on 22 June 2017. An officer from TfL responded the next day. He apologised for the delay. He said the refund was still on offer but the scheme did not have enough details yet to make it. He explained the scheme needed either the access receipt for the casual hire or the payment card details. He said the scheme would not need the full card details, just the first six and last four digits of the card and the expiry date. He said the refund had been on offer from the outset, acted within the terms and conditions of the scheme and considered no compensation was payable.
- Mr X responded on 24 June 2017. He said the refund had not been offered from the outset and this was the first time the scheme had explained it did not need his full card details. He considered he was still due compensation. He provided partial credit card details on 28 June. TfL confirmed to him the next day it had made the £2 refund.
- TfL now says it requested the refund on 29 June 2017 but it was not correctly processed. Mr X had to chase the refund. On 28 July TfL told him it had now processed the payment correctly and he should get it within the next week. In acknowledgement of the processing failure the officer ordered a £20 cheque for Mr X as a goodwill payment.
- TfL confirms it issued a £20 cheque to Mr X on 27 July 2017 and that it was cleared into Mr X’s bank account on 3 August 2017. TfL has told me the cheque included the £2 Mr X was disputing.
- Mr X says he has never received the £2 refund. From June 2017 to the end of 2017 Mr X was in contact with London Travel Watch because he said he still had not received the £2 refund.
Issues relating to events on 15 August 2017
- The Scheme’s records showed on 13 August 2017 Mr X made a bike journey of over 30 minutes. On 15 August 2017 the Scheme tried to deduct £2 from Mr X’s payment card for this but could not do so. It suspended Mr X’s account because it had not been able to deduct the charge. The Scheme emailed Mr X to say what had happened. It asked him to telephone the Scheme so he could hire a bike again.
- Mr X says the Scheme tried to use an outdated card for reasons he does not understand. He did not telephone as requested. He emailed the same day
(15 August 2017) to say the Scheme was in breach of his agreement because it had tried to charge his card when he had told them not to on 23 May 2017. Still on 15 August he took out another £90 annual membership and he has used that membership ever since.
- Mr X complained to the Scheme on 19 August 2017. He said the suspension of his account was a breach of contract and asked for a refund of £90 for the new annual membership he had bought. He also asked for £40 compensation because of the scheme’s delays dealing with him.
- TfL responded on 6 September 2017. It explained it had suspended his account because the account was in arrears when the scheme could not collect the extra ride charge due for 13 July (TfL used the wrong date in the email – this should have been 13 August).
- On 10 September 2017 Mr X told the Scheme this was the first time it had explained the £2 charge. He said as he had not had a refund for the £2 due for April 2017 he did not see how his account could be in arrears. He again asked for £90 plus compensation for his effort.
- On 25 September 2017 TfL told Mr X it could find no reference to a new account in Mr X’s name, only the suspended one. It said it would not provide any further refunds. The same day Mr X provided a copy of the email the Scheme sent him on 15 August welcoming him to his new membership. TfL has now confirmed to the Ombudsman that it does have records of both annual memberships. It says the newer membership was set up using a number of different details to the old one which may be why TfL had difficulties locating it at first.
- TfL confirms it reversed the £2 charge in November 2017.
TfL’s payment to Mr X in January 2018
- TfL confirms it paid £59.75 into Mr X’s bank account on 16 January 2018 due to continuing complaints regarding the £2 refund for April 2017. Mr X says he could not fully reconcile this payment. TfL says it consisted of:
- £20 further goodwill payment;
- £29.75 pro rata refund for the period 15 August – 3 December 2017 when Mr X had paid for two annual memberships at the same time; and
- £10 to acknowledge a processing delay.
Mr X’s requested outcome
- Mr X says he still wants:
- the £2 refund from April 2017;
- the £20 goodwill payment relating to the £2 refund from April 2017;
- £90 for the new annual membership he bought on 15 August 2017; and
- compensation for his efforts.
- When Mr X was unable to use his registered key to access a bike in April 2017 TfL agreed to refund the £2 he paid for one day’s casual user access instead. TfL delayed actioning the refund. Mr X did not provide the details TfL requested for the refund to be made. TfL then said it had refunded the £2 when it had not and later accepted it had not processed the payment correctly. There is no evidence Mr X received the £2. This is fault. However, I am satisfied the £20 cheque TfL sent Mr X in July 2017 covers the £2 and any inconvenience caused.
- The Scheme was entitled to suspend Mr X’s account on 15 August 2017 when it could not process a £2 extra ride charge. Mr X did not call to discuss the suspension as requested but sent an email which delayed sorting this out. It was Mr X’s choice to pay for a new annual membership at that point. TfL was unable to identify Mr X’s second annual membership account but that was due to Mr X using different details for it so TfL was not at fault. TfL has now paid Mr X for the period when his two memberships overlapped. In addition, in January 2018 TfL paid Mr X a further £10 to acknowledge processing delays and a further £20 goodwill payment.
- I am satisfied that TfL has remedied any injustice caused to Mr X by its fault.
- I have now completed my investigation. TfL has already remedied any injustice caused to Mr X by its fault.
Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman