Decision : Not upheld
Decision date : 16 Apr 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mrs X complains about the Authority’s decision to issue a Penalty Fare Notice to her daughter, Y. The Ombudsman has discontinued the investigation. This is because there is another body better placed to consider this complaint.
- Mrs X complains about the Authority’s decision to issue a Penalty Fare Notice to her daughter, Y.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- 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 there is another body better placed to consider this complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
- We can decide whether to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I spoke to Mrs X and I reviewed documents provided by Mrs X and the Council. I gave Mrs X and the Council the opportunity to comment on a draft of this decision and I considered the comments provided.
What I found
- The hopper fare allows unlimited bus and tram journeys in one hour for the price of one. Passengers must touch in using the same card on all journeys and the free fare will be applied automatically.
- Before starting an inspection on a bus, the Revenue Inspector must touch a Revenue Inspection Device (“RID”) on the card reader. The RID retrieves all card validations made on the reader for the current trip. The Revenue Inspector can then use the RID to read the cards presented by passengers. The RID checks if the passenger’s card is on the tap list.
Penalty Fare Notice
- The Authority will issue a Penalty Fare Notice when a passenger travelling on its service fails to produce a valid authority to travel.
Authority’s appeal process
- The Authority has a three stage appeals process with an independent panel at the final stage. If the panel decides not to cancel the penalty, payment can only be enforced by the Authority through the courts.
- Y travelled on two buses within one hour on her way to University. Y used her contactless bank card to pay for the first bus journey. Y thought she had used the same card to pay for the second bus journey.
- A Revenue Inspector checked Y’s card during her second bus journey and found it was not on the tap list. They issued Y with a Penalty Fare Notice.
- Y appealed against the Authority’s decision to issue her with a Penalty Fare Notice.
- The Authority turned down Y’s appeal. It said her card was not validated on the second bus journey. It told Y how to make a further appeal.
- Y appealed again and the Authority turned down her appeal for the second time. It told Y she could appeal to the independent appeal panel.
- Y paid the Penalty Fare Notice as she did not want it to increase.
- There is no evidence Y appealed to the independent appeal panel.
- In view of the documents provided, I find Y did not appeal to the independent appeal panel.
- I will not continue my investigation because it is reasonable to expect Y to have appealed to the independent appeal panel. This panel was set up to consider appeals against Penalty Fare Notices and it is better placed to consider this complaint.
- I have discontinued my investigation. This is because there is another body better placed to consider this complaint.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman