Transport for London (18 004 169)

Category : Transport and highways > Public transport

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 23 Nov 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Miss X complains about Transport for London’s decision to cancel her apprentice Oyster card. Transport for London is not at fault. The Education and Skills Funding Agency did not send Transport for London the relevant information for it to verify Miss X’s eligibility for the Oyster card. Transport for London considered its terms and conditions and is not at fault for cancelling Miss X’s Oyster card.

The complaint

  1. Miss X complains about Transport for London’s decision to cancel her apprentice Oyster card.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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 a council’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)
  2. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I spoke to Miss X about her complaint.
  2. I considered Transport for London’s response to my enquiries.
  3. Miss X and Transport for London had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered the comments before I made my final decision.

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What I found

  1. Transport for London (TfL) is a local government body responsible for the transport system in Greater London. TfL are responsible for the operation of services including:
    • London Underground
    • London Buses
    • TfL Rail
    • London Trams
    • London Overground
  2. The Oyster card is a plastic smartcard which can hold pay as you go credit, Travelcards and Bus & Tram passes. Holders can use the Oyster card on the services managed by TfL and on most National Rail services throughout Greater London.
  3. Anybody who is over 18, lives in a London Borough and is in the first year of an approved apprenticeship may be eligible for an Apprentice Oyster card. The Apprentice Oyster card allows the holder to buy Travelcards and Bus & Tram passes at a discounted price. Training organisations approved, or funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) deliver the apprenticeships.
  4. The TfL terms and conditions for Apprentice Oyster cards says it issues applicants with a card in good faith pending confirmation of their eligibility from the ESFA. ESFA then has 100 days to confirm the applicant’s eligibility with TfL. TfL tells the applicant if it has not received confirmation from the ESFA after 50 days. If TfL do not receive the confirmation from the ESFA after 100 days, then it stops the card, and the holder can no longer use it.

What happened

  1. In January 2018, TfL issued Miss X with an Apprentice Oyster card. In February 2018, TfL emailed Miss X and told her it had not received confirmation of her eligibility for the card from ESFA. TfL asked Miss X to check if her apprenticeship provider had sent the relevant details to ESFA.
  2. The apprenticeship provider emailed Miss X in March 2018 and told her it had sent the relevant details to the ESFA. The provider said ESFA had confirmed her eligibility with TfL in March 2018.
  3. In April 2018, TfL cancelled Miss X’s Apprentice Oyster card because it did not receive confirmation of Miss X’s eligibility. Miss X wrote to the ESFA and asked why it did not confirm her eligibility with TfL. The ESFA said it did pass Miss X’s eligibility to TfL. It told Miss X to contact TfL if she had further questions.
  4. In June 2018, Miss X complained to TfL. Miss X said it had wrongly cancelled her Oyster card. Miss X said she wanted compensation for the full price travel she paid for during May and June. Miss X also asked for a refund for the money which she put onto her cancelled Oyster card that she could no longer use.
  5. TfL wrote to Miss X in June 2018. It said it cancelled her Oyster card because the ESFA did not confirm her eligibility for the card. TfL said it would not pay Miss X any compensation and told her to contact the ESFA. TfL refunded Miss X the unused money from her cancelled card. Miss X was unhappy with TfL’s response and asked it to escalate her complaint to London TravelWatch. London TravelWatch investigates complaints about transport services in London when the server provider has not satisfactorily resolved them.
  6. London TravelWatch wrote to Miss X in July 2018. It found the fault lay with the ESFA and not TfL. London TravelWatch said TfL rely on information from ESFA to verify a person’s eligibility for an Apprentice Oyster card. It said although the ESFA told Miss X she was eligible, it did not send the relevant information to TfL. London TravelWatch confirmed TfL would not reimburse Miss X for any travel charges incurred because of the cancelled Oyster card.
  7. Miss X remained unhappy and complained to the Ombudsman.

My findings

  1. TfL rely on the ESFA to send information to it which verifies the eligibility of holders of Apprentice Oyster cards. TfL’s terms and conditions state, it may cancel Apprentice Oyster cards after 100 days if the ESFA do not confirm the holder’s eligibility.
  2. The ESFA has confirmed it had a computer system problem between November 2017 and April 2018 which meant it did not send some verification data to TfL. The ESFA has opened a compensation scheme for all holders of Apprentice Oyster cards affected by the problem. Miss X should write to the ESFA and use its compensation scheme to apply for any reimbursement of money.
  3. TfL followed its terms and conditions. It did not receive confirmation of Miss X’s eligibility from the ESFA, and therefore was not at fault for cancelling Miss X’s Apprentice Oyster card.

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Final decision

  1. I have completed my investigation. TfL is not at fault.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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