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ORR opens consultation on changes to complaints handling

  • United Kingdom
  • Transport - Rail

10-10-2017

Background

The Office for Rail and Road (“ORR”) has opened a consultation on its proposals to introduce a voluntary binding Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) scheme for the resolution of consumer complaints in the rail sector. The rationale for the consultation is to seek views on potential changes which would allow consumers to be able to seek redress through a scheme independent of the rail company they wish to complain about. At present, consumers can appeal to two independent bodies if they are unhappy with a rail company’s response to their complaint (Transport Focus and London TravelWatch). However, Transport Focus and London TravelWatch have no formal powers to compel rail companies to act or compensate individual passengers and therefore, the only form of binding dispute resolution available to passengers is via the Courts.

What does the consultation cover?

The consultation covers three areas: (i) how to provide consumers with clear and understandable signposting to an ADR scheme; (ii) what is the appropriate period of time rail companies should have before the complainant is informed that they have the option of referring their complaint to an ADR scheme; and (iii) should ADR become a requirement to be included in rail companies’ complaint handling procedures.

(i) How to provide consumers with a clear and understandable signposting to an ADR scheme

ORR has set out three potential options for the signposting of consumers to take their complaints to an ADR scheme when a rail company is unable to resolve it. These include:

Option 1: The rail company informs the consumer that they can ask the ADR scheme to investigate their complaint;

Option 2: The rail company is responsible for signposting the consumer to the ADR scheme or to Transport Focus/London TravelWatch where the complaint falls outside of the scope of the ADR scheme; and

Option 3: Transport Focus and London TravelWatch act as the appeals body for consumers who are unhappy with the rail company’s response to their complaint and signpost consumers to ADR where Transport Focus and London TravelWatch are unable to resolve the complaint to the consumer’s satisfaction.

ORR is inviting comments and suggestions on the following:

  • which of the three options (set out above) is most appropriate for the signposting of consumers to ADR;
  • are there any other approaches that ORR has not considered which may be preferable to the three options set out above; and
  • is it necessary for ORR to set out in detail its expectations, and make these expectations formal requirements, in the complaints handling procedures of communications about the ADR scheme.

(ii) Timescales for sending signposting letters

ORR is also seeking comments on the timescales that rail companies should have to resolve complaints before the complainant is informed that they have the option of referring their complaint to the ADR scheme. The proposals are: (i) 8 weeks or (ii) 6 weeks or less.

(iii) Requirement to be a member of an ADR scheme

ORR is considering whether it is necessary for membership of the ADR scheme to become part of the complaints handling guidance and to therefore become a requirement to be included in rail companies’ complaints handling procedures.

What are the next steps?

Responses to the consultation are invited by Wednesday 7 November 2017. The Rail Delivery Group, working with others as part of an Ombudsman Task Force, has developed proposals which they envisage will see an ADR scheme for rail passengers introduced on a voluntary basis in early 2018.

 

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