A Southern Rail commuter claims to have used an obscure law to get a refund worth thousands from his season ticket due to bad service.
The man, known only as Sean, apparently received £2,400 back from his credit card provider American Express, after he cited the poor state of the train service which has been suffered delays, cancellations and strikes.
The Association of British Consumers (ABC) published a survey of Southern passengers that found that delays, cancellations and overcrowding was causing health problems, forcing people to move house and even lose their jobs. One Brighton to London commuter said: “Quite simply, it has ruined my life.”
Now, ABC has published Sean’s story on its blog.
According to the website, he used Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, which says people can claim money back from a creditor if the service they paid for amounted to “misrepresentation or a breach of contract”.
Sean’s refund was, according to documents the site shared, half of the £4,800 he paid.
In documents published on ABC, apparently sent to American Express in July last year, Sean cited “extensive late running” of the trains to London Bridge as a reason for his request for a refund.
He said a third of trains he used were cancelled or delayed, most services run late and Southern had cancelled 15% of its services into London.
He also cited the strike action which led to the “total loss of service,” adding: “The service where provided is not of sufficient quality but quite often the service is not provided in the first place.”
The ABC blog advised people how to follow Sean’s example.
It wrote: “Based on Sean’s advice, start by calling your credit card provider and requesting a non-delivery of services section 75 claim.
“If your credit card provider allows the claim, it’s then a matter of providing the relevant evidence/performance statistics and a letter including an estimate of the percentage you feel you are owed back.
“Sean’s quite reasonable estimate in his own case was 50%, but there is no reason why this shouldn’t be more (or less) depending on the extent to which you have been affected.”
Emily Yates, co-founder of ABC, told The Telegraph several of its members were now pursuing similar claims.
She added: “When one considers that any level of reasonable travel on Southern Rail has been impossible for the last 10 months, it is not surprising that so many people call this an insult to passengers or at best, an empty gesture.”
Martin Lewis, from MoneySavingExpert.com, made a video on the claims. He said Section 75 allowed people to approach either Southern Rail or their credit card company for refunds.
If the credit card company rejects a claim, the customer can then go to the Financial Services Ombudsman, he said, adding that the FSO has a broader remit than the courts as it has to consider “standard industry practice” when it adjudicates.
He said: “The very fact that one credit card company has agreed to pay out could open the floodgates because of that standard industry practice rule.”
A Southern spokesperson told HuffPost UK: “We cannot comment on arrangements between credit card companies and their customers and we are unaware of any charge-back claim from American Express.”