Consumer group Which? has accused rail companies of failing to properly inform passengers about their rights to compensation.
In a letter to train operators, Which? has told them they must not use industry-wide terms and conditions as a smokescreen to stop consumers claiming for consequential losses.
South West Trains says it does not pay for consequential losses
It said the current terms of the industry-wide National Rail Conditions of Travel undermine passenger rights by denying consumers their right to claim for consequential losses from delays, such as reasonable costs for missed flights, taxi fares, or child-minding fees.
Under the Consumer Rights Act (CRA), which came into force in the rail industry last October, passengers are entitled to claim for a wide range of problems when a service has not been delivered with ‘reasonable care and skill’.
Vickie Sheriff, Which? director of campaigns and communications, said: ‘It’s now six months since the Consumer Rights Act came into force in the rail industry but train companies are acting as if they are above the law and this is going unchallenged.
‘Passengers have rights and must be aware of what they can claim for when they have a problem with their service. Train companies urgently need to address the misleading information they’re providing on their websites and comply fully with the law.’
The Rail Delivery Group, which represents rail firms, said: 'Which? is wrong, train companies are not breaking any laws. Train companies’ compensation arrangements already go beyond what is required under consumer law, and customers are getting an even better deal with new improved rights.
'Customers are clearly advised of their rights to money back. All train companies comply with the Consumer Rights Act and display the National Rail Conditions of Travel – which are approved by the government - on their websites.'
At the time of writing, the South West Trains webpage setting out compensation for single, return and weekly tickets stated that passengers will not be compensated for ‘Any consequential losses due to a delay or cancellation of our services’.
Which? said 17 of the 24 train companies are not providing enough information on passengers’ new rights on their websites by failing to make it clear that consumers’ legal rights include those enshrined in the CRA.
Separately, Southern rail has reminded passengers who had season tickets last year to check if they may be eligible for compensation, under a one-off scheme launched by the Department of Transport.