Thursday, 27 April 2017

Southern Rail compensation deadline looms - and guess what?

What follows is a guest blog by a Southern commuter who has been battling to get his compensation by their deadline, which is this weekend...

Do you find it slightly odd that, for a company with 300,000 daily commuters, to date they’ve only been in direct contact with 40,000 commuters owed extra compensation (and the doors close on 30 April)? I think the compensation scheme is run as poorly as their trains, and many eligible commuters will not receive the compensation owed. Why?

Well, as a daily commuter over the relevant period I’d bought seven monthly season tickets, several weekly ones and made many delay repay claims. With this information you’d expect they’d contact me and promptly pay the compensation due, right? 

 Wrong, they didn’t contact me. Eventually I called them, gave them my name, address, season ticket number, etc. – only to be told they could not find me in their records. I then had to wait several weeks to claim compensation online in mid-March.

With knowledge of Data Protection rules, I submitted a Data Subject Access Request to Southern asking for copies of personal information they hold on me - season tickets purchased and delay repay claims submitted. There were two statements from their compensation website that prompted this action:
  • “The process has been a complex one as we had to look through multiple data sources to be absolutely sure that we were correctly verifying a customer’s identity.”
  • “Unless we were 100% confident that the information we had was correct, we couldn't take a chance and make direct contact – for instance if there was a slight change in postcode.”
After all, perhaps I mistyped my address when making claims. But no, once they provided all the information requested it turned out that they had records of my season tickets and delay repay claims, and all accurately matched my name and address. So, are they going to appropriate lengths to identify and compensate contact eligible customers using “multiple data sources”? Clearly not.

When I pushed for a reason why I had not been identified by Southern, I was given a circular response that only seemed to reiterate the flaws in their own process. Quote below:-

“As you may be aware, this was a big undertaking required in a short period of time. The data gathering process was structured to process large quantities of data across different systems as efficiently as possible. The protection of customer data and accuracy of the compensation calculation was a priority. Two aspects of the data gathering process are relevant to your query:

1. Your Delay Repay record was excluded because the amounts had not been validated through the ticketing system. Our Customer Services team can either input the Delay Repay amounts manually or retrieve system-validated amounts based on ticket number. Both approaches are permitted in our process.

2. Your season ticket record was excluded because it had already been considered in Step 1 above. This was to avoid any possibility of double counting.”

If you can follow their logic, they indicate season ticket records (2) were excluded because they were covered under (1). But I was excluded from (1) because my tickets hadn't been validated! When I challenged the lack of logic, asking if I wasn't covered by (1) shouldn't I have been covered by (2), I was answered by:-

“If you were excluded under (1) it meant that your record was excluded and could not be considered under (2).”
Southern seems to be following a flawed process to identify eligible customers, and instead relying on people to make the claims for money owed to them. Some might think they did this deliberately by i) not contacting them in the first place, ii) delaying the online compensation claim site until mid-March by when most people forget they’re due recompense, and iii) giving them just 6-7 weeks to submit their claim by setting the deadline as 30 April.

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