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Credit card refund offers hope for rail commuters

Tens of thousands of Southern rail commuters could be in line for compensation from their credit card companies after a passenger claimed he had won £2,400 back from American Express for his season ticket.

Money experts have said a little-known piece of consumer law could allow commuters who have bought season tickets on Southern rail with credit cards to claim back part of the cost. It comes after a man named “Sean” reported to the Association of British Commuters that he had used section 75 of the Credit Card Act to demand American Express refund him £2,400 because the product he bought — his season ticket — was unsatisfactory due to regular delays and cancellations.

Under section 75, all credit providers are liable along with the company that offers faulty goods or services. Consumers apply to their credit card companies which then decide whether to grant their claim. The card provider can then seek to recover the money from the retailer.

In his evidence, the man claimed he had submitted punctuality statistics last August after his season ticket expired and argued that he ought to be refunded 50 per cent of the ticket because half of all journeys had been cancelled or delayed.

Martin Lewis, the founder of Money Saving Expert, said this could mean the “floodgates might open” for commuters claiming money back from their credit card companies rather than directly from Southern.

“Section 75 is incredibly powerful because you do not have to go to the retailer, in this case Southern, first. You can go to your credit card companies, which have much deeper pockets, and claim the money from them.”

Mr Lewis said if a credit card company refused, the case would be referred to the Financial Ombudsman which would look at whether there was an industry precedent. “If this man has succeeded in claiming money from American Express, it sets an industry practice and means others have a far better chance of success; it opens the flood gates.”

In December, the Department for Transport reported that 84,000 passengers with season tickets for Southern would be in line for taxpayer-funded compensation. Southern rail was not able to say how many commuters held season tickets but the figure suggests tens of thousands could apply for money through section 75.

A Southern spokesman said: “We cannot comment on arrangements between credit card companies and their customers and we are unaware of any charge-back claim from American Express.” American Express was unavailable for comment.

It came as a survey found Southern achieved a satisfaction rating of just 21 per cent, down from 44 per cent last year, after months of strikes and disruption because of a row over the role of guards and driver-only trains.
• A Southern Railway train driver was verbally abused by a passenger who entered his cab yesterday and demanded to know why the train was not moving. Aslef, the train drivers’ union, said the incident at Bognor Regis, West Sussex, was a serious breach of safety. The passenger, who was said to be agitated, photographed the driver. The train was cancelled and Southern said that it was investigating the incident.

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