Need Advicehelp 2016

 

Need Advice?

We play an important role in helping consumers understand their rights and responsibilities when using public transport, or when they are affected by those services.

Here are some topics that we commonly get questions about. If you have a query or complaint about a topic that is not here, please get in touch with us and we will try to help you.

If you would like to make a complaint to our office, please click here.

 

What We Do With Your Complaint

We receive, investigate and resolve complaints from consumers who use or are affected by Victorian public passenger transport services, or the public transport related activities of public transport operators who are members of our scheme. Click here to see a list of our members.

You should raise your complaint with the relevant transport operator first. We can only investigate a complaint if the operator has been given the opportunity to respond to it and it is within our jurisdiction. We can give you impartial advice and referral information in response to enquiries and complaints that haven't been raised with the operator or are out of the PTO's jurisdiction. Click here for information about making a complaint to a public transport operator.

When we investigate a complaint, we assist you and operator to negotiate a fair and reasonable outcome. We handle complaints independently and promptly and where an agreement can't be reached, the Ombudsman may make a binding decision, or dismiss the complaint if she believes there are no grounds for further investigation.

We also play an important role in identifying, investigating and reporting systemic issues. Systemic issues are identified through complaints, and are issues that affect, or have the potential to affect, more than one consumer. This important aspect of our work contributes to improved public transport services. For more information about how we look at systemic issues, please click here.

The PTO is committed to ensuring your privacy is maintained. Click here to read the PTO privacy policy.

Our Process and How to Make a Complaint

You can make a complaint to us by completing our online complaint form, calling us or sending us details of your complaint via email or through the post.

When you contact us, we will ask you whether you have raised your complaint with the relevant public transport operator. If you have not, we will provide you with general advice and information on how to contact the operator. We cannot investigate your complaint until the operator has had an opportunity to resolve it. If you lodge a complaint with the operator and you are not satisfied with the response or you don’t receive a response within a reasonable time frame, please contact us again.

Your complaint needs to be about an issue that we have the power to investigate. We have the power to investigate a wide range of public transport issues including myki, service disruption and punctuality, customer service concerns, penalty fares and Authorised Officers. You can contact us and we will advise you whether we can deal with your complaint. If we can’t investigate your complaint, we will try to refer you to someone who can.

Authorised representatives

If you’d like to nominate someone to act on your behalf with our office, please let us know and complete our Authority to Act form. This form allows us to discuss your complaint with your authorised representative. An authorised representative can include a family member, friend, carer or advocate. You can access our Authority to Act form here.

What we need from you

It would help us understand and deal with your complaint, if you could provide us with:

  1. A detailed explanation of your complaint, including all relevant dates, times and locations. Where relevant, you may need to provide a description of the person or people involved so that we can identify them in closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage.
  2. Where relevant, copies of any supporting information you have, such as receipts, tickets, photographs, witness statements, medical reports and other correspondence.
  3. What you are seeking to resolve your complaint. If you want to claim financial compensation, you need to tell us how much you are seeking and provide information to support your calculations.

What we can and can’t do

We can look at complaints about most public transport issues. Your complaint needs to be about one of our members.

Your complaint must relate to something that happened on or after 18 April 2004, and be lodged with us within 6 months of the operator’s response. You can find out more about what issues we can investigate here.

If you contact us about an issue that is not within our jurisdiction, we will provide you with information and/or advice about your options, and refer you to the most appropriate organisation to handle your complaint.

Our process

If we form the view that your complaint is within our jurisdiction, or likely to be within our jurisdiction, there are a number of different steps that we may take:

  • Referral to Member – if you have had no or minimal contact with the operator, or they are still looking at your complaint, we may refer you to the operator. We will provide you with the operator’s contact details for you to pursue your complaint. We will also suggest that you contact us again if this referral does not resolve your complaint.
  • Referral for Internal Escalation (RFIE) – Depending on your complaint, we may make an assisted referral to the operator under our RFIE process. We will write to the operator and ask them to respond to you directly about your complaint. The operator is also required to provide us with a copy of their response. If this process does not resolve your complaint, you are encouraged to contact us again.
  • Investigation – At any stage in the process, we may decide to investigate your complaint. We will refer your complaint to the operator and request information to assist our investigation. In the course of our investigation we will consider what a fair and reasonable outcome to the complaint would be. Ultimately the aim of our investigation is to assist you and the operator to reach an agreed outcome.

Outcomes

Outcomes we can achieve include:

  • A detailed explanation
  • An apology
  • Refunds, compensation or goodwill payments
  • Changes to operator policies and procedures
  • Operator staff training or counselling

If an agreed outcome cannot be reached, we will look at whether further investigation of the complaint is warranted. If we decide there are no grounds for further investigation we will write to you with our reasons.

If agreement is not reached, and we believe that there should be a decision in your favour, the Ombudsman is able to make a decision that is binding on the operator. This decision can be up to the value of $5,000, or $10,000 with the agreement of the operator.

Fines and Penalty Fares

About penalty fares

From 1 January 2017, Authorised Officers (AOs) will no longer be handing out On the Spot Penalty Fares for travelling without a valid ticket or concession.

If you have received a penalty fare prior to 1 January 2017 and you would like to complain about the penalty fare, you can get in touch with us and we will look at your complaint.

Why we cannot help you with a fine

If an AO decides to report you for travelling without a valid ticket or concession, the AO will record your details and complete a report of non-compliance for the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (the Department). You may then get a fine of $229 in the mail. In some circumstances, the Department may issue with a warning.

Transport fines and warnings are issued by the Department, which is not a member of our Scheme. Information about appealing against a fine can be found on the Department’s website.

What we can help you with

Although we cannot look at an appeal against a transport fine, there may be other issues we can help you with.

For example, we can look at the conduct of AOs and other public transport staff, as well as problems with myki and public transport infrastructure such myki readers and card vending machines.

Outcomes

Some of the outcomes we achieve include:

  • A detailed explanation
  • An apology
  • Refunds, compensation or goodwill payments
  • Changes to operator policies and procedures
  • Operator staff training or counselling

If an agreed outcome cannot be reached, we will look at whether further investigation of the complaint is warranted. If we decide there are no grounds for further investigation we will write to you with our reasons.

If agreement is not reached, and we believe that there should be a decision in your favour, the Ombudsman is able to make a decision that is binding on the operator. This decision can be up to the value of $5,000, or $10,000 with the agreement of the operator.

Authorised Officers & Protective Services Officers

Why we cannot look at complaints about Protective Service Officers

Protective Service Officers (PSOs) provide specialist protective services for the general public at metropolitan and major regional railway stations from 6.00pm until the last train of the evening, seven days a week.

While on duty at train stations, PSOs have a number of powers which include:

  • Arrest and detain - including arrest for drunk and disorderly offences
  • Search people and property - and seize items such as weapons and alcohol
  • Issue on-the-spot fines (infringement notices) - including for graffiti offences
  • Issue a direction to 'move on' from the area.

PSOs are recruited, trained and employed by Victoria Police. Victoria Police is not a member of the PTO, therefore we are unable to look at complaints about PSOs.

You can make a complaint about a PSO to:

Victoria Police – The Police Conduct Unit (complaints and compliments), Ethical Standards Department.

Telephone: 1300 363 101

Email: ethical.standards​@​police.vic.gov.au

Authorised Officers

Public transport operators employ Authorised Officers (AOs) to perform a range of functions, including checking tickets, providing information, assistance and customer service and deterring anti-social behaviour. AOs have broad statutory powers to inspect tickets, request a person supply a name and address, report a person for transport infringements, confiscate tickets, remove a person from public transport infrastructure and to arrest a person.

AOs are authorised by the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (the Department). Prospective AOs are vetted by the Department and the operator during the recruitment process and receive specific and ongoing training. AOs are required to abide by the Code of Conduct for Public Transport Authorised Officers (AO Code of Conduct). You can find out more about AO accreditation and training and read the AO Code of Conduct here.

AN AO cannot perform their duties unless they have an approved identity card and badge issued by the Department. An AO must show their identity card and badge to any person they intent to report for a fine. They must also show their identity card and/or badge when requested by a passenger.

AO complaints

We can look at most complaints about AOs, including complaints about:

  • Behaviour
  • Failure to check tickets
  • Failure to provide safety/security
  • Customer service
  • Provision of advice/information
  • Privacy and identity verification

If you have a complaint about an issue which is not on this list, please contact us and we will tell you whether we can look at it for you.

Our shared jurisdiction with the Victorian Ombudsman

We share jurisdiction for AO complaints with the Victorian Ombudsman. Under the agreement between our offices, we will refer complaints about the following issues to the Victorian Ombudsman:

  • Use of excessive force
  • Unlawful restraint
  • Injury caused by an AO
  • Police involvement other than to verify identification
  • Potential prosecution by the Department following an interaction with an AO.

Complaints referred to the Victorian Ombudsman are recorded in our case management system and are included in our annual reports.

myki Complaints

myki is the smart card ticketing system in Victoria.

You can use myki on:

  • metropolitan trains, trams and buses
  • V/Line commuter train services
  • Bus services in Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, the Latrobe Valley, Seymour and Warragul.

The Victorian Fares and Ticketing Manual (VFTM) sets out the conditions of travel for myki. You can look at the VFTM here. However the PTO also expects the conditions of travel information to be provided to consumers in a clear and accessible format. This can be via PTV’s website, the PTV call centre or on the public transport network.

If you would like information about how myki works, please refer to the PTV website.

Top tips for travelling with myki

  1. Only buy your myki from an authorised retailer like 7-Eleven, card vending machines or railway stations. If you buy a myki from someone who is not authorised, you could lose your money.
  2. Make sure you take all reasonable steps to have enough money on your myki to cover your fare before travelling. For example, you might need to make a separate trip to top up your myki before getting on a tram because you can’t top up on board.
  3. Make sure you have ‘touched on’ your myki properly. Listen for the sound and look at the screen at the myki gate to make sure your touch on is successful.
  4. Register your myki. This protects the money on your myki if it is lost or stolen.
  5. Make sure that you are carrying the right proof that you’re entitled to a concession fare if you are travelling on a concession myki. For example, if you are travelling on a concession myki because you are a student, your school/tertiary student ID card is not enough. You need to apply for a Victorian Public Transport concession card from PTV.
  6. Check out the PTV website at www.ptv.vic.gov.au to see if you are entitled to an iUse pass, which provides discounted travel to international undergraduate students.
  7. Do some research to work out the cheapest way to travel. Regular travellers may save money using a myki pass rather than myki money. You can get information from the PTV website or by calling PTV on 1800 800 007.

If you are caught without a valid myki or correct proof of concession by an Authorised Officer then there are a couple of things to know;

  • If you opt for the fine to be sent to you then you can challenge the fine in writing. We cannot help you appeal a fine, but we can help you with general information about fines if you contact us and we can look at a complaint about the circumstances in which you were fined.
  • If you choose the penalty fare you will be told that there is no process to appeal and no refund of the penalty fare. However you can complain to us. We can talk to you about the penalty fare and why you were travelling without a valid ticket or proof of concession entitlement. We can then discuss our process and what outcomes are possible. We can also advise you on how to avoid getting a penalty fare in future.

Complaints

Here are some of the common myki issues complained about to our office:

Concessions

There are a number of different myki cards, including different concession mykis. A concession myki requires you to travel with proof of entitlement to the concession myki. Information about entitlement to a concession myki can be found on the PTV website or you can contact the PTC call centre for advice. If you travel with a concession myki and you do not have the correct proof of entitlement, you may be issued with a penalty fare or a fine.

If you want to travel on a concession myki as a student and you are over 17, you need a Victorian Public Transport (VPT) concession card as proof of entitlement. There are some eligibility criteria you need to meet to qualify for a VPT card. The student card issued by your school or tertiary institution is not accepted.

If you want to travel on a concession myki with a Health Care Card as proof of entitlement, you need to have a Health Care Card issued in your name. Any dependents listed on the Health Care Card cannot use it as proof of entitlement. While being listed on a Health Care Card may offer some concession entitlements elsewhere, it doesn’t apply to public transport.

The Victorian Government is currently undertaking a review of public transport concession requirements.

Refunds and reimbursements

Consumers are entitled to a refund of any unused balance owing on their myki card. Refund and reimbursement requests can be made via your online account or the PTV call centre. If a myki is submitted for a refund, the card is cancelled and the entire balance refunded.

Many of the refund and reimbursement complaints we look at involve passes, rather than myki money. When PTV says ‘unused’ in relation to passes it means passes that either have not been activated or have pass days remaining. PTV doesn’t provide refunds for expired passes or for pass days that have been used. It is important to understand that if a pass has been activated, pass days are being used even if the pass isn’t being used for travel.

Sometimes consumers may be entitled to reimbursement for used pass days or myki money fares. Requests can be made for ticketing equipment faults, medical conditions and other special circumstances.

Overcharging / default fares

The myki system is designed to charge a fare at the end of a journey and when a myki is touched off. However, there isn’t always a requirement to touch off. For example, if you’re travelling on a tram within zone 1 you don’t need to touch off your myki.

If a myki isn’t touched off, a default fare might be charged. This might be more than or the same amount as the highest fare possible. A default fare can be a significant amount if you are travelling in a regional area. A default fare myki not be charged for some time, depending on how often a myki is used. This can be confusing for passengers when checking their myki money balance or travel history.

We look at complaints from consumers who have been overcharged or charged a default fare. When we investigate these complaints, we look at the consumer’s individual circumstances and what a fair and reasonable outcome to the complaint would be.

Noise Complaints

We are able to investigate complaints about noise and public transport. However there are some significant limits to our jurisdiction which are explained below.

What you need to tell us

When you make a noise complaint to us, you will need to provide the following information:

  • Relevant dates, times and locations;
  • Frequency of the noise;
  • Types of noise (a clear description will help to identify the source);
  • Carriage numbers, bus numbers, tram numbers where possible; and
  • Any changes in services/noise levels that you have noticed.

You will need to tell us what you are seeking to resolve your complaint and we will discuss with you whether this is likely to be achieved through our process.

Where relevant, we may look at what measures you have implemented to reduce the impact of noise on your property.

Site visits

We will usually arrange a site visit which allows us to meet with you and the operator and identify the noise that is of concern. A site visit is useful because it ensures the nature of the complaint is understood by everyone and all parties will have the opportunity to hear the noise and assess whether it is unusual or standard operational noise.

Our investigation

We will consider all the information provided in assessing the merits of your complaint. This will include investigating:

• The source of the noise and whether any laws or codes exempt the operator from liability;
• Whether practical steps have been taken by the operator to reduce the noise emissions as far as is practicable;
• Whether any further practical reduction in noise emissions is possible; and
• The handling of your complaint by the operator.

Limits to our jurisdiction

There are a number of limits to our jurisdiction in relation to noise complaints.

The Ombudsman can make a binding decision up to the value of $5,000 or $10,000 with the agreement of the operator. The likely costs involved in making changes to infrastructure or rolling stock to eliminate the cause of noise would in most cases exceed our monetary limit.

Tram and train operators have exemptions from some environmental controls under legislation, which generally place the needs of operators to run an efficient and effective passenger service for the general public ahead of the rights of individuals to quiet enjoyment of their property.

Responsibility for the specification of and design of trains, trams, sidings, depots, stations and platforms rest with the Victorian Government, therefore we cannot investigate this aspect of a noise complaint.

We can identify when an operator is not complying with legislation, regulation or standards, but we do not have an enforcement role. We need to refer these issues to the relevant regulator or enforcement body, which can include PTV or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Outcomes

Noise complaints can involve complex issues and in some instances the outcome being sought (cessation of all noise) may not be possible. We may consider that other remedies should be provided to ensure a fair and reasonable outcome is achieved, in the context of our jurisdiction. These remedies may include:

  • Provision of information
  • An apology
  • A commitment by the operator to review internal processes/conduct
  • A change of internal policies/procedures
  • The provision of a goodwill gesture

We aim to resolve complaints through agreement, but when investigating noise complaints this is often not possible. If your complaint cannot be resolved through agreement and we cannot assist further, we will try to refer to another organisation.

Compensation

When we look at a complaint, we can consider what compensation may be appropriate to resolve the complaint. It is important to realise that not every complaint will result in compensation.

Here are some examples of when we would consider compensation for loss suffered by a consumer:

  • Significantly delayed or cancelled public transport services
  • A significant breach of privacy
  • The provision of inaccurate advice and poor staff behaviour
  • A failure or lack of operator policies or procedures
  • In limited circumstances, claims from businesses for loss of profits.

We do not consider compensation for the following types of claims:

  • The costs associated with making the complaint
  • Claims for exemplary or punitive damages
  • Claims for injury to feelings or pain and suffered, except in some limited privacy related complaints
  • Claims more appropriately handled by another body such as the TAC, or a court or tribunal due to the complexity or value of the claim

Personal injury

In some circumstances, we can consider claims for loss caused by personal injury.

Claims for costs associated with personal injury can be very complex and involve amounts of money greater than the Ombudsman’s binding decision monetary limits ($5,000 or $10,000 with the consent of the operator). We will only consider claims for actual costs incurred or loss suffered and not future or ongoing loss.

We will carefully review your claim to ensure we are the most appropriate body to handle your complaint. We may refer you to the Transport Accident Commission (TAC), as no fault compensation may be payable if the injury was as a result of a transport accident involving a public transport service.

What you need to tell us

To help us investigate your complaint, you need to give us:

  • A detailed explanation of your claim, including all relevant dates, times and locations and a description of people involved (where relevant) in case we need to view CCTV footage of the incident.
  • A timeline of events can be useful to help us understand the background of your complaint.
  • If available, copies of any supporting information you have, such as receipts, tickets, photos, witness statements, medical reports and other correspondence.
  • What you are seeking to resolve your complaint, including the amount of the claim. You may need to provide supporting documentation such as receipts and information about insurance payments or other rebates.

How we approach your complaint

We will consider all the information provided by you and the operator when we assess your claim for compensation. This includes:

  • Investigating the link between the operator’s actions and the loss you are claiming
  • Looking at whether there are any laws or codes that exempt the operator from liability, or limit their liability
  • Whether reasonable steps were taken by either party to reduce the loss
  • Whether we have been provided with sufficient information to the support the amount of the claim.

If following our investigation we think payment of compensation is appropriate, we will work with you and the operator to reach a fair and reasonable outcome.

Outcomes

Aside from compensation, there are a number of other outcomes that could be appropriate to resolve your complaint. They include:

  • A detailed explanation
  • An apology
  • Refunds or goodwill payments
  • Changes to operator policies and procedures
  • Operator staff training or counselling

If an agreed outcome cannot be reached, we will look at whether further investigation of the complaint is warranted. We will speak to you about your options at that time.