I am writing to bring to attention VirginTrains.co.uk unfair and unclear terms, the way they are ripping off the average online UK consumer, and to ask advise on what action I should take next in claiming a full refund.
In March 2008 I booked in advance to go from London to Birmingham on a same day return journey. I used Virgin Trains' online booking services for the first time. The money I paid to Virgin Trains was 41.50 + 19.50 + 1 (for travel insurance) = 62.
Here is a screenshot of the money I paid to Virgin Trains: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25547331@N03/2413744143/
When the ordering process was finished I was prompted by their website to make a printout of the journey details, which I did. (I have since lost that print out, so I have gone through the whole process of booking again online in order to show you my point below, I have no intention of travelling again with Virgin Trains)
So, I read this printout, which stated that I could pickup my ticket from a FastTicket machine at LONDON KINGS CROSS and gave me a reference number to enable me to collect my tickets. I did not think that I needed anything else to pick up my tickets. On the day of travel I went to pick up my tickets and was unable to do so because I did not brought along the same card that I used to buy the tickets online with. (I was subsequently told that this was in order to combat fraud etc).
Now, my point is that I was not sufficiently made aware of the fact that I needed to bring along the same card that I used to make the online order with, (as can be seen on the screenshot below of another online order printout which I have been forced to do to in order to bring this to your attention):
Virgin Trains Order Confirmation Screenshot: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25547331@N03/2405593322/
A key feature of be being able to complete this order is the FastTicket Reference number and taking along the credit or debit card used to make the order. I was made to believe by Virgin Trains, by the action of them prompting me to print a printout of the transaction that the printout contained all relevant details needed to complete the transaction.
On the confirmation page it states:
"We will send you a booking confirmation by email, but recommend that you also print this page for your records."
But on the printout there is no mention of the fact that one needs to take along the credit or debit card used to make the online order.
So, as I was not able to use the tickets I had bought in advance I had to buy a return ticket from a station ticket office, which cost me 29.50, which is less than half the price that I had paid to Virgin Trains in advanced online booking! Had I been able to pick up the tickets which I bought in advance online then I would have been none-the-wiser as to how Virgin Trains is ripping off online advanced booking users.
Here is the screenshot of Chiltern Trains tickets cost for same journey: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25547331@N03/2405555848/
Subsequently, on Thurs 27 March 2008, in the evening, I rang up Virgin Trains customer service number on 0870 010 1127 and was put through to a guy in India. I was told that I would only be able to claim a refund on one of my tickets and that I would not be able to claim a refund on my "VALUE ADVANCE" ticket. He also told me that there would be an administrative 5 charge and that even if I was able to claim a refund on both tickets that there would be a administrative 5 charge on both tickets! So, I explained my situation to him, stating how I did not believe how the Key Features of completing the order was made sufficiently aware to me, and he point-blank refused to give me a full refund, saying that I should call another number, 0845 000 8000, in England. I then rang this number and the guy also refused to give me a full refund stating that the fact the one needs to bring along the card they used to make an online booking was in Virgin Trains' "Terms & Conditions" . I told him that at the point of sale, which in my head was order confirmation page, that this was not made aware to me. Infact, if one looks at their Terms & Conditions one will not find any reference to this requirement, http://www.virgintrains.co.uk/termsandconditions/default.aspx
HOW VIRGIN TRAINS IS RIPPING OFF UK ONLINE CONSUMERS:
Virgin Trains website header states "buy cheap train tickets online"; - this is a lie and a con, I found that their online tickets cost more than 2 to 4 times as much as buying tickets at a train station counter. What Virgin Trains are doing is using reverse psychology to rip people off: they are using the widespread consumer belief that booking services online is normally cheaper than booking in person because websites sales cost less to manage then in-person sales etc.
Virgin Train online Google ad states:
"Save with Virgin Trains
VirginTrains.co.uk Book in advance for big savings. Earlier is cheaper! Book now."
see Virgin Trains Google Adwords Campaign here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25547331@N03/2405554044/
- This also is a big con, conning the average UK online consumer! When I booked online, in advance with Virgin Trains my 2-way return tickets cost me 41.50 + 19.50 + 1 (travel insurance) = 62 and this was with the journey from Birmingham to London being a "VALUE ADVANCE SINGLE" ticket, had it not been then the 2 way trip via Standard travel would have cost me as much as 64.50 + 64.50 = 129. I was able to buy a Standard open same day return from London to Birmingham from Chiltern Railways at their Marylebone station ticket office for 29.50. Yep, Virgin Trains can rip you off up to 2 - 4 times as much as other companies for the same journey!
See the proof here:
Virgin Trains Cost for a same day return trip from London to Birmingham, http://www.flickr.com/photos/25547331@N03/2405554510/
Chiltern Trains Cost for a same day return trip from London to Birmingham, http://www.flickr.com/photos/25547331@N03/2405555848/
Virgin Trains unclear terms are in contravention of UK consumer laws:
For example, if you choose a "Value Advance" ticket it will say at the side of the screen:
Specific off-peak train, reservation essential, partially refundable, partially changeable."
as in the screenshot here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25547331@N03/2405555520/
However, if you do actually go on to click the "Value Advanced" link under the "Ticket Category" table column then it states:
"REFUNDS None - all Value Advance fares are non-refundable."
as in the contradictory screenshot here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25547331@N03/2404725447/
Thus we can see that this is a clear scam run by Virgin Trains, they know that most people will not go on to click the extra link. VirginTrains terms regarding "Value Advanced" tickets are also contradictory, on one hand claiming that a customer is able to get a partial refund on them and on another claiming outright that no refunds can be claimed on them.
I am seeking a FULL refund for the unused tickets purchased online in March 2008 and for the subsequent online ticket purchased in April 2008. I seeking compensation for the time spent in pursuing these claims due to their customers services both in India and in the UK refusing to provide me with one, and the undue stress this whole episode as put upon me. I am also seeking compensation for the time and work involved in spotting their Unclear Terms as Virgin Trains no doubt employ people whose job it is to check these and they are paid for this - I have done this job for them!
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