School bus pass refused - fuel surcharge

Any advice welcomed here...

My sons have to use a bus service which is contracted out by the local council to a private company. The service is appalling - old dirty repurposed London buses in poor repair, frequently late or cancelled as they come from central Birmingham out to us near Stratford-on-Avon and with routes that mean the drivers have to exceed the speed limit to keep to time. My son tells me that speeding caused a serious accident on his bus last year - very scary for him.

The cost is £950/year per pass. Last year we had two. In the light of this appalling service I was not prepared to pay the fuel surcharge applied at the end of the 2021/22 year of a further £95 per pass, so £190. This is however provided for in their T&Cs - they are also entitled according to that contract to withhold future passes if monies owed aren't paid.

So we're in the position of having paid two instalments of £95 for a pass that won't be issued unless we pay a further £190. There is no other public transport option for getting our son (one is now off to uni) to school.

I think this is an unfair contract term - we have no agency in the agreement of the contract and I think the charge is punitive as well as the redress they are entitling themselves to, especially in light of the payments we have made already.

The council have said they can't do anything as they are only interested in free bus services - this is a private arrangement (but our only option).

School starts Wednesday. Do I just shut up and pay up?
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Comments

  • daveyjp
    daveyjp Posts: 12,501 Forumite
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    What did the contract say when you paid the £950?  Was that the agreed sum or was their mention of a potential fuel surcharge?

    If no mention of extra costs you may have grounds for not paying, but if you need a school bus pass you may need to pay the alleged debt under duress, get the new bus pass then argue about the fuel surcharge.

    As its a Council contract get your local Councillors involved.
  • Hi - thanks for your response

    It's in clause 11.5 of the 17-page contract they put on their website. I think it's an unfair contract term as we have no choice over agreeing or not agreeing: if we don't like it, our son can't get a school bus pass.

    I think the 'under duress' route may be the only way to go. I've been in touch with our councillors and they say they are only concerned with free bus passes and contract the rest out privately (even though they're still involved somehow - I can't quite fathom it)
  • Bradden
    Bradden Posts: 1,075 Forumite
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    If you don;t pay the surcharge will the refund the payments already made?
  • There's no commitment to do so in the contract.
  • Bradden
    Bradden Posts: 1,075 Forumite
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    There's no commitment to do so in the contract.
    I'd like to think that would be considered unfair.. I'm not an expert.but being able to increase the cost without any option for na refund seems nuts.. they could just charge anything they like.
  • mjm3346
    mjm3346 Posts: 46,886 Forumite
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    "In the light of this appalling service I was not prepared to pay the fuel surcharge"

    Did offering an "appalling service" mean they got cheaper fuel so there was no need for a fuel surcharge? if not then how are the two things connected?
  • The T&Cs give them the right to calculate a percentage increase every "[ 1 /6/Quarter/Schoool Year]" (quote from the document - they haven't focused much on this bit clearly) and apply it in a binding manner unless there has been 'manifest error'. Basically, we can charge you what we like provided there's no error - and you can't tell if there's been an error.
  • sienew
    sienew Posts: 334 Forumite
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    The service is appalling - old dirty repurposed London buses in poor repair,
    To be fair, if the busses are treated anything like they were by the students when I was at school this is to be expected. The busses for school runs are usually old busses specifically bought for that purpose as 100 students on a bus can make quite a mess.
  • CKhalvashi
    CKhalvashi Posts: 12,056 Forumite
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    sienew said:
    The service is appalling - old dirty repurposed London buses in poor repair,
    To be fair, if the busses are treated anything like they were by the students when I was at school this is to be expected. The busses for school runs are usually old busses specifically bought for that purpose as 100 students on a bus can make quite a mess.
    Agreed, except it won't be in poor repair.

    PSV standards are very strict.
    💙💛 💔
  • anotheruser
    anotheruser Posts: 3,485 Forumite
    First Anniversary Name Dropper First Post I've been Money Tipped!
    There is no other public transport option for getting our son (one is now off to uni) to school.
    Is a taxi not classed as public transport?
    I see your plight, but there are other options.  This bus service is just the most obvious and perhaps least hassle option.
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