Jan 14, 2013

Forcing Better Customer Service

If you won't provide reasonable customer service, the courts might punish you for it.

In what looks to me like a precedent, CityPass, the operator of the Jerusalem Light-Rail, had to pay two passengers who sued them in small claims court for poor customer service by which they suffered aggravation and anguish.

The two passengers suffered the famously oppressive behavior of the Light-Rail inspectors, where they flood the public with fines even when the problems were the fault of faulty machinery or other situations in which the passenger did not really deserve the fine, or where a lenient approach was appropriate. Often the fines are appealed and the main office at times voids the fine, but the inspectors themselves are very heavy-handed.

1 passenger in the lawsuit sued City Pass because when he got on the train there was a large crowd in front of the machine. Before he could get to the machine to use his smart card and pay for the ride, the inspector already wrote him up and fined him.

The second passenger in the lawsuit said he had swiped the card, and even saw the machine light up indicating the approval of the card. the problem was the machine had not "buzzed", which indicates he had not actually paid for the ride. The inspector wrote him up and fined him.

In both cases, upon appeal the main office immediately canceled the fines based on the explanation of the passengers.

The courts, taking into account that the fines had been canceled immediately, did not require CityPass to pay court costs, but they did require them to pay the passengers 720 NIS for their anguish. Even though the fines were canceled, the judge said, no apology at all had been sent for the behavior of the inspector.

During the defense CityPass denied that it has instructed the inspectors to operate with a heavy-hand towards passengers, but later they did admit that inspectors had been instructed to follow the rules precisely and not use their own judgement or to weigh the arguments in any specific instance.
(source: Mynet)

While I think CityPass inspectors have been too heavy-handed and unreasonable, I find it interesting that the court would fine the company for poor customer service. The fines had been canceled, but no letter of apology had been sent.

Perhaps this should go out as a warning to all companies, especially public companies, in Israel that they should improve their customer service, or else they will be forced to...

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