Train operators Southeastern and South Western Railway (SWR) are facing a near £100m legal action by passengers who claim they have been "paying double" for their journeys.
The companies that run the Southeastern and South Western routes have been accused of overcharging customers who purchased tickets to travel outside the zones covered by their travelcards, when the travel cards in fact cover part of those costs.
The £93m claim has been lodged with the Competition Appeal Tribunal by Justin Gutmann, former head of research at Citizens Advice, who argues that passengers should have been offered the chance to pay “boundary fares” for the difference between what their travelcard covered and their final destination.
Gutmann claims that London & South Eastern Railway, Stagecoach South Western Trains – which ran the South Western franchise up to August 2017 – and current operator First MTR South Western Trains did not make boundary fares readily available online or over the telephone for travelcard holders to purchase, meaning that customers had "little option" but to buy a higher fare.
"This imposition of an unfair price for fares is an abuse of the companies’ dominant position and in breach of UK and EU competition laws," Gutmann said.
“Passengers in London already pay a lot of money for trains that are often delayed or not even running," he added. "Now following extensive research, we have found that some passengers are paying twice for parts of their rail journeys.
"We are launching this legal action to ensure that the money that South Western and Southeastern have made from this is returned to those train users."
A spokesman for Southeastern said: “We’ve just received a claim today in respect of this matter and we’re reviewing it. Unfortunately we’re unable to provide any further comment at this stage because the matter is the subject of ongoing legal proceedings.”
A First Group spokesperson said: “We are committed to providing customers with the best range of fares and ticketing options – including online, via mobile phones, in person and over the phone – so we believe this unfounded claim fundamentally misrepresents how rail fares are set and how tickets are sold; we will robustly defend ourselves against it.”