So recently, I had the displesure of witnessing a less than impressive display of training and behaviour of two PTA Revenue Protection Officers (RPO) towards a First Australian mother whilst on a train to Perth just last Saturday.
That situation got me annoyed enough to not only make a formal complaint against the two RPO’s, but also started me thinking about how others could and should approach this kind of thing in similar situations.
So, here’s the story behind what happened, and how you can deal with this and similar situations in future.
What got me annoyed enough to write this?
The individual, a mother, had purchased her concession ticket, and the relevant child’s ticket for those of required age travelling with her. Sadly, as I found out when talkng to the mother later after the RPO’s had left that carriage of the train, whilst she still had the tickets purchased – her young daughter accidentally put the physical concession card in the bin just prior to boarding the train that day. (Edited the earlier sentence – because it seems there’s some dense people on Reddit who either don’t read, or can’t understand language complexity above that of a Golden story book, and need things spelt out to them like three year olds)
Sadly, the RPO’s didn’t use their training, and ask the mother if she had the concession card in an alternative accepted format (that’s the Digital Wallet version of the card, within Centrelink’s Express Plus Mobile application for iOS and Android devices). This is despite PTA and Transperth’s own materials for RPO’s and other Authorised Officers making clear statements about digitial versions of the concessions being available; and those same materials making clear that the digital versions are accepted as proof of concession entitlement.
The RPO dealing with this mother also wasn’t the nicest of people, and shall we say language, tone of voice, and physical posture I observed lacked the professionalism and humanity I would have expected from the RPO.
I used the knowledge I had at the time to educate the mother on how to use Centrelink’s app to find the digital version of her concession card, and made sure she understood both how to appeal the fine, and extra grounds she could use for the appeal (being that the RPO’s didn’t follow their training or available materials to take reasonable steps to help her find accepted alternative versions of the concession entitlement).
Since that event, I’ve taken the time to read up on the relevant legislation, and been able to put together a robust guide on how to deal with RPO’s and Transit Officers who aren’t doing their best to balance the requirements of their role with the reasonable needs of passengers (to get to their destination safely, at the best available price, free of unnecessary obstruction or hinderence).
So, here’s how to challange a Revenue Protection Officer or Transit Officer when travelling on Transperth services
- Ask to see the physical copy of their certificate of designation
Citation: Public Transport Authority Act 2003, Part 6, Division 3, Sect. 56
The Public Transport Authority Act 2003 (the act) requires that an “authorised person or security officer is to produce the certificate if required to do so by a person in respect of whom a power has been or is about to be exercised.”Or for the regular person on the street – IF:
a) you’re approached by either a Revenue Protection Officer or Transit Officer, AND they either
b) ask to see your ticket and your valid concession, or
c) they give you a direction to do or not do something;THEN they must be able to show you their certificate of designation from the Chief Executive Officer of the Public Transport Authority (currently Richard Sellers).
Another way of describing a certificate of designation would be like the Warrant Card issued to a Police Officer, that proves they are a lawfully appointed Police Officer.
Asking for it is as simple as replying nicely and saying “Not a problem, can I see your certificate of designation please?”
If they can’t show you their certificate of designation – walk away or just ignore them – as they are powerless under the Act. Without it, their uniform is best thought of as meaningless clothing worn by an actor.
- Note their details
If you aren’t happy with something done by a Revenue Protection Officer or Transit Officer or wish to challenge their decision or behaviour with the PTA, take down as much detail as possible about them.Use the notes app on your phone to do it, or a pen and paper if you’re so inclined. It’s also reasonable to ask that the Revenue Protection Officer or Transit Officer remains in your presence while you note down this information to. If they refuse, note that fact down too, as it grounds for a complaint later.
Details you should make a note of include:
a) Their name;
b) Any identification numbers displayed on their uniform;
c) Any identification numbers displayed on their certificate of designation;
d) What they look like (How tall, hair and length colour, skin colour, ethnicity, physical build, and any other identifying features such as tattoos and where they were on their body);
e) Any other identification numbers, such as their PTA Employee ID, provided by or requested from them;
f) All of the above information for every other person with them
g) The date and time it happened
h) Where it happened (i.e. if on a Train: what was the train carriage number, the line and direction of travel, and the stations where you got on board and got off the train; OR if on a bus: what was the bus number, the route number, the direction of travel, and details of the stops you boarded and left the bus).
PS: In respect of (h), if you used a Smartrider for your journey – details of where you got on board and got off can be found online in your transaction history using the My Account service.
- Only provide the information you have to
Citation: Public Transport Authority Act 2003, Part 6, Division 2, Sect. 57 (1-3) and Sect. 58
The Revenue Protection Officer or Transit Officer is very limited in the information they can ask you for.The act specifically states that they can only ask you for the following personal details:
a) your full name;
b) your date of birth;
c) the address of where you are currently or normally livingAnd that’s it. No phone numbers, no proof of your identity, no details from bank cards. They cannot ask for anything more than that.
And if they ask for anything more than what’s in that list, they are exceeding their lawful authority.
- If issued an infringement notice – ask for the infringement notice to be withdrawn
Citation: Public Transport Authority Act 2003, Psrt 6, Division 2, Sect. 47
Any one who issues you a ticket has the power to withdraw a ticket on the spot – and they’re should have the required document (a perscribed notice called Form 2) with them. It’s literally that simple for them to do then and there.And the act makes no express or implied stipulations about what a good reason for withdrawing a ticket is. So ifAnd if they won’t withdraw it – it’s easy to appeal the infringement online or by snail mail if you so choose. Just remember to provide as much information as possible to explain the circumstances behind the infringement, along with any grounds you feel that demonstrate that the Revenue Protection Officer or Transit Officer erred in their lawful duties, or other circumstances that show the fine (or modified penalty) is manifestly improper or unjust.
I might write another post at some point on how to structure an infringement appeal letter, presuming I don’t find any good resources online for that.
- Make a formal complaint, and remember the Ombudsman
And if you feel that any of the behaviour you experienced or witnessed wasn’t consistent with how they’re expected to do their jobs in law – make sure to lodge a formal complaint – seperate to appealing your infringement – following this advice on how to make and write your complaint.And if they don’t respond to your complaint, or you don’t agree with the outcome of the complaint, you can escalate your complaint to the State Ombudsman who has the authority to undertake further review and investegation of your concerns.
And that’s it – that’s everything useful I have to share on dealing with Revenue Protection Officers or Transit Officers.
Hopefully you don’t ever need to use this advice; but in the event you do – knowledge is power, and if anything makes sure that they’re doing their job properly (or maybe helps a few other people avoid their wrath as you slow them down by making sure they do their job right).
And in the interest of fair disclosure: My current employment involves working on behalf of an agency within the Australian Public Service (APS).