Caroline Pidgeon reveals £53 million unclaimed refunds on Oyster cards

Caroline PidgeonI was getting on a London Tube train yesterday and was expecting the guard to tell us all to “Move down inside the train” and “Mind the doors”. Instead he announced “Have you read the Evening Standard? You lot are owed £53 million on your Oyster cards”.

He should have given credit to Caroline Pidgeon, leader of the Liberal Democrats on the London Assembly and our spokesperson on the Transport Committee.

The problem lies with the 19,790,130 dormant Oyster cards, ie those that have not been used in the last 12 months. (For those of you who don’t travel much in London, Oyster cards are prepayment smart cards, issued by Transport for London, that most people use to travel around on the Underground, buses and trains within the London area.)

It seems that the total sum that has not been claimed on dormant Oyster cards rose by another £3 million last year, to a total of £53 million. That includes unclaimed returnable deposits of £5 each.

Caroline told the Evening Standard:

For too long TfL have defended keeping hold of millions of pounds on dormant Oyster cards by claiming that it is easy to claim a refund at every Tube station. Finally they have admitted that this is not always the case for people seeking to claim back their own money.

Making it far easier for people to claim back money is long overdue. It is also vital that these changes are properly publicised. The whole situation is very confusing. The TfL website does not give concise information about how to get a refund and this must be changed.

Passengers should be able to get a refund at some, but not all, Tube ticket offices. However, they hit a problem if they have topped up their Oyster card by more than one method – cash and card payment. The system is, bizarrely, unable to decide which method to use to reimburse the Oyster card owner, so won’t pay out.

Transport for London have now given a phone number for people to call if they are having problems getting a refund. It is 0343 222 1234.

This is not the first time Caroline has accused Transport for London of ripping off passengers. Last year, following a Freedom of Information request, she discovered that in 2011 alone Oyster card users had been overcharged to the tune of  £63 million.


* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • This is very interesting – though one of the biggest issues has to be with lost, unregistered Oyster cards or those of us who live out in zone 6 and it is simply not worth our while going to a tube station to claim refunds by the time the travel has been paid for!

  • >The problem lies with the 19,790,130 dormant Oyster cards, ie those that have not been used in the last 12 months.

    The question is surely, why are so many cards dormant and how the number can be reduced, which must a concern for the longer term as it would seem that the number of dormant cards is increasing each year.

    Other than the group Roisin mentions, I can see there are two further groups of users that may have dormant cards:
    1. Tourists/foreign visitors: Getting an Oyster card is advised so as to get cheap travel whilst visiting. With this group the question is whether is it worth going to the trouble of reclaiming the few pounds not spent on the card? Perhaps if airport outlets, for example, took Oyster cards as payment (I mean complete surrender so the value is £5 deposit + funds on card less say a £1 convenience/commission fee) then we might see a reduction in cards held by this group to predominantly those who were intending a return visit.
    2. UK residents who have cause to be in London, either not often or in circumstances that require use of an Oyster card.

    I certainly fall into the second group, I have a couple of Oyster cards with a £10 credit on them that get used in-frequently. I retain these cards to cover circumstances where my London travel either can’t be covered by a combined rail and London travelcard or to facilitate colleagues travelling with me on ad-hoc journeys.

  • I have an Oyster card that’s probably got some money on it. I certainly haven’t used it in several months, if not a year.

  • RE: Does the credit on Oyster cards expire?

    Not yet!
    However, I recommend you register it and create an online account so that you can track it and if TFL decide to expire the card they will inform you.

  • Tony Dawson 16th Apr '13 - 7:27pm

    Perhaps the red-faced TfL folk might find a way of allowing those people who wish it to toss in their unwanted oyster cards with small amounts on them for Red Nose day? 🙂

  • Patrick Smith 16th Apr '13 - 8:30pm absolutely right to demand a more transparent Oyster Card user friendly approach by London Underground. I would suggest that the Mayor of London makes a decision to publicise a clear practical way of allowing London commuters to know how to fairly claim their unspent £53 million.

  • Caroline Pidgeon 18th Apr '13 - 2:51pm

    I thought I would just update people on this issue – especially as I noticed a few questions have been asked in the comments above.

    Pay as You Go Oyster cards do not expire. At present some customers can be reimbursed at Tube stations – and in all cases through the Oyster contact centre. Currently, where the desposit and Pay as You Go credit have been loaded onto on Oyster card using a combination of payments the Tube stations seem incapable of paying a refund. At present for these people the only option is to contact the Oyster contact centre on 0343 222 1234.

    Transport for London claim they are trying to overcome these restrictions and claim they are trialling new software with their ticket offices, which by June, should make it easier for people to claim back their credit and their refundable Oyster deposit.

    Lets hope this happens!

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