Reporting Sophia Hall
MINEOLA, NY (WCBS 880) - It all began when Chris Ebel purchased five Long Island Rail Road tickets for $12.50.
Ebel was stunned when a conductor informed him that the tickets, which he was unable to use due to the snowstorm, had expired. When he sought a refund, he was told to read the fine print.
In that fine print, new rules and regulations require riders to pay $10 to the LIRR before it will refund money paid for tickets – which are now invalid after just two weeks.
“Now they’re telling me I must pay them $10 for tickets I did not use,” Ebel told CBS 2′s Jennifer McLogan.
Ebel’s attorney plans to file a lawsuit because the refund policy isn’t visible on the ticket. It is covered up by a bold, black-colored box that reads “One Way Peak.”
“The ticket is a contract, and the law specifically says if there’s language in the contract that’s unreadable, it’s unenforceable,” says Ebel’s attorney, Ken Mollins. “This language is covered up.”
Mollins wants all LIRR riders who paid the refund fee to get their money back.
“So, the Long Island Rail Road, who puts their hand in everybody’s pocket, they missed here,” says Mollins.
The LIRR said that, after nine public hearings and an advertising campaign, riders should know about the new policy. Now, though, the railroad is acknowledging a problem with “six percent of tickets” and promises to immediately work to better inform commuters.
“Although we are not legally obligated, we are going to fix that error – that printing error,” LIRR spokesman Joe Calderone said.
“This is predatory,” Ebel said. “This is a scheme for money.”
The LIRR also acknowledged that charging for refunds – and making tickets valid for just two weeks – is an attempt to plug a $900 million MTA deficit. The railroad said it can no longer afford to “eat the costs” of processing ticket refunds, adding that it will do a better job of announcing changes in the future.