Updated February 2023
Many public transport users will, at some point in their travelling experience, have a bad experience with Authorised Officers (“ticket inspectors”). This is an inherent feature of our de-staffed system in which unreliable technology and aggressive, confrontational enforcement is substituted for a consistent presence of customer service staff. The PTUA has compiled this page to help passengers who have fallen foul of the ticketing system and its enforcers.
At the Scene
If you are involved in an incident which you believe is likely to result in a fine (that is, if an Authorised Officer takes your details), it is essential to secure, immediately after the event, as much evidence as possible of what actually happened. In particular:
- Unless the Authorised Officer (AO) takes it, keep your ticket as evidence, whether or not you were able to touch on.
- Record the numbers of any ticket machine or card reader that might have contributed to the problem.
- Try to get contact details of a witness (e.g. someone who observed you trying to touch on).
- Make a note, such as in your diary, of the incident.
- Make any complaint about the conduct of an AO as soon as possible after the incident
- If relevant, see a doctor and photograph any injuries.
A photo of the non-functional ticket machine or Myki reader will help.
Also keep in mind that if you see another passenger being treated unfairly, your presence as an observant witness can be very helpful. Just as you might one day need the help of a witness, try to note what you saw happen and offer your contact information to the other passenger.
If you feel confident doing so, you are able to offer support to another passenger. Just ensure you keep calm and polite and do not obstruct the AOs.
Inspectors Behaving Badly
The personality of some AOs seems to be quite unsuited to the important and serious role they have. Further, the training provided to inspectors, and the accountability mechanisms which govern them, appear to be inadequate for the police-like powers they wield.
While the conduct of AOs is a separate problem to inappropriately issued fines, the two things are often linked.
AOs are governed by a Code of Conduct. To check if they might have contravened that code, you can check it here.
Complaints about AOs should be directed simultaneously to the Secretary of the Department of Transport (who is responsible for giving AOs their authority) and to the relevant transport operator (whose services they are assigned to). Give these bodies 2 – 3 weeks to respond. Within that time, if you do not receive at least an initial acknowledgement of your complaint, and a time-frame for a full response, complain to the Victorian State Ombudsman (see below).
If you do receive a fine and feel it has been done in error, don’t be alarmed. It’s quite common for these fines to be issued routinely and without due regard to the particular circumstances, and you have a number of review options.
The first step is to write to the address provided, detailing exactly what happened. Enclose copies of any records that you have kept (not the originals; you might need those in the future). Depending on the circumstances, your Myki transaction history relevant to the particular event could be very important.
Also outline any other circumstances you think are relevant, including any process irregularities (for example, an infringement notice might not arrive for many months after the event, making it more difficult for a passenger to conduct a defence). In most cases you will receive a reply from the Department of Transport (DoT), which will be a form letter denying your review request. Don’t be deterred if it appears they haven’t even read what you told them.
Write to the DoT again. Address the letter to the Secretary of the Department of Transport. Point out the inadequacies of the first response, enclose a copy of your first letter (recap the circumstances briefly), and ask for a review of the matter and for a response to the specific circumstances.
If you still don’t get a satisfactory resolution, see the next section.
Where to Take a Complaint
In our experience, complaints are not taken particularly seriously by operators or by the DoT, but to show good faith you should give them the opportunity to respond. You then have a few options for continuing with the complaint:
Your Local State MP
In our experience, this avenue has the highest success rate in having inappropriate infringement notices withdrawn. Your elected representatives in the State Parliament have the job of listening to your concerns and sorting out problems you experience with government officials, including the DoT and ticket inspectors. Go to see your state MP. Don’t just write to them, and don’t accept any excuses on their part for not helping you with the problem.
Public Transport Ombudsman (www.ptovic.com.au)
The PTO has jurisdiction over areas such as ticketing, the reliability of services, the conduct of employees (including ticket inspectors), and determining areas of responsibility for the care and maintenance of land and buildings used in relation to public transport.
The PTO is not able to review or rescind infringement notices, because they are issued by DoT. However, you can contact the PTO to lodge complaints about the behaviour of inspectors, and the PTO will provide independent advice, including about how to contact DoT to ask for a review of an infringement notice.
The PTO also reports to the operators and the DoT about the nature of complaints raised with it, as well as general problems relating to the complaints which the PTO has handled.
Victorian State Ombudsman (www.ombudsman.vic.gov.au)
The Victorian Ombudsman has jurisdiction over all state government departments, including the DoT, and is the place to complain about inadequate responses by the DoT to complaints. The inadequacy could either be in the substance or the timeliness of the response.
Privacy Victoria (www.privacy.vic.gov.au)
In our view, the Privacy Commissioner ought to be concerned about various practices of inspectors (for example, the routine demands for, and recording of, personal information not authorised by the relevant legislation, such as dates of birth, drivers licence numbers and telephone numbers), and is the place to complain about such practices.
Your Local or Statewide Media
This will usually work best if you have good evidence of inspectors behaving badly – particularly photos or video footage – or if there is something unique about you. There was a case of a person being issued with an infringement notice who physically couldn’t reach the coin slot of a ticket machine!
Use the better and cheaper options first because this one could waste a lot of your time. However going to the magistrate’s court is a worthwhile option if you have the time and can’t afford the fine. If you made a genuine mistake (e.g. misunderstood whether you were able to use a concession ticket), it might be worth pleading guilty and asking a Magistrate for a less severe penalty. Public transport fines are extremely harsh when compared with parking tickets and CityLink toll evasion fines.
If you’re considering this option, it’s important to get some legal advice, such as from your local community legal centre.
A financial counsellor may be able to assist Victorians who are dealing with problems such as mental illness, disability, or drug or alcohol dependence, to lodge an application to have their fine waived or reduced. For more information contact MoneyHelp, which is a free telephone financial counselling service, on 1800 007 007.
This is a general guide that is intended to assist you in contesting an unfairly issued infringement notice. It is not a substitute for legal advice.
About the PTUA
Founded in 1976, the Public Transport Users Association is the recognised consumer organisation representing passengers of all forms of public transport.
We are a non-profit, voluntary organisation, with no political affiliations. If you want to help support our work, please join us. You get five newsletters per year, as well as access to cheap Yearly tickets, and you’ll be helping the campaign for better public transport in Melbourne and around Victoria.