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Recently, I spent the weekend in Prague. I had purchased a 24h transport ticket and validated it in my first visit using a Tram (at 10:45). At the end of the day, I was stopped in a metro station and asked for my ticket. I presented my ticket. They said I was using a ticket which was validated one week ago. I argued that I had bought the ticket on the day and even showed them a receipt which I received after purchase. They did not believe me and took me to another person who forced me to pay 800 Czech crowns as a fine. They said if I refused to pay, I would be taken to the police station.

Attached along with here is a ticket. I had purchased it on 27th August and validated it on the same day. They claim it was validated on 21st. It was a frustrating experience.

I am looking out for tips in the future as to how to avoid such mishaps. How can I prove my right in such cases? Was I scammed?

enter image description here

54

The stamp on your ticket is so poor, that it is really difficult to read. It does indeed say Aug 27th, but it can very easily be read as Aug 21st:

enter image description here

The stamp actually reads 'P27Ⅷ17', but the uppermost line of all characters is missing, so it could even easily be misread as 21st July (21Ⅶ). The last digit (7) is so weakly printed, that you can barely see it. Even on your stamp, it is pretty obvious that the digits before and after the Ⅷ are different.

If you look at the font used by the Prague ticket validators and the digits 1 and 7 properly printed, you can see that if the upper horizontal line of a '7' digit is missing, there is only the rightmost vertical bar left, which can easily be read as a '1'. The digit '1' is however printed with a horizontal bar at the bottom, with a vertical line rising from the center.

enter image description here

It is difficult to say if you ran into real ticket inspectors, were conned or if the ticket inspectors really did make an honest mistake.

To avoid such situations, you could have seen yourself that the stamp is very hard to read. Depending on wether you want to waste time or money to solve the problem, you could either have made an attempt to replace the ticket at a ticket office, or bought a new ticket and stamped it in a different validator. The problem had likely been solved if you had let the ticket inspectors take you to the police, but you might have lost even more time.

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    Is there any way for the OP to claim a refund? – Hanky Panky Aug 31 '17 at 3:48
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    Thank you for the excellent answer. Should have checked the bunch of numbers after validation. Lesson learnt. However, what is interesting for me is that the receipt bears no link to any sort of ticket number printed on the actual ticket. is this common? How can I map a receipt to a ticket? – DarthVader Aug 31 '17 at 6:08
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    @HankyPanky It will be very hard. Even assuming the ticket inspectors were genuine (by no means certain) there is no standard method of challenging the ticket ex-post that I know of. You could try showing up at the transport headquarters and try complaining but I doubt it would help much. A lawyer might but would be much more costly than the ticket. I'm afraid that the best possible choice would have been to go to the police though I would put the chance of that working (assuming the inspectors were real) at 50% the police are decent enough, but the argument isn't easy. – DRF Aug 31 '17 at 7:24
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    Native czech here - i dont think he was conned, 800 kč (about 30€) is not enough money to scam anyone - and 800 czk is standart penalty for traveling with invalid ticket (and on site payment - source). In addition, the traffic inspectorate works in teams of two people (as described) but they are not forcing to pay anybody. – Jan 'splite' K. Sep 1 '17 at 7:21
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    @DarthVader Blind people travel free of charge on the Prague public transport – JonathanReez Sep 1 '17 at 11:28
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They did not believe me and took me to another person who forced me to pay 800 Kronas as a fine. They said if I refused to pay, I would be taken to the police station.

Ticket inspectors cannot make you pay anything. As outlined on the official Prague Public Transport website:

The authorized person is entitled to:
...

  • impose a supplementary charge on a passenger who failed to show a valid ticket, or require the passenger to disclose the personal data referred to in paragraph 1), letter c).

Therefore you have the right to refuse payment on the spot and simply show them your passport. They are authorized to write down the details and issue you a fine, which you may pay (or contest) later on. They could only ask you to go to the police if you refuse to provide your passport/ID, at which point the police will find out your personal information. The ticket inspector is not authorized to use force, as he's merely an employee of the transport company rather than a police officer.

How can I prove my right in such cases?

Before giving your passport to the inspector, ask that he writes the reason for the fine on the penalty paper and puts his signature down, so that you can prove the origin of the dispute because otherwise you wouldn't be able to show the 1/7 confusion was the source of your problems. After you have the penalty statement, you may visit the Penalty Fare desk and contest the charge.

However I wouldn't set my hopes too high — the public transport authority would usually only accept disputes over personalized monthly tickets, rather than anonymous temporary ones, since it's hard to prove you didn't get someone else's ticket after you've received the fine.

Was I scammed?

We cannot know for certain, but future readers could be advised to avoid paying anything on the spot if they have doubts about the legitimacy of the ticket inspector. Instead, one can take the penalty paper and pay it in cash at the Penalty Fare desk or pay online using a bank transfer.

If the public transport agent insists on paying on the spot, I'd advise calling the police myself to sort it out, as it's likely that those people are scammers. Do not worry about issues with the police, they're much more pleasant than the ticket inspectors.

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    Prague would not be the only city where official ticket inspectors are overzealous with foreigners. They know very well how unlikely it is the fine will be paid by somebody who will be out of the country in days, so I would not be surprised they push the envelope of legalities. I have seen ticket inspectors do that in my own city of Paris. Any chance that could be the case? – user63419 Sep 1 '17 at 8:27
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    @LucJ.Bourhis if the ticket inspectors go beyond what's in the law you can call the police and have them settle it. Some of the inspectors go around with police officers precisely for this reason. Of course, if you genuinely believe that the inspectors are not fake and that you really do have an invalid ticket, it's probably easier to just pay them on the spot. – JonathanReez Sep 1 '17 at 8:31
  • Note that The ticket inspector is not authorized to use force does not apply to every country. In Poland, for example, ticket inspectors are authorized to use force in certain (rather common) situations. – d33tah Sep 3 '17 at 15:28
16

As an additional point aside from the other answers, you should always try to make sure you are being stopped by real ticket collectors:

  • Will be wearing a uniform (at least a coat with the DPP logo).
  • Will be carrying an official numbered badge and service card, which they most often show you when asking for your ticket, and are required to show on demand. Prague transport official badge Prague transport official service card

Also remember that legally, ticket collectors are not police and so:

  • Cannot force you to go with them to the police station.
  • Cannot make arrests.
  • Cannot force you to pay them.
  • Cannot confiscate your passport or id.
  • Can ask you to pay 800 CZK + ticket price if your ticket is insufficient.
  • Can ask for your passport/id when issuing a fine if you refuse to pay at once.
  • Can remove you and your luggage from public transport (require that you get out of the tram/bus/train for instance.)
  • Can and will call the police if you try to resist.

Transit-inspection website

(Also source: 25 years living near and commuting to Prague)

9

As far as I know (empirically, after living in Prague for about a decade) it doesn't matter where (on which side of the ticket) exactly the stamp is as long as there is only one. This way I recommend to prefer stamping the rear side of the ticket where there are no pictures so the stamp will be easier to read.

  • That is a very good point. I thought about it as well but was worried it might be considered illegal. But the rear side has white space which makes it really easy to read I presume. – DarthVader Aug 31 '17 at 19:10
4

Sounds like a scam to me, and like a familiar one.

I was in Prague, though this was a couple decades ago, and was confronted by a group of young men, one or two of which were in at least partial uniform, who said I had done something wrong and needed to pay a fine. I was clearly a foreign visitor, and they were clearly not an official police unit, and the idea I should pay them a cash fine on the spot was clearly not a reasonable legal policy. But the amount they were asking was quite small due to the conversion rate, so I paid it to avoid them.

On the same visit to Prague, I also encountered groups of young men trying to charge to enter public lavatories. In that case, I just glowered at them and walked in without paying, which also worked.

Your case sounds like the same pattern, but a more recent flavor. Your ticket was valid or at worst, unclear, and demanding immediate payment on the spot seems like a scam tactic.

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    But a scam that relies on finding people with tickets that are either actually invalid or might at least appear invalid because the stamp happens to miss a line or two so that at first glance the date might look wrong - seems not like a reasonable base for a scam – Hagen von Eitzen Sep 1 '17 at 6:37
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    Public restrooms in Prague almost always charge, usually 10 CZK or at most 20. Such small fees are not unreasonable, although it is usually a single person collecting/looking after the lavatories. Perhaps their friends were visiting and more people were there, but you really come of as an arrogant glowering tourist entering without paying. – 8DX Sep 1 '17 at 10:49
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    @HagenvonEitzen If as a scammer you 'inspect' tickets on the 7th,17th or 27th, it sounds like a worthwhile time investment to me. Just 'inspect' all, but focus on the tourists that have an unclear stamp. – Jan Doggen Sep 1 '17 at 12:00
  • @8DX Good to know, but they really seemed like random unofficial dudes trying to intimidate people wanting to pee, to me. – Dronz Sep 1 '17 at 19:00
  • @HagenvonEitzen Good point... but check out 8DX's answer, which includes that the actual rules for the actual people supposed to be checking tickets do not include forcing to pay or threatening to take someone to a station, so either the OP misunderstood what was being said, or it was a scam, or it was actual officials being making a mistake or bending the rules and being unreasonable perhaps planning to call it a misunderstanding if called out. – Dronz Sep 1 '17 at 19:10

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