In January, I phoned to pay the £11.50 London congestion charge. The automated system requested my car registration then asked if my vehicle was a Mercedes. When I answered “no” I was referred to the Transport for London customer centre, which was closed.
The following day I tried again, by which time the charge had gone up to £14. This time it recognised the correct make of car, but I was told there was a problem and automatically connected to the customer centre. It insisted there was no issue and advised me to try again. I did, with the same results.
Via my banking app, I received two notifications that I had paid TfL £14 twice. A few days later, I received an £80 penalty notice. I immediately phoned TfL, which said it had no record of my payment.
Then my bank statement showed the two £14 payments had been refunded.
I appealed but this was rejected on the grounds that TfL said it had no record of my payment.
I’m now awaiting the outcome of an appeal but have been told the charge will double to £160 if I lose.
BH, Totnes, Devon
The fact you have a bank statement proving the two debits and their mysterious refund is not enough to persuade TfL it has made an error.
Contact from the Observer prompts an official letter. Does it apologise? Not a bit of it. Only the final sentence mentions that TfL has decided to exercise discretion and cancel the charge. But it warns that you may not get off so lightly again.
However, Paul Cowperthwaite, general manager of road user charging at TfL, does express sorrow. He tells the Observer: “As this type of error is very rare, we are investigating to understand exactly how this happened, and to prevent it happening in future.”
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