I drove on the M50 motorway in Ireland 12 months ago and paid the £5.52 toll online the next day. I later received a letter from a company called Euro Parking Collection plc (EPC) saying that payment was overdue. I sent a screenshot of my bank statement, but received another letter saying it could not verify the payment and asked for more details. I sent these by post.
I heard nothing for weeks and looked on the website to see if I could track my case. The only option was to re-submit my proof online, which I did, only to trigger exactly the same letter alleging that the payment could not be traced. At this point I began to suspect this is a deliberate ploy to harass drivers into paying twice. I sent another letter but received no response.
I had twice tried to call the company, but its answer message suggests it will not respond to personal calls. I eventually got through to a chap who said my case would be “looked into”. I heard no more, so rang again and a woman said she could find no record of my previous call but would ensure it was “looked into”. Then I received a sternly worded letter from debt collection agency, Contractum, demanding £88.43. I was promised a call back within 48 hours. That was three weeks ago! I also contacted eFlow, which administers the M50 toll system, and received an email asking for the same information I’d already provided. When I attempted to reply, I got a bounce back that said the client’s inbox was full.
Your experience is dispiritingly familiar. Usually the culprit is Transport for London which relentlessly pursues drivers over congestion and emissions charges they can prove they have paid.
The charitable explanation is that the systems of these enforcement bodies are configured to chase those who have omitted to pay and are not equipped to deal with their own worryingly frequent failures to collect card payments. Whether this is incompetence or a deliberate policy to repel challenges is unproven.
EPC plc collects unpaid charges from overseas motorists across Europe. In 2018 its turnover was £9.89m and that year it was acquired by a US equity firm, Platinum Equity. Although Contractum cites EPC as its client in its letter to you, the collection firm is run by the same people and from the same Greater London address as EPC. And, like EPC, it’s made itself almost impenetrable to motorists who want to do anything other than pay up. Its automated answer message states that no questions, payments or appeals can be accepted by phone.
When I asked for a contact I was told the only option was the appeals email address. This generated an automated response promising a reply within 28 days and warning that any follow-up message would start the clock ticking from scratch. No reply to my two requests for a comment ever came.
There was no luck either from Contractum whose different number puts callers through to the EPC auto message. Eflow was almost as reclusive. I was told no contact details could be provided but that someone would be in touch. Silence. I called again and was told to submit a webform but the webform requires a penalty charge code.
When, on the third call, I persuaded an operative to part with a customer service email, the result was instantaneous. You were contacted and informed that while your payment still could not be located, the evidence you’d repeatedly submitted over 11 months showed that you had made it and the PCN would be cancelled.
It unhelpfully told me: “While eFlow is unable to comment on individual cases, it would advise its customers who may be experiencing any payment difficulties, to contact eFlow directly.”
Which, of course, you did.
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