Can you help resolve my six-month battle with Transport for London (TfL)? I purchased my 2021 Hyundai Hybrid on May 20 last year and subsequently replaced the standard number plate with my personalised one.
To my surprise, I received an Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) penalty charge notice on June 9, despite the vehicle being compliant with Ulez standards. Two more charges followed. I challenged these and, meanwhile, received more penalties.
In July, TfL acknowledged that my vehicle is compliant and cancelled several tickets.But one was not cancelled and, in December, my car was subsequently clamped.
As a health professional, I need access to my vehicle to attend to patients. I had to pay nearly £600 to get my car unclamped.
R. S., London.
Wrongly fined: A reader is being charged ULEZ fees for a car which is fully compliant after getting a personalised number plate
Sally Hamilton replies: Having a personalised number plate can make a driver’s vehicle stand out from the crowd of other motors on the road.
But I’m sure that’s not what you anticipated when your motor attracted the repeated attention of TfL’s Ulez penalty charge collectors.
When I contacted TfL, it emerged that while your car may be Ulez-compliant, it took TfL’s data handlers some time to realise it.
TfL says it receives periodic updates from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) on compliant vehicles and their number plates — but only every four weeks.
Non-compliant vehicles are most likely to include petrol cars dating from before 2005 or diesels from before September 2015.
Drivers who swap private number plates from one motor to another can easily fall through the net, with their new vehicle not included in the latest round of updates.
This can lead to their car being registered as non-compliant and, therefore, at risk of incurring a £180 penalty (£90 if paid within 14 days) if they don’t pay the £12.50 charge for each day that they travel through the Ulez zone.
At the time your penalty charge notices were issued, TfL had not received the updated information from the DVLA, so its records showed your number plate as belonging to your previous, non-compliant car.
A TfL spokesman told me: ‘We are working on ways to increase the frequency of the updates.
‘Should any customer find this has happened to them, we urge them to contact us as soon as possible with the appropriate documentation so we can ensure their vehicle is registered as meeting the standards.’
It also recommends that drivers who swap number plates should use its vehicle checker at tfl.gov.uk to see if their details are correct.
Drivers who are required to prove their car’s credentials usually need a copy of the vehicle’s V5C logbook and a certificate or letter from the motor manufacturer confirming it is Ulez-compliant.
TfL tells me fewer than 0.5 per cent of the hundreds of thousands of penalty charges issued since 2019 have been contested on the grounds of a number plate switch.
Although you made a successful representation to TfL soon after the first penalty notice, the process had not been completed by the time you received a further penalty — which was the one that ended up with the clamping firm.
On this column’s intervention, I’m pleased to say your £600 was reimbursed. A TfL spokesman says: ‘We are sorry that your reader has incorrectly received a Ulez penalty charge.
We have cancelled the fines incurred and have contacted her to apologise for the distress this has caused.’
Charged £1,000 for sim card I’ve never used
About a year ago, I was rearranging my home office and, while pulling my desk away from the wall, an envelope dropped out from behind it. It contained a SIM card for a mobile phone.
I do recall that in 2013 I considered changing provider to Utility Warehouse but, in the end, stayed with EE.
I looked back at my bank statements and, to my horror, realised I have been charged more than £1,000 for the Utility Warehouse plan for ten years, even though I have never used it.
The SIM is still in its original packaging. I am at an impasse with Utility Warehouse.
Over the past year, I’ve been left hanging on the phone until cut off. I’ve also written to customer relations, without response, and to the company secretary and then all the firm’s directors, but am always ignored.
A. S., Nantwich, Cheshire.
Sally Hamilton replies: While it was a clear oversight that you didn’t notice regular payments being taken from your bank account for a mobile contract you have never used, I felt Utility Warehouse was inexcusably remiss in ignoring your request to look at your complaint for a whole year.
My research tells me it is not usually possible to activate a physical SIM card without it being placed into a phone.
While more modern phones are eSim-enabled (they have technology inside them which allows digital SIMs to be installed that don’t require a physical card), these still need to be activated by the customer.
Also, they are rarely used in the UK and certainly weren’t around in 2013.
On my request, Utility Warehouse investigated your case and, while it did not provide an explanation of how the account had been switched on and what it had charged for, I am pleased to say it has now refunded you the full £1,100 taken from your account over the ten-year period.
Charged double for chicken stop
I stopped at the Kentucky Fried Chicken at Knutsford North Services on the M6 when we were returning from Scotland to Devon on January 2.
I placed an order at the self-service screens for £26.57. Shortly afterwards, it was announced there would be a waiting time of 30 minutes.
We were in a hurry to get home so I, and several other customers, asked for a refund. The server processed two refunds to customers ahead of me, then did mine.
Once home, I noticed that I had been charged twice for the order I never received.
When I called KFC’s so-called ‘care squad’, they told me they cannot refund me and suggested I to go to the branch in person — a 500-mile round trip.
J. T., Barnstaple, Devon.
Sally Hamilton replies: You mentioned that the under-pressure KFC server seemed frazzled by the large number of customers, which probably led her to mistakenly charge you again rather than making a refund. Easy to do in stressful circumstances but, apparently, not so easy for you to get the error resolved.
I asked KFC to investigate. The care squad was put on the case and, I am happy to report, it swiftly refunded the £53.14 owed.
- Write to Sally Hamilton at Sally Sorts It, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email [email protected] — include phone number, address and a note addressed to the offending organisation giving them permission to talk to Sally Hamilton. Please do not send original documents as we cannot take responsibility for them. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for answers given.
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