Last July, my friend and her husband visited me from Germany in their German-registered car. Six months on, they received a bill today for thousands of euros, because they didn’t pay to drive in London’s ultra-low emission zone (Ulez).
The fine was originally for €1,196 (£1,050), but because the letter took so long to reach them, has automatically increased to €3,589. This is the first letter they have received about a fine, and have just a few days to make the payment or else risk incurring even more fees.
This could not have come at a worse time. My friend’s husband is in remission from cancer, and they can’t afford this.
Before they pay, we are trying to find out whether it is a legitimate fine, and why it is so absurdly high. Has their vehicle has been accidentally misclassified, as this can’t be a normal fine for someone driving into the zone once?
I suspect that a lot of similarly shocking letters have been landing on European doormats. This is because European Parking Collections, the company Transport for London (TfL) uses to carry out foreign enforcement on its behalf, has recently gained access to vehicle keeper details for France, Germany and the Netherlands.
It has apparently begun issuing such letters for journeys made up to a year ago.
What is less clear is why it is demanding such large sums. As you say, €3,500 for driving once in a low emission zone is ridiculous. TfL declined to say why it was so large.
However, and happily for your friends, it has agreed to cancel it. It says European drivers arriving in London have to contact TfL’s inquiry service to provide evidence that their vehicle is compliant. Diesel cars registered before 2015 generally aren’t.
The Ulez is being expanded at the end of August, so beware if you are planning to drive into London – or you have friends visiting.