1/18/2009UK Lord Accused of Cheating Congestion Tax
A member of the British House of Lords has no recourse when falsely accused of cheating the London congestion charge.
Even members of the British aristocracy have no recourse when falsely accused of cheating an automated toll system. Lord David Trefgarne explained in the House of Lords on Thursday how an administrative hearing ignored his appeal lodged after he had been improperly accused of cheating London's congestion charge. The hereditary peer concluded that the system was a "travesty of justice." The following is a transcript of Lord Trefgarne's remarks:
"The point that I want to draw to your lordships' attention and raise with the minister relates to the congestion charge administered by Transport for London. I do not object in principle to the congestion charge, although I am not sure that it is as effective as some people maintain. I suspect that it does not raise as much money as some claim because the costs of administering the charge, with all the electronic equipment required to register cars going in and out of the zone, are no doubt considerable. However, I strongly object to a system which does not allow a proper challenge to what I maintain was an incorrectly levied charge, as happened to me last year.
"I confess that on two or three occasions I have failed to pay the congestion charge, and on those occasions I have hastened to pay the penalty. You need to hasten to do so because, if you do not, the charge goes up. Therefore, I immediately ring up with my card details and pay. It is my practice to pay the congestion charge on a regular basis using my debit card. I ring the relevant number, talk to the relevant person and give the details of my car and my card, and normally all is satisfactory.
"However, on one occasion last year, I did just that only to receive a penalty notice a week or so later claiming that I had not paid the charge, although I had clear evidence that I had. My bank statement showed that the charge had gone through my account on the relevant day, so I wrote to Transport for London maintaining strongly that I had paid and that therefore the penalty notice was out of order. After a delay of several weeks, that was dismissed as being irrelevant. I was told that I had probably paid for a different day or perhaps a different car. I have only one car, so it could not have been that. Nor could it have been a different day because, if it had been, there would have been a different charge. If you fail to pay on the day in question by, I think, 10 o'clock at night, the charge goes up from £8 (US $12) to £10 (US $15). The amount that had gone through my account was £8, so it must have been the day in question.
"I took legal advice and hired lawyers, who advised me to lodge an appeal. The outcome three or four months later was that case was dismissed. The wording from the adjudicator was precisely the same as that from the official at Transport for London who had rejected my initial representations. I do not believe that the adjudicator paid the slightest attention to my representations; he simply mouthed what he had been told by Transport for London.
"Who are these adjudicators, who I am told are appointed by the Lord Chancellor? What are their qualifications and how many are there? How many appeals against alleged wrong application of the congestion charge were there last year, for example? How many appeals were allowed and how many were disallowed? If the adjudicators simply repeat the information given to them by Transport for London it is not a proper appeal procedure. It is a travesty of justice and I hope that the noble lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, will give some clear answers to the shortcomings of the appeal process on the congestion charge by Transport for London."