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Transport for London (19 019 922)

Category : Transport and highways > Parking and other penalties

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 31 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about Transport for London’s pursuit of an unpaid penalty charge notice. This is because it would be reasonable for Mr X to put the matter to the Traffic Enforcement Centre.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, Mr X, complains Transport for London (TfL) is pursuing him for payment of a penalty charge notice (PCN) he did not receive. The current amount of the debt is more than £500.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  2. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I reviewed Mr X’s complaint, shared my draft decision with him and invited his comments.

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What I found

  1. TfL issued Mr X a PCN in 2019 for driving in the congestion charging area without paying the charge.
  2. There is a set procedure issuing authorities must follow when pursuing PCNs for contraventions such as these. When the authority identifies a contravention it will issue a PCN to the owner/registered keeper by post. This will detail the amount of the fine and the motorist’s right of appeal, firstly to the authority itself and then to London Tribunals.
  3. The motorist has 28 days from the date of the notice to pay the penalty charge or make representations against it. For the first 14 days after the PCN the motorist may pay at a discounted rate of 50% of the full fine.
  4. If the motorist does not pay the PCN or challenge it, or if their representations are unsuccessful, the authority may issue a charge certificate increasing the amount of the penalty charge by 50%. If the charge remains unpaid the authority may then register the debt with the county court and serve an order for recovery, providing a basis for action by enforcement agents (bailiffs) to recover payment from the motorist.
  5. Mr X says he did not receive any of TfL’s correspondence and only became aware of the PCN when its bailiffs contacted him at home demanding payment. He complained to TfL and offered to pay the original discounted PCN as he accepts he did not pay the congestion charge, but he does not believe he should have to pay the full amount.
  6. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. Because Mr X did not receive TfL’s correspondence he may apply to the Traffic Enforcement Centre (TEC) at Northampton County Court to make a late statutory declaration. If the TEC accepts Mr X’s application it may cancel TfL’s escalation of the case and order it to reissue the PCN; Mr X may then pay the fine at the original amount. If the TEC refuses Mr X’s application he may apply for a review of its decision. I have seen nothing to suggest it would be unreasonable to expect Mr X to use this process and I will not therefore exercise our discretion to investigate his complaint.
  7. Mr X is also unhappy with the way TfL has dealt with his complaint. But it is not a good use of public resources to look at the TfL’s complaints handling if we are not going to look at the substantive issue complained about. We will not therefore investigate this issue separately.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it would be reasonable for Mr X to apply to the TEC to make a late statutory declaration.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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