Transport for London (TfL) has announced it will be making a number of changes to the way that people can pay for the Congestion Charge, following a six week public consultation held earlier this year.
TfL can now refuse Congestion Charge payments made by unofficial "copycat" websites or other unauthorised third parties. This change is another step in combating the menace of rogue unofficial Congestion Charge payment websites, which can charge unsuspecting customers up to an £8 extra on top of the daily Congestion Charge fee for non-existent "additional services". In some cases the sites have not even paid the Congestion Charge on behalf of customers, resulting in Penalty Charge Notices being issued.
TfL has already worked closely with Google and a number of other search engines to better enforce their advertising policies to ensure ads for Congestion Charge payments are not misleading or otherwise unlawful. Customers should always pay via the official TfL website to avoid paying unnecessary charges imposed by unofficial sites and remove the risk of receiving a Penalty Charge Notice. The proactive action taken by TfL and others will make it even harder to operate an unofficial payment site that misleads TfL's customers.
TfL has also announced that it will create a new Congestion Charge app, that will enable customers to pay the daily Congestion Charge in a simple and quick way. With more and more people using Smartphones and tablets, the app will offer customers an easier and broader service than currently available. Customers will not need to go online or register to make a payment. This app, which will be launched on 1 November 2015 when Capita take over the management of the Congestion Charge*, will replace the SMS (text message) payment channel, which is currently only used by 0.6 per cent of customers - representing around 400 payments a day out of a total of around 130,000 Congestion Charge payments.
Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said:
'These are simple but necessary changes that are designed to take the hassle and fuss out of paying the Congestion Charge. Offering smarter, easier ways to pay, as well as clamping down on websites that fleece customers for cash, will give people greater peace of mind and the protection that they deserve.'
Garrett Emmerson, TfL's Chief Operating Officer for Surface Transport, said:
'Improving the experience for our customers and listening to their feedback is a top priority and the new app will provide a simple and effective method of payment. These changes mean that customers will be able to more easily make payment through authorised channels and will also allow us to block payments from unofficial sites. This will provide further protection for our customers.'
A number of other changes that will make it easier for people to pay the Congestion Charge will also come into effect on 1 November 2015, following an earlier consultation. The additional changes are:
•CC Auto Pay users will be able to pay by Direct Debit (currently only credit or debit cards can be used);
•Customers eligible for discounts, including blue badge holders, will be able to apply for these discounts online;
•Certain journeys undertaken by NHS patients and staff within the Congestion Charge zone are eligible for reimbursement. This reimbursement will be extended to people who have paid using CC Auto Pay, who previously were not able to claim their money back;
•Allowing customers who have paid the Congestion Charge in advance, but can no longer travel on the date in question, to amend the date for a small administration fee of £2.50.
The changes follow a six week public consultation which closed on 12 September 2014.
* We announced in January this year that Capita had been selected as the service provider for a new Congestion Charging and Low Emission Zone contract. The decision followed a 12-month competitive tendering process. Capita has successfully bid for a traffic enforcement notice processing contract, which includes processing Penalty Charge Notices for bus lane and yellow box junction contraventions. The contracts are worth a total of £145m over five years and provide good value for money as Capita will be responsible for delivering a number of improvements to the Congestion Charge scheme.
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