A 10-mile trip has tipped a motorhome owner into credit card debt after being charged £2,000 for driving to and from a campsite in London’s low emission zone (LEZ) on Easter weekend “without knowing” he was being charged.
Geoffrey Eaton, 53, from Colchester, travelled to the capital on Good Friday with his wife and two children to visit family.
Geoffrey made two five-mile journeys within the zone, to and from a campsite in Abbey Wood, for which he was charged £300 each time, but says that he was unaware the zone extended past the capital’s North and South Circular roads, and that he did not see any warning signs.
Only when he received the penalty notice through the mail a week later on April 18 did he realise his mistake, by which time the cost of each journey had been hiked up to £1,000 due to late payment for the charges he was not aware of, leaving him no option but to use his credit card and put his summer holiday plans on ice.
TfL have since agreed a “discretionary refund” of £1,400.
Geoffrey said: “We haven’t been abroad in six years and this two grand fine would have completely scuppered our summer holidays.
“It came at the worst time because our heating and electricity bills have gone up and up, it’s crippling us left, right and centre.
“Frankly, I didn’t know where I was going to get the money to pay off the bill.”
Over the weekend, the Laika Ecovip motorhome, which has a 2.8L engine and falls into the 3.5 tonnes or more category, remained parked while Geoffrey and his family used trains and public transport to visit his wife’s cousin Mary and explore the city.
He said: “Abbey Wood is a really nice little oasis and it’s just five minutes from Abbey Wood station, which meant we could visit my wife’s cousin on the Friday and then take the kids for a day in London on the Saturday.”
“I didn’t think any more of it and I forgot, to be perfectly frank, until yesterday, when I received the penalty charge notice.
“When I logged on, I found that actually I’ve been charged £1,000 for the journey in on the Friday and then again for the journey out on the Sunday.
“The reality is that I didn’t have that money and so had to put it on my credit card.”
Geoffrey was told that if he did not pay the fine before May 1, it would double to £4,000.
“I can’t risk it going up to £4,000 because, to be perfectly frank, I just wouldn’t be able to pay it.
“If I’ve got to pay £100 for me to be stupid and not realise I went into the zone, then I would have paid that.
“But £2,000, that’s like a month’s salary – It’s a huge amount of money.
“We could have had a room in The Shard and instead we stayed in the motorhome for two nights.
“The thing is, when I drive into the ultra low emissions zone in my car, it costs something like £12.75 or whatever.
“But I didn’t realise there was another zone which extended all the way to the M25.”
A TfL spokesperson said: “When people face significant penalty charges we offer support and suggest a manageable way of settling outstanding amounts.
“We have discussed this with Mr Eaton and he is happy with the outcome.
“The low emission zone (LEZ) has been in place since 2008 and is well established. All entry points to the zone are signed and there are advance warning signs ahead of these.
“The LEZ has been incredibly effective in discouraging people to travel in the capital in some of the heaviest polluting vehicles in circulation.
“We are now seeing 97 per cent of vehicles in the zone complying with the standards.”