Thousands of UK motorists have been incorrectly charged with fines in London over the last few years. This is due to the replacement of toll booths with automated camera systems on the Dartford Crossing in East London. The replacement was made back in 2014, and has so far generated 3.5 million penalty charge notices. The cameras can recognise number plates and then send fines to the owners of the car. However, thousands of motorists have been fined incorrectly since its implementation.
Roger Bundy, from Dorset, was originally fined £70 for failing to pay the toll on the Dorset Crossing. However, Bundy claims he never made the journey. A camera had mistaken the letter C on the number plate for a G, matching Bundy’s registration perfectly. This is a mistake that the cameras can make regularly, causing a spike in complaints to newspapers such as The Observer. Bundy’s fine rose to £105, plus the £2.50 toll fee. When he refused to pay this, he was then threatened with court proceedings, and by a debt collecting firm. He said he was left “waiting, wondering if the next knock at the door would be the bailiffs”. Bundy and his wife had spent hours on the phone to Highways England, trying to get through to a manager, only to be told that they still had to pay the fine. It wasn’t until The Observer got in touch with Highways England that they admitted fault for the mistake and apologised to the Bundys.
Laura Townsend, from Essex, was also fined for two crossings which she never made. Laura had sold her vehicle before the offences where made. She mistakenly paid the fines after Highways England did not accept her letter from the DVLA, which proved that she had sold the car before the offences.
Highways England have promised that new changes to the system should minimise the amount of mistakes made by the cameras. However, the problem is still occurring, with motorists still being charged. Over 50 million vehicle journeys are made each year on the Dartford Crossing, and Highways England state that 93% of people charged comply with the charges given to them. However, how many of these people are much like Laura, who have tried to rectify their fine, yet ended up paying it anyway? Auto Express, the motoring magazine, found that only 1 in 25 people appeal their fines, meaning that the majority of fines that are wrongly instated may have been paid through fear of more fines or bailiffs.