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Controversial ULEZ scheme is expanded in London

The scheme, aimed at improving air quality, charges people a daily £12.50 fee for driving vehicles that don’t meet certain emissions standards  and the expansion of  to outer London has proved to be divisive – clean air campaigners support it but some residents and businesses are unhappy about the cost.
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29 August 2023

ULEZ – the Ultra Low Emission Zone scheme – has now been  expanded to cover all of Greater London, and the extension this week has not been without its issues.

The scheme, aimed at improving air quality, charges people a daily £12.50 fee for driving vehicles that don’t meet certain emissions standards  and the expansion of  to outer London has proved to be divisive – clean air campaigners support it but some residents and businesses are unhappy about the cost.

For those living in London boroughs, there is a £160m scrappage scheme available, set up by Mayor Sadiq Khan and those eligible can receive up to £2,000 for scrapping a car, up to £7,000 for scrapping a van, and up to £1,000 for scrapping a motorcycle.

Your car needs to have been registered to you since 30 January 2022 or earlier and to find out more about the scrappage scheme, you can visit the TfL website.

However, when the expansion came into effect on August 209, the TfL website struggled to cope with the amount of people trying to access it to see if their vehicle was compliant.

Launched in 2019, ULEZ initially covered an area of central London and was expanded in 2021 to the North and South Circular roads and it has contonued t0 hit bumps in the road. Protesters have vandalised the cameras which monitor traffic entering the zone while businessman Noel Willcox said he had won a Court ruling that Low Emissions Signs in London, and by inference ULEZ signs too, are indeed not lawful.

The central issue in his appeal against fines for his commercial vehicles entering LEZs is whether the Low Emission Zone signs are authorised and provide adequate information as to the Low Emission Zone Scheme.

Graeme Wallington Adjudicator appointed under Regulation 3 of the Road User Charging (Enforcement and Adjudication) (London) Regulations 2001 (as amended) ruled: “I accept the Appellant’s submissions that if the signs are not authorised and do not provide adequate information of the charging scheme then no charge or penalty is payable. Despite having adjourned this appeal to allow TfL the opportunity to submit evidence upon these points, TfL produced no evidence as to either the Low Emission Zone signs being compliant with the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016 nor the Traffic Signs Manual or that the signs are otherwise authorised as Non- Standard Traffic Signs or as to the adequacy of the information contained on the signs. In these circumstances, I cannot be satisfied that the Low Emission Zone signs are authorised and lawful.”

“TfL have therefore failed to establish that the contraventions occurred and that the PCNs were lawfully issued. I therefore allow the appeal and direct that the PCNs be cancelled.” TfL said signage was signed off in 2008.

Willcox Owner of Elevation Access Ltd said: “More people must come forward to appeal charges they have been hit with, and reclaim any money they have paid, because the fees are unlawful due to illegal signange, TfL would be seriously out of pocket. I did a FOI request as to how much has been collected under the LEZ and ULEZ. The FOI seems to indicate £124.7million for existing ULEZ, and £37.5million for LEZ – of ‘enforcement income’.”

Adrian Keen, Chief Executive of public charging network, InstaVolt, said the ULEZ expansion is “critical” to protecting the UK’s transition to EVs by 2030.  He added: “The number of mixed messages from the Government recently has been astonishing, with proposals made to extend the 2030 deadline and row back support of ULEZ. This was the vote of approval needed to keep the country on track and is an opportunity that will create a seismic shift in our country’s emissions – and it’s not to be taken lightly.

“We’re investing heavily in our charging network across the country and specifically within ULEZ expansion zones, forming infrastructure to meet the needs of EV users, with plans in progress for a charging super hub at Syon Park in Brentford, among multiple other developments. Recent statistics show that air pollution is the country’s biggest environmental health threat, with outdoor pollutants estimated to contribute towards 40,000 excess premature deaths per year, costing the economy upwards of £20 billion a year. ULEZ directly helps to mitigate this. We need to push aside our prejudices and understand that this is not just a political scheme, but one that directly impacts our country’s health and environment.”

Menwhile Leasing Options is issuing a cautionary notice to drivers entering Ultra Low Emission Zones in London and across the UK, as scam artists are creating copycat portals which could mean drivers lose thousands. The news comes as Which? spotted hoax websites appearing online, targeting drivers trying to pay their ULEZ charge.

Mike Thompson, Chief Operating Officer at Leasing Options, said: “Scammers are opportunists and most recently, they’ve capitalised on the  UK’s plans to lower emissions. In response to Ultra Low Emission Zones being introduced in London, scammers have created copycat websites to lure in unknowing drivers to pay their ULEZ charge.

“The reality is that drivers have actually committed to a monthly direct debit for the charge that isn’t going to Transport for London and instead directly into scammer’s pockets. Scam websites have currently only being spotted for Transport for London but I urge drivers outside of London to be equally wary when paying their daily ULEZ payments, too. It’s likely that this won’t be the only copycat portal of its kind as other low emission zones are introduced across the UK in a bid to reduce the UK’s CO2 emissions.”

On some false websites, Which? found the service led to £17.50 being taken out of their bank account and a commitment to a monthly direct debit. Not only is the payment more than the usual charge for using London’s low emission zone, but drivers would then be committed to making the same payment every month.

Thompson said: “The issue is only worsened by the fact that motorists are, after making this false payment, then susceptible to £180 daily fines from Transport for London. In just one week, you’d be set back £900 in fines if you enter the ULEZ on a daily basis.”

What’s more is fraudulent websites aren’t the only scams that are putting drivers at risk in 2023. Luckily, Leasing Options have compiled a list and crunched the numbers to see how much drivers are at risk of losing:

6 other circulating scams targeting drivers in 2023

  1. Lose £100 to car parking pay by phone scams 

When parking up, beware of a prevalent car parking scam wherein unsuspecting motorists are charged when they scan a QR code for payment. Some individuals affix stickers with QR codes that lead car park users to input their personal information on fraudulent web sites, resulting in deductions from their bank accounts.

What’s more is drivers are likely to be fined (anywhere between £70 and £100 on average) as they’ve not paid for parking through the official vendor.

To steer clear of this deceptive scheme, check car parking terminals for anything that could have been tampered with and if uncertain, check with an attendant, browse the web for confirmation or move to a different car park.

  1. Fake toll scam texts and websites could lead to being fined £100

Motorists travelling journeys across toll roads are warned to be extra careful during the payment process as opportunistic fraudsters are capitalising on the shift towards cashless toll systems. The ability to pay toll charges after travelling by card has led scammers to create counterfeit websites and sending text messages to travellers, deceitfully requesting payment for their travels.

The reality is that drivers, falling prey to this scheme, end up paying over double the actual toll fee, only to then be slapped with a late payment charge as they’ve not paid the official toll payment.

To shield yourself from this scam, it is advised to conduct independent research. When paying online, ensure that you do so on the official toll website, adhering to any instructions for the optimal payment process. Should doubts arise concerning payment via text message or online, consult their contact centre for full clarification.

  1. Ghost broking scams leave you with six licence points and a £300 fine

Should you need to insure someone in your car for splitting up the length of a long road trip, exercise caution when choosing your insurance provider.

Ghost brokers are fraudsters who pose as genuine insurance brokers to sell too-good-to-be true premiums. Typically, ghost brokers promote their services through money-saving forums and websites, luring unsuspecting drivers into purchasing policies that ultimately render them uninsured. If caught by the police, motorists could face a potential £300 fine and six penalty points on their licence, thereby making future insurance premiums even more expensive in future.

To spot a ghost broking scam, carry out sufficient research to determine whether the business is certified by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the governing body of financial service companies. It’s advisable to refrain from getting insurance from anyone on money saving forums, no matter how good the deal, and shop for the best deals using reputable comparison sites instead.

  1. Check petrol pumps for skimmers to avoid personal information being stolen

Contrary to popular belief, the presence of skimmers (devices used for illegally obtaining card details) is not limited to cash machines alone, but also extends to pay-at-pump terminals at car garages across the UK.

Car garages without attendants are particularly vulnerable to such ‘skimming’ incidents and when motorists are using their card to pay, the skimmer records their card details illegally. Should fraudsters get their hands on your personal details, they could sell them online or use them for future purchases.

When refuelling and paying at the pump, you can avoid credit card skimmers by checking the terminal for any obvious signs of tampering. These signs can be as simple as a different colour or material or a certain part of the dashboard or if any graphics aren’t aligned properly. If that’s the case, refrain from using that particular terminal.

  1. Messy mechanics scamming drivers out of hundreds before road trips

When it comes to having your car serviced prior to embarking on a long road trip, stick with a tried and trusted mechanic to avoid being unnecessarily charged. Leasing Options’ recommendation comes as one TikTok user (Josh Regis) shared that mechanics often charge for work that your car doesn’t really need.

Supporting this claim, another commenter shared her personal experience of taking her car to the garage due to suspected brake pad wear, only to find the issue unresolved when she had picked up the vehicle and paid upwards of £80 for the work.

If you’re in need of a service or to get your car checked before a long road trip, use only a reputable mechanic that comes recommended by other drivers. If you’re sceptical about the work that has taken place, ask to be shown the issue that was fixed and to see any old parts.

  1. Clean Air Zone scams targeting unsuspecting drivers

Following the success of London’s Low Emission Zones, Clean Air Zones have been implemented in cities throughout the country.

As a result, opportunists are sending text messages to drivers in cities such as Newcastle, urging them to click on links and pay their clean air zone charges. However, the catch is that private cars are not obligated to pay any tolls across select clean air zones; the charge solely applies to taxis and buses.

After paying the fake charge, drivers are then subject to a £120 fine due to not paying for the correct fee.

To avoid falling victim to deceptive clean air zone notifications, it is advisable to familiarise yourself with the regulations of your destination’s clean air zone to determine whether you are subject to any charges.

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Chris Wright

Chris Wright

Chris Wright has been covering the automotive industry nationally and internationally for 30 years. Following spells with consumer titles he became News Editor of Automotive Management (AM), Editor of Automotive International, International Editor for Detroit-based Automotive News, and Editor of Dealer Update. He has also co-authored several FT Management Reports and contributes regularly to Justauto.com

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