A plumber who fitted personalised number plates to his fleet of vans has been forced to pay hundreds of pounds in Ulez fees despite his vehicles being compliant.
Sam Reading bought four registration plates that created the words “GAS JOB” for his company vehicles to help promote a distinct brand for his business.
But he discovered that despite his vans only being a few years old and Ulez compliant, he was being charged £15 whenever the vehicles were driven in London.
Now Mr Reading, the owner of 1st Call Plumbing and Heating Solutions Ltd, is demanding a refund after proving to Transport for London (TfL) that all of his vans meet emissions standards and are exempt from charges.
Three of his four vans triggered the charge because the personalised plates he bought were registered for years when vans are not classified as Ulez compliant.
The registrations GA52JOB, GA53JOB and GA58JOB were plates for vans made between 2002 and 2008 and so were automatically classified by TfL as not Ulez compliant.
“When I was using standard plates they were fine,” said Mr Reading, 32. “But, when I put the new personalised plates on in August we started getting the Ulez charges.
“I went on the TfL Ulez checker website and punched in the plates, which said they were compliant. But, I got £455 in autopay charges in just one month.
“It’s as though they can’t update the system or have the technology to keep up with amendments.”
Mr Reading has submitted log book pages and proof that his vehicles are Ulez compliant and is now waiting for a full refund.
“Ulez is codswallop,” he added. “It’s simply a money-making scheme targeting the motorists.”
A TfL spokesman said it receives updates from the DVLA on a four-weekly basis, “ensuring we have the latest data on vehicle compliance”.
“On rare occasions, customers who have swapped private number plates from one vehicle to another may find that their new vehicle is not included in the latest update and will unfortunately be registered as non-compliant until the following update a month later.
“We are working on ways to increase the frequency of these updates.”
“If this does happen, customers can contact us with the appropriate documentation and we can ensure their vehicle is registered as meeting the standards. We would also encourage drivers to check our vehicle checker after they have swapped a private number plate. If they believe their vehicle is compliant but is showing as non-compliant, they should follow the advice on the website so we can correct our records.
TfL said it will refund Mr Reading’s automatic payments.
Official figures show an average of nearly 4,000 fines were triggered each day in June, leading to accusations Ulez is a cash cow for Sadiq Khan, the London mayor.
Those fines were equivalent to nearly £5 million a week if paid in full. Non-compliant vehicles face a £12.50 daily charge, or a £180 fine. The Ulez scheme was enlarged by Mr Khan on August 29.
Howard Kovler, a 45-year-old London businessman, successfully proved his family’s Mercedes CLK from 2000 was Ulez compliant, despite TfL’s number plate checker stating it was not. He had to send in paperwork, including a notice of conformity, to show that despite it being 23 years old it met the Ulez emission standards.
“I wonder how many perfectly compliant vehicles are being scrapped needlessly or fined unfairly because TfL is saying older cars are non-compliant when they actually know they are,” he said.
“They now know that the CLK from 2000 is compliant, but are they applying this to all those vehicles from that year?”
A TfL spokesman said: “There may be a tiny number of individual cases of vehicles that will meet emission standards ahead of time and we continually update the vehicle checker with this information for individual vehicles when provided.”