The Advertising Standards Authority has ordered an unauthorised congestion charge payment website to make significant changes to ensure drivers do not mistake it for an official site.
Last year Transport for London warned drivers not to use unauthorised third party sites which often levy a surcharge and, in some cases, fail to register vehicles with TfL.
The capital’s transport agency estimates around 1,000 people per day are being duped into using unofficial sites. In some cases motorists have found themselves facing a £130 penalty after the site they paid failed to register their journey with TfL.
The ASA has now ruled that the design of one site – paylondoncongestion.co.uk – was “likely to lead consumers to believe that the web page was an official method of paying the London congestion charge and was affiliated with TfL.“
Although the site carried a disclaimer stating it was not associated with TfL, the ASA said it was “concerned by the small size of that text and its placement beneath the booking form, which in our view rendered the information insufficiently prominent on the page.
“However, we were also concerned that the information in the small print contradicted the overall impression created by the design of the web page, the direct link to the TfL website and the headline claim “Pay London Congestion Charge Online”.
The watchdog said that “changes to the layout of the web page, including, but not limited to, the prominence of the information that paylondoncongestion.co.uk was not owned by or affiliated with TfL, needed to be made in order to ensure that the nature of the service offered was clearly communicated to consumers.”
The site’s operators had undertaken to make changes but the ASA said these “would not go far enough to resolve the issue.”
It therefore upheld a complaint that the website was misleading as well as a complaint that the site was misleading visitors because it failed to clearly state the charges users would pay.