In January, I signed up to the autopay scheme. It seemed like a great idea, and until today I thought it was.
This morning, however, I received Penalty Charge Notice TF47548233 in the post. Since I’m not supposed to have to pay the charge manually, I was puzzled.
I’ve now spoken to two people to find out what’s going on. I am, it seems, now caught in a Kafkaesque world from which there is little escape.
The first woman tells me that on 13 May, my account was cancelled. Why? ‘We emailed you to inform you’. No you didn’t. ‘Yes we did.’ No you didn’t.
This went on for a few more repetitions until I asked what address was emailed. ‘I can’t tell you.’
I asked why it was cancelled and by whom. ‘I can’t tell you.’
So you’re saying that my account was summarily cancelled, you can’t tell me why or by whom, that you can’t tell me what email address you claim to have written to, and that as a result of these decisions, none of which I am allowed to be told about even now, I am liable for every day’s driving since 13 May? (I drive to work every day, so the sum is hardly negligible.)
‘I can’t tell you more than that your account has been cancelled.’
Can I reactivate my account? ‘I can’t do that’. Do you mean you can’t because it’s another department or because there is a problem with reactivating my account?
‘I can’t do that’.
I thought I’d try another tack, and called the payment department. I got a bit more explanation. According to them, they tried to take payment for the month’s payments on 13 May and the payment failed. I’ve no idea why – I’ve not had any problem with my card – but we’ve all had those mysterious instances when the card doesn’t work.
It seems that TfL’s response to one failed payment attempt is not to retry the card later, but to cancel the account, sit back, and watch the Penalty Charge fines pile grow.
I asked if that meant there was money owing from when my account was active. ‘Yes, £153’. So what would have happened if I hadn’t happened to ask you that just now? ‘We’d have gone to court to get the money’. But you’ve never told me I owe it. ‘Yes, we emailed you on 13 May’. To what address? ‘I can’t tell you’.
And off we went again.
I’ve written to explain the circumstances and to ask for the Penalty Charges owed to be waived. Given the bizarre conversations I’ve had this morning, I have zero expectations that anyone will think with the least bit of common sense.
Stephen Pollard is Editor of the Jewish Chronicle
Open Platform is a space for contributions from any interested Londoner, views expressed here do not reflect those of the site editors.