Transport for London (TfL) and Google have taken further action to protect customers from using misleading and unofficial congestion charge payment sites.
TfL has provided further guidance to enable Google to implement their advertising policy in this area. In particular, even more information has been provided on why the so-called “additional services” that many unofficial sites purport to offer are either non-existent or are already provided by TfL's official payment channel for free.
The unofficial sites charge up to £8 on top of the Congestion Charge fee for so-called "additional services".
Google has used this guidance to take action against those who breach its strict ‘sale of free items’ policy. There have also been a number of cases where these unofficial sites have failed to pay the Congestion Charge on behalf of their customers, resulting in drivers receiving a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) from TfL for non-payment of the Congestion Charge.
Some of these unofficial sites have also accepted payments from customers when the congestion charge has not been in operation. The Congestion Charge operates 07:00 to 18:00 Monday to Friday. There is no charge on weekends, public holidays or between Christmas day and New Year’s Day inclusive.
Garrett Emmerson, TfL’s chief operating officer for surface transport, said: “We have taken further action with Google which means the removal of misleading advertisements for congestion charge payments from Google. This has radically reduced the number of customers who have fallen victim to exorbitant fees for so-called additional services that either don’t exist or are already provided by TfL for free. We will keep the situation under continuous review and are also urgently examining other ways in which we can protect our customers from unofficial sites. Our advice remains that customers should only ever use our official website to pay the Congestion Charge."
Theo Bertram, head of policy, Google UK, said: "We have always had a strict set of policies which govern what types of ads appear on Google and when we are notified that an advertiser is breaching those policies, we move swiftly to take action. Thanks to the further guidance provided by TfL, it is now easier to ensure London's motorists are protected from misleading sites."
By paying via the official TfL website, customers will avoid any unnecessary charges imposed by unofficial websites and will remove the risk of receiving a PCN.
Customers can avoid paying via unofficial websites by registering with TfL for the automatic payment service, CC Auto Pay. Under this, TfL automatically records the number of charging days a vehicle travels within the charging zone and bills the customer’s debit or credit card monthly.
With CC Auto Pay, registered customers never need to remember to pay the charge again and they pay a reduced daily charge of £9 instead of £10. This also protects customers from receiving Penalty Charge Notices as long as the vehicle is registered with TfL and the CC Auto Pay account is active.