A British expat who has lived in the Netherlands for nearly 10 years has revealed how he was chased down by ULEZ debt collectors with letters from three different countries – despite having a car which meets the emission standards.
Marcus Johnson, 36, told MailOnline he received warnings in the post from the UK, Germany and 2,700 miles away in Turkmenistan which demanded that he pay more than €1,000 (£865) for supposedly breaching London’s hated Ulez last year.
He was sent the letters despite his car being compliant and despite the fact it would have taken just moments for someone at Transport for London (TfL) to check his vehicle’s status.
The medic, who comes to the UK by car around four times a year, has now blasted TfL for wasting time on ‘unnecessary’ admin and contracting debt collectors who are going after the wrong people abroad.
It comes after it was revealed that Sadiq Khan has given firms £151.8million in lucrative contracts to track down drivers who fail to pay Ulez penalties and other road fines. Despite this, more than 400,000 foreign drivers have dodged fines because TfL can’t find their details.
Marcus, 36, has revealed how he received warnings in the post from the UK, Germany and even 2,700 miles away in Turkmenistan, which allegedly demanded that he pay more than €1,000 (£865) for supposedly breaching Ulez rules. Pictured: Ulez camera
It comes after it emerged that Sadiq Khan has given firms £151.8million in lucrative contracts to track down drivers who fail to pay Ulez penalties and other road fines
Mr Johnson said that although the penalties were eventually dropped when he fought back against TfL, the local government body did not give him an apology and insisted that he had to register his foreign vehicle with them to avoid future fines.
He told MailOnline: ‘It reminds me of the BBC TV Licence – everyone is guilty unless you demand money from them. They then either pay up or you have to prove your innocence.’
After being told to register his car, Marcus said: ‘I thought there’s not a chance I’m going to respond to you. ‘You can waste taxpayers’ money if you like chasing after me and countless people abroad’. ‘
Marcus moved to the Netherlands nearly a decade ago but still has family who live in London. He comes to the capital with his Ulez compliant car around three or four times a year.
Describing how he was hounded by Ulez debt collectors, he explained: ‘Last year I got three letters in the post to my address in the Netherlands from TfL demanding essentially that payment was made and also saying I had made previous notices of fines.
‘It was the first time I’d seen them. They were related to three different times I had been to London. But the letters I got when I looked into them came from a third party company in Germany and strangely in Turkmenistan.’ He received another from Birmingham in the UK.
Marcus continued: ‘I didn’t respond to the Turkmenistan one but I responded to the Germany one because I am close by and let them know that essentially their debt collecting on behalf of TfL was futile as my car is actually Ulez compliant.’
The 36-year-old said that all it took on TfL’s end was to type his car registration into their own website and it would have shown the car was compliant in the first place.
The hated Ulez was expanded from August 29 this year. The decision has sparked a major backlash
Pictured: A Ulez camera deliberately turned away from the road and marked with red paint
But he said he was told he had to prove his car was compliant by registering the vehicle.
‘There just seemed to be no checking on their end,’ he added. ‘I did ask them how much they were spending on these third party debt collecting companies abroad but obviously that question wasn’t answered either.’
He continued: ‘I wasn’t worried, I was more irritated that it seemed like unnecessary hassle that I would have to deal with on my end whereas on their end all it took was them to them to type several letters and numbers in a computer and it would have come up to confirm the car was compliant.
‘I can’t imagine how much money is being spent on the admin and also these debt collecting agencies. I think it’s a huge waste of taxpayer money ultimately.’
MailOnline has seen an FOI request sent by Marcus asking TfL why they did not check to see if his car was Ulez compliant before sending the letters, how much it costs to employ foreign companies to track the owners of foreign cars and the amount spent on employing third-party companies.
TfL told Marcus that they do not pay third-party companies in Germany and Turkmenistan, adding that their service provider Euro Parking Collections ‘may however use service providers who distribute mail through those countries’.
Last week, it emerged that Mr Khan has spent millions contracting four companies to chase motorists who are dodging the £12.50 daily charge for driving into the recently expanded Ulez with non-compliant vehicles.
The firms have been told to compile lists of persistent evaders – even if they are living abroad. They have also been tasked with gathering information on specific groups, according to contract details first seen by The Sun.
The debt collectors have also been instructed to go after those who fail to pay parking tickets, the congestion charge and other motoring fines.
At the end of last year, there was £255million worth of outstanding Ulez penalty notices.
More than 400,000 drivers have dodged a ULEZ fine because Transport for London ‘can’t find their details’
People who drive in the zone with a polluting vehicle and fail to pay the £12.50 daily fee are initially being sent warning letters. But in the coming weeks TfL is expected to start issuing rule-breakers with £180 fines, which could rise to £250. If paid within 14 days, it is reduced to £90.
One firm has been handed a £34.6million contract to chase Ulez fine dodgers who have gone abroad.
A second contract worth £117.2million has been spread out across three firms – debt recovery company Marston, enforcement agency Bristow and Sutor, and bailiffs JBW.
As part of the agreement, TfL wants Marston and Bristow and Sutor to hand over a monthly ‘persistent evader’ report.
JBW’s role is to ‘participate in intelligence-led enforcement activities targeting specific individuals or groups’.
The ten-year contracts were first awarded in 2020 – a year after the Ulez charge was launched in central London.
Earlier this week, a Freedom of Information request by MyLondon revealed that 417,080 fines were avoided between the start of January and the end of August this year because of this data shortfall.
The figures include a significant number of vehicles registered abroad, as the DVLA is a national database, none of them appear in the system – making it significantly more difficult to track them down.
Furious drivers set up tents and signs outside the Mayor of London’s home in South London
487,925 penalties were also not issued in 2022 because of this same problem. TfL confirmed earlier this month that of the 168,000 fines given to foreign motorists in 2022 total around £12 million owed.
The Ulez expanded to cover all of London’s 32 boroughs from August 29 in a move which has sparked massive protests, including serious damage being inflicted on cameras.
A TfL spokesperson said: ‘As the DVLA can only provide data on UK-registered vehicles, we are unable to automatically tell if foreign-registered vehicles are compliant with the ULEZ.
‘That’s why we ask drivers of vehicles based abroad to pre-register for the ULEZ. If a driver has received a PCN they don’t think is right, then we always ask them to contact us so we can cancel any incorrect fines, as we did for [Marcus].
‘Our website has everything customers need to know in 18 languages and we work with the main ports and ferry companies so drivers know what to expect on arrival.
‘Advertising has been appearing at key motorway service stations, and on petrol pumps, and Google Maps plus other third party way finding services provides information on where the ULEZ operates. We have also worked with all major foreign news agencies to publicise the requirements of the scheme ahead of the recent expansion.
‘Following a vehicle registration in January 2023, and the submission of additional information, [Marcus’s] vehicle was updated in our database as ULEZ compliant, and his outstanding PCNs from November 2022 were cancelled.’
Marcus’s surname was changed.