National Ombudsmen
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TfL wrongly told van drivers to change their vehicles, says Ombudsman

Transport for London (TfL) sent inaccurate information to van owners about compliance with changes to London’s Low Emission Zone, and this led them to replace their vans needlessly, finds Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin.

In her report, issued today, she says TfL “made several fundamental errors in notifying owners,” including failure to make adequate checks or to give prominent warnings in its letters that vehicle owners should make their own checks.

TfL has since agreed to pay compensation to the five complainants who came to her, as well as to a further 30 people who complained to TfL about the same matter.

Four van owners and a representative of a scaffolding company that owned nine vans each complained to the Ombudsman about the introduction of changes to London’s Low Emission Zone. They said that the information TfL had given them turned out to be inaccurate.

TfL had said that vehicles they owned could not be used in the Zone after 3 January 2012 without paying a daily charge of £100. Failure to pay the charge would result in a penalty of £500. The advice from TfL was to take action by either purchasing a new van or by modifying their current vans so that they met the new requirements.

The information was wrong. The vans they owned were either compliant or were not within the scope of the scheme. The complainants all replaced their vans when they had no need to do so.

The Ombudsman accepts that TfL carried out research in an attempt to discover which vehicles would be affected by the changes to the Low Emission Zone and made strenuous efforts to inform owners of the changes. However, some of the information sent out was wrong and caused vehicle owners unnecessary expense. When the Authority became aware that information it had sent to these owners was wrong, it did not take steps to give the owners the correct information.

The Ombudsman finds maladministration causing injustice in each of the five complaints. She recommends that Transport for London pays compensation to the five complainants and to the 30 others who have contacted the Authority about the same matter, and TfL has agreed.

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