Warning: Southwark Council aggressive penalty charge notice enforcement
Posted by ted17
May 18, 10:54AM
This is a heads up for anyone who moves house having been driving in Southwark/ED (in my case, moving from one part of SE22 to another). We got a penalty charge notice (for a wrong right turn in a car) in the 2 week gap between moving house and updating our vehicle address records with the DVLA. Southwark sent the PCN to the old address (since they only use DVLA details) - fair enough. We didn't get it obviously, but within 10 days had updated our address at the DVLA to our new one. Southwark then sent every single further reminder, chaser and bit of correspondence to the wrong (old) address, for almost a year - i.e. they didn't bother checking with the DVLA if they were still posting to the correct address or not. They just relied on the initial check they did.
A year on I get a letter from a debt collection agency that Southwark have sold my debt to. Obviously the first thing they do is check my addresss, find the new one, and send me a nasty red-topped letter. I work out how to file an appeal (via the Traffic Court in Northampton) setting out the facts, and showing a screenshot of the DVLA page showing the date I changed the address, and a utility bill proving my residence at the new address.
I assumed Southwark might say "fair enough; we did post out all the reminders, chasers - everything but the first letter - to the wrong address" and let me pay the initial charge. But no, they go to the effort of opposing my appeal, claiming that my utility bill is not proof of address (when it is in any other context, including for proving address to the council themselves) and that the screen grab I provided of the DVLA website is insufficient (what more can I do? Why don't they check direct with the DVLA?!), and failing to mention that they had incorrectly communicated with me for almost a year. Now awaiting the court decision - I have to phone the debt collector every day to find out, because they won't let me know if/when my case has come off hold, and could turn up at any moment to try to take my stuff / clamp my car.
Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, but I'm disappointed that Southwark are so aggressively pursuing a resident for a charge which is more than four times the initial amount, when they are partly at fault and I've given a clear explanation. If they want to squeeze more money out of residents they should be transparent about it and put council tax up.
I also doubt that what they are doing is lawful - I believe they've found a loophole (the change of address) and are exploiting it to the full. So this is a WARNING for anyone driving in Southwark/ED - you MUST update your vehicle log book asap after moving otherwise the first thing you may know about it is a debt collector following up a case that Southwark have sold to them.