Thursday, 10 October 2013

Congestion charge rip-off

George Galloway has written to every member of the London Assembly about the websites which rip-off motorists by appearing to be official ones to pay congestion charges. In fact they levy a healthy premium and are probably illegal.
The text of the letter is here:
Dear London Assembly Member,
You may have seen the ITV London News at 6pm last night, the excellent top item of which was a story from Simon Harris about the unofficial websites that exist to rip off London’s motorists trying to pay the congestion charge online. I tabled a motion in parliament (see link below) in early September after my chief of staff, an Oxbridge graduate no less, was conned by such a website and I then discovered these websites had been in existence for a long time conning and ripping off an untold number of London motorists. The sites are deliberately designed to look like an official site and the people behind them manipulate google so that their site comes first when you google, say, “pay congestion charge”.

I further discovered that TfL were well aware of these sites, had taken legal advice which was that they were illegal but had not, apparently, had them closed down or even warned motorists to beware of these unofficial sites. I therefore wrote to the Mayor four weeks ago about this but I have yet to receive a reply.
This is not just a question of motorists being ripped off by £6 if they pay through an unofficial site. There is clearly a question of a very large amount of financial data, specifically credit and debit card details, getting into the hands of the unidentified and mysterious perpetrators of these sites.
Val Shawcross was quite right, when interviewed yesterday, to call for urgent action against these websites. The very least TfL should have done is to run a publicity campaign against them and sought Google’s help in making sure the official site was the first to be encountered when googling to pay the congestion charge.
But these sites are clearly an illegal con. They offer no service which isn’t just a sneaky way to try and get round the law. If there is any doubt about this, the Mayor should have gone to the government to get them to legislate to make the official TfL site the only site via which the congestion charge can legally be paid.
I am therefore urging you to bring whatever pressure you can on the Mayor and TfL to act urgently on this matter to safeguard London motorists, of which I am one, against being ripped off and their financial security compromised.
Yours sincerely,
George Galloway, 
MP for Bradford West
EDM tabled on 10th September 2013 -