EU driver fined almost £11,000 after failing to comply with little known rule for foreign vehicles in London

A driver from France received fines of nearly £11,000 after failing to register his EU rental car with TfL

A motorist was fined nearly £11,000 after driving in one of London’s ultra-low emission zones (ULEZ) with a French registered rental car - despite meeting the environmental standards required. Christian Ducarre received four penalty charge notices while on a three-day trip in the UK, after he failed to register his vehicle with Transport for London (TfL), a little known requirement for foreign vehicles.

In order to enter any of London’s ULEZ, drivers of older vehicles must pay £12.50 a day or face a £180 fine (or £90 if you pay within 14 days). Newer cars which pollute less can however enter the Central London areas for free.

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However, a little known rule says that vehicles not registered in the UK must enrol in a special scheme with TfL to ensure they meet the environmental standards to enter the ULEZ zones, or else be deemed non-compliant by default. This has led to numerous cases of EU drivers receiving PCNs, sometimes totaling in thousands of pounds, The Guardianreports.

Mr Ducarre’s vehicle also saw him fined a higher amount after his rental car was mistakenly classed as a heavy diesel vehicle, which means he was penalised under the low emission zone (LEZ) that affects larger vehicles like buses, lorries, vans and coaches in most of Greater London. Fines in LEZ are between £500 and £2000 a day depending on the weight of the vehicle, and increases after 28 days if not paid.

Ducarre received his fines after travelling from France to London for his son’s wedding in May 2022. He told the newspaper: “I checked that the car’s emissions standard was Euro 06 and so was not liable for the Ulez charge.

“In February I received a fine for £3,598, followed by three further fines totalling £7,371.04. When I tried to challenge them online, I received an error message because I’d received the PCNs outside the 28-day appeals deadline. My trip to London will cost me around £11,000.”

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While Ducarre’s fines may come as a surprise, he is far from alone in his predicament. A number of drivers from France are planning to take legal action against TfL after having received fines similar to Ducarre’s without the option of proving compliance.

Between January and September 2022, 18,962 ULEZ PCNs were sent to drivers of foreign-registered vehicles who had been driving in London. With rental and leasing companies, the ULEZ will be sent via the rental company, which means they usually arrive after the 28-day appeals deadline.

Vehicles not registered in the UK must enrol in a special scheme with TfL to ensure they meet the environmental standards to enter the ULEZ zones, or else be deemed non-compliant by default.Vehicles not registered in the UK must enrol in a special scheme with TfL to ensure they meet the environmental standards to enter the ULEZ zones, or else be deemed non-compliant by default.
Vehicles not registered in the UK must enrol in a special scheme with TfL to ensure they meet the environmental standards to enter the ULEZ zones, or else be deemed non-compliant by default. | Getty Images

Zones similar to London’s ULEZ exist in numerous European cities, including Amsterdam, Paris and Madrid with fines ranging from a couple of pounds to upwards of £2000 depending on the city. Luckily for Mr Ducarre, he will save some money on his trip after an intervention from The Guardian saw his fines cancelled.

You can find more information about low emission zones in cities around Europe via the EU Urban Access Regulations website.

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