I work for a company based in Thurrock, Essex and have been working there for six and a half years. I travel twice a day from Dartford to Essex.
The company I work for used to pay bridge tolls, but about a year ago they changed the rule, meaning the employee has to pay.
I’ve set up an account, which is like a top up system and I’ll put in £10 every two days. However, I have missed a few crossing payments here and there – the equivalent of £135 – but now the loan has spiraled out of control.
I now owe over £3,000 to a debt collection group. The bailiffs are knocking at my parents’ house and my car was twice clamped. It seems so unfair. can you help me? IR, Via Email
A driver found he had over £3k in debt for missing several Dartford crossing payments
Grace Gosden, This Is Money consumer expert, answers: It is an unfortunate situation in which you have trapped yourself and one is that this money has already been reported.
Dartford Crossing now charges customers £2.50 for crossing the bridge each way with drivers able to pay the fee before or after the trip.
However, many people are forgetting to pay as motorists removed barriers to pay online instead.
Currently, drivers have till midnight to pay before paying the fine.
In addition to many forgetting to pay, others argue that Dartford Crossing should be free by now.
The original agreement, when the bridge was built, stated that the tolls should be withheld once they were paid, which was about 15 years earlier.
Many drivers are disappointed that they are still charged for the service as thousands depend on the bridge to get to work.
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However, despite this, while fees are applicable, it is important to keep all payments on top to avoid a scenario like yours where you have debt spiraling out of control.
Although you said you missed some of the ‘here and there’ payments, further investigation reveals that there are 54 crossing payments that you have missed over the course of a year, totaling £135.
You say that you and your partner will top-up it on a weekly basis, but for some reason or the other, something is missed.
Although DartCharge said they sent you letters about outstanding payments, you said you live with your parents for personal reasons and missed several reminders.
While it is your responsibility to stay on top of your correspondence, you may be shocked that you did not receive an email, text or phone reminder about making a payment, even though the firm will email you when you have topped up your account.
The first time you knew it was a serious issue, when your car was hijacked by the Marston Group, Highway England debt collectors, and you had to pay them to remove the clamps.
Dartford crossing fines could spiral out of control if not paid on time, drivers find
You say, so far, you have paid the Marston Group £215 and £425 which is 79 percent more than the actual cost you failed to make. As a result, you thought the matter would be closed.
Surprisingly, however, your most recent online statement shows you owe £3,180 – a 2,255 percent increase from the actual loan due to the addition of fees.
This is a huge jump in costs, especially as the government website says that those who do not pay the fee could face a fine of £70 which must be paid within 28 days.
It says the fine will be reduced to £35 if you pay within 14 days, or raised to £105 if you do not pay, and drivers will also have to pay a crossing charge.
However, as your case shows, those who don’t pay could actually face thousands of pounds of debt – some from forgetting £2.50 trips.
Although you may not have paid initially, it seems too harsh that despite paying £640 to borrowers, it still wants to charge you thousands more.
As a result, I contacted Highway England to ask why the debt was so high and why it didn’t send texts and emails as reminders to customers who might have outstanding fees.
Mark Belton, Dart Charge’s Senior Contract and Governance Manager, said: ‘We always try and strike the right balance between being absolutely clear that drivers using Dartford Crossing give people the maximum opportunity to avoid penalties You are required to pay your DART fee.
‘We have reviewed Mr R’s case and as a gesture of good faith have decided to allow him to pay the remaining 54 outstanding penalty fee notices, each at a road user fee rate of £2.50.
‘Mr. R’s case could have been resolved much earlier if he had approached us to discuss his case.’
However, luckily, you are now only able to pay for trips you forgot to pay for, with you still out of £640 as a result.
It serves as a reminder to everyone using Dartford Bridge to pay before or immediately after the trip – before you land yourself with thousands of pounds of debt.
One consumer was full of praise for the cat flap firm, SureFlap, when they replaced it for free.
Hit and miss: This week’s naughty and good list
Every week, I look at a few companies that have fallen short of expected standards as well as those that have gone the extra mile for customers.
Virgin: Virgin Media The fire came under fire again last week when I disclosed that a client, Jean, had not received a check from the firm for overpayment.
This week, Kayla was contacted to say that Virgin also sent her a check for £54 after making an incorrect calculation on her bills when she closed her account.
But in January 2021 it was referred to by his old name – which he hLOVEBYLIFE’t used in the four years since their marriage. In this case the bank will not accept it.
She said: ‘I sent a copy of my marriage certificate and driving licence, showing my change of name, as well as a covering letter. After several phone calls in April and resending relevant information, I received another check in May, again issued in the wrong name.’
She once again sent the intimation with another covering letter saying that it needs to be issued in her married name but each time it has been sent back through recorded delivery.
As Kayla still hLOVEBYLIFE’t received the check in her married name, I contacted Virgin Media because it seemed like there was some recurring problem with the correct payments to former customers.
The provider said he has since called Kyla and sent another check – to the correct name. It said it would call again in a few days to make sure it has been received.
While this is now resolved, it certainly should be the case that ex-customers cut off all contact with their old providers when they leave instead of spending hours trying to resolve an issue.
Beat: No lewd comments this week as readers, Jessica, praised the feline firm, sureflap Which sells cat flaps that work by detecting a cat microchip.
Jessica said: ‘We’ve had a few issues with our cat flaps over the years.
‘However, SureFlap has been quick to respond to issues by sending replacement parts that are easy to install yourself and on occasion a new cat flap, all free of charge.’
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