A driver claims he had £600 worth of Mersey Gateway fines quashed after offering the toll operators of the bridge a cheque for just £56.
Sixty-one-year-old Philip Grace, who was travelling from Hunts Cross to Manchester, says that he received a total of 28 penalty charge notices after using the £600m crossing for a period of 14 days.
Mr Grace said the first he had ever heard of Merseyflow and the tolls was when he received his first fine.
However, the ECHO reports instead of paying the £616 in fines, Philip decided to appeal and sent a cheque to Merseyflow for £56 - the amount for crossing the bridge at £2 each way, for his 28 journeys.
This is Mr Grace’s successful letter of appeal:
“I wish to appeal the Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) enclosed and all the others you have sent me, on the grounds, that no penalty is payable.
“Merseyflow continues to operate the Mersey Gateway Bridge in flagrant breach of both The Consumer Rights Act 2015 and The Consumer Protection form Unfair Trading Act 2008.
“The Consumer Rights Act refers to ‘relevant terms’ and the ‘prominence’ requirement. The relevant terms are terms specifying the main subject matter of the contract or setting the price.
“These terms must be prominent: brought to the consumer’s attention in such a way that the average customer – who is well informed, observant and circumspect - would be aware of the term.
“Merseyflow has abided by the prominence requirement for the price of crossing the bridge but not for the payment terms which are so inadequate as to have been invisible not only to me but 50,000 other motorists in the first 3 weeks of operation.
“Again, Merseyflow has only given due diligence to displaying the toll charge or price for the consumer but not the arrangements to pay or the penalty charges.
“Had I been informed that I would be charged ten times the advertised charge plus the charge for each crossing, I would not have entered into the contract and crossed the bridge.
“Having driven down Speke Boulevard to go to work over the Silver Jubilee Bridge for years, I can say that the only sign I saw concerning the new bridge was a large blue sign displaying the toll charges on a bank of the new main bridge road.
“I commuted to work and home again across the bridge for 14 days and saw no signage informing me how to pay or informing me of the midnight deadline.
“As a matter of fact, I happened to have a day off work on Monday 6th November and drove down Speke Boulevard to Widnes.
“I saw that the very large white toll charges sign had been erected just before the main bridge road and passed some workers stood by a drop-side lorry which was blocking a clear view of a blue sign they were erecting on the central reservation.
“The next day, driving down Speke Boulevard on my way to work via Warrington, I saw it was a sign which read “Pay online at Merseyflow by midnight tomorrow”.
“Not only totally inadequate but a bit late too.
“And why doesn’t this sign give the phone number to call to pay the toll charge by phone? An obvious omission.
“I can only guess the reason Merseyflow hasn’t been prosecuted is due to a conflict of interests, in that Halton Borough Council Trading Standards would be investigating a company acting on behalf of Halton Borough Council. How very convenient.
“If you consult your records, I did send you a cheque for £56 to cover the 28 crossings I made commuting to work and back but although thanking me for it, you did say you don’t accept cheques.
“I am not a mean-spirited person and if you change your mind, please let me know and I shall be happy to pay."
And here is Merseyflow’s response:
Dear Philip Grace,
Thank you for your recent representation against the issue of the above mentioned penalty Charge Notice(s) (PCN(S)).
“We advise that, on this occasion, we are prepared to accept payment on the outstanding Toll(s) in full settlement of this matter.
“Please do this by contacting us on the telephone number below and quoting the PCN reference.
“In order for the PCN(s) to be cancelled we require the outstanding toll amount(s) of £56.00 to be paid within 14 days of the date on this letter.
How to Pay
By phone: 01928 878878
But despite his successful appeal Mr Grace said he will no longer cross the bridge and now takes an alternative route to work.
He added: “I am more than highly critical of the bridge.
“50,000 motorists have been fined - so there is something very very wrong.
“It is a shambles and completely bonkers.
“And the online system to pay keeps breaking down.
“I witnessed them putting the sign [on how to pay] up on November 6 - that is more than three weeks after they had that bridge open - that was the sting in the tail.
“I’ve stopped using the bridge, I go through Warrington now.”
Merseyflow have been contacted for comment.