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Last Friday, due to a technical error with our Sat Nav (aka “pressing the wrong button”), I drove through London’s city centre congestion charge zone.

You have until the following day to pay the charge, so even though I’d only driven through it for the final 10 minutes of the day, I went online to pay the extortionate £8 charge.

The process was simple, and once I was done I opted to receive a receipt via email, as I’m sure most people would do.

The next day I received the following email:

From: customerservices@cclondon.com
Subject: London Congestion Charging System

This is a Sample Body Text. Please change this text with valid information.

Pardon? The receipt was certainly attached, but I couldn’t believe that they’d sent out all their emails with this placeholder text – they’ve been running this system for 5 years!

So I emailed back to report the issue:

To: customerservices@cclondon.com
Subject: Re: London Congestion Charging System

Dear Transport for London,

This was the first time I have paid the congestion charge but I believe it has been active since 2003.

I am astounded that in all this time you are still sending email receipts with the below placeholder text. Is it really that difficult to write a small bit of copy?


James Turnbull

At 9am the following morning I received a reply from the “Customer Services Operations Manager”:

Dear Customer,

Please open the attached file to view correspondence regarding the central London Congestion Charge.

If the attachment is in PDF format you may need Adobe Acrobat Reader to read or download this attachment. If you require Adobe Acrobat Reader this is available at no cost from the Adobe Website www.adobe.com

Thank you for contacting Transport for London.

Joanne Marsh
Customer Services Operations Manager
Central London Congestion Charging

Well, they’ve obviously managed to write that generic email copy. Attached to the email was an HTML file containing Ms. Marsh’s reply.

It said the following:

Dear Mr Turnbull,
Central London Congestion Charging – 1859908/RB

Thank you for your email received on the 28th September 2008, about your suggestion.

We always aim to give the very best Customer Service possible.

We also work hard to listen to any suggestions our customers make for how we can improve the Congestion Charging Scheme, or the level of service we provide.

Your suggestion is important to us and it may be taken into consideration when changes are made to the Scheme in the future.

If you have any questions, please call us on 0845 900 1234, (or Textphone 0207 649 9123 if you have impaired hearing), or contact us via our website www.cclondon.com.

Yours sincerely

Joanne Marsh
Customer Services Operations Manager

For starters, why on earth couldn’t this text have just been in the email? Even an HTML email would have been better than having to load a separate attachment.

But, even more annoying, it’s clearly a bunch of standard responses seemingly cobbled together by some poor AI, and totally fails to respond to my email!

Worst of all, in retrospect, I asked for such a useless reply: by complaining about a lack of copy text, I invited a response composed from other bits of copy text, as if to prove they have managed to write something! The cheek of it!

One Response to “Paying the London Congestion Charge”

  1. Jonathan Says:

    There’s no point them correcting the e-mail now Capita have only got a year of their contract left. Hopefully the service will all improve when IBM take over.

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