A man was hit with a £500 fine and woken up by bailiffs knocking on his door after a W on his car registration plate was mistaken for another letter.
Steven Ward, 41, first received a letter from Birmingham City Council in June 2022, asking him to pay an £86 clean air zone fine.
He phoned up and sent evidence that his vehicle had been in Oldham – not Birmingham – at the time of the alleged offence and as he heard nothing back he presumed the matter was closed.
But Steven got a second letter – an extended penalty notice – last December asking for more money, this time from CDER Group.
He called up and was sent CCTV of a silver Vauxhall Corsa with the number plate ending either AMO or AHO.
But Steven sent back a picture of his car, a red Peugeot 206 with the number plate AWO. He claims he was told no further action would be taken after pointing out the error.
Steven Ward with his car – a red Peugeot 206 with the number plate AWO
The photo evidence sent to Steven Ward – a silver Vauxhall Corsa with the number plate ending either AMO or AHO
So Steve was shocked when bailiffs came to his door on the morning of January 13 asking for £499.
He says workers from enforcement firm CDER Group disturbed him after a night shift and slapped him with a notice, warning if he didn’t pay they’d take his car – so he stumped up.
Steven has since got his money back from the debt collectors.
But the HGV driver, from Oldham, Gtr Manchester, said: ‘It’s just not right.. I had no choice [but to pay].
‘It was awful and so degrading, having all the neighbours seeing two people coming to take money I really didn’t owe.
‘I’m not at all happy.’
Steve was shocked when bailiffs came to his door on the morning of January 13 asking for £499
Steven had started work at 4pm the day before the incident and finally got to bed at 5am – before being awoken at 9am.
Steven said: ‘I could see them taking photos in my drive so I went down to find the letter.
‘Someone or some machine must have just mistaken the registration of the Vauxhall Corsa with my Peugeot registration.
‘I had worried this might happen and I checked with them but they said it was all sorted.’
Steven claims he was told he had to pay or his second car – a blue Vauxhall Astra – would be taken away within the hour.
The bailiffs also said they’d also take a red and black Citreon belonging to his partner Danielle Clarke, 28, he alleges.
Steve said: ‘On the phone I had explained what they told me before and they said I didn’t have to pay.
‘But when I told the bailiffs they just said I had to pay or they’d take the cars.
‘I even showed them the picture of the silver car that was actually in Birmingham that day but they weren’t interested.
‘They said I’d have to pay the costs of towing the cars as well.
‘They said there was nothing they can do because it’s gone through court. I couldn’t let them take that Astra because it’s precious to me.’
Steven says he has since been refunded, and a screenshot of his bank account shows a payment of £499 from CDER Group on January 26.
Steven had presumed the matter was closed when he provided photo evidence of his car
Birmingham City Council said: ‘The Council follows the statutory enforcement process for the issuing and enforcement of penalty charge notices.
‘This process provides a number of opportunities to appeal or challenge a penalty charge.
‘The opportunities for a challenge are also set out at each stage of the process so that anyone issued with a penalty charge notice understands how they can pay or challenge it.
‘ANPR cameras provide a high level of accuracy when capturing vehicle registration numbers, however, misreads do occur on occasions due to dirty, damaged or altered number plates or position of number plate fixings, therefore there are contributory facts that can lead to a possible misread.
‘There is a statutory process in place to allow motorists to dispute a Penalty Charge Notice and each case is assessed on its individual merits to decide whether the Notice should be cancelled or not.
‘In cases where a vehicle registration number has possibly been misread, motorists should follow the statutory process to allow an investigation to be conducted and if confirmed, the case is cancelled.’
It’s understood the council is investigating Steven’s complaint further.
MailOnline has contacted the CDER Group and for comment, and Birmingham City Council for further comment.