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Register French-plated cars for London driving to avoid penalties

London’s ULEZ zone cannot automatically detect if foreign-registered vehicles are exempt from charges. Penalty charges have been sent to French addresses for the first time

We look at how London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) affects drivers with French-registered cars Pic: Alena Veasey / Shutterstock

People driving French-plated cars in London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) must pre-register the vehicle with Transport for London (TfL) to avoid incurring mistaken penalty charges for non-payment of the zone’s daily charge. 

Several Connexion readers who did not pre-register with TfL have reported receiving ULEZ penalty charge notices even though their vehicle is exempt. 

This is because TfL has outsourced operations relating to foreign-registered cars to a company called Euro Parking Collection (EPC), which has access to European vehicle owner databases. 

An EPC spokesperson told The Connexion that it has only just started sending out ULEZ penalty charges to drivers in France because TfL only shared details of the relevant vehicle number plates in the last week. 

This may explain why several Connexion readers have received multiple penalty notices dating back as far as 2020 over the past few days. 

Read more: Drivers from France shocked by London low emission zone penalties

What is the ULEZ? 

The Ultra Low Emissions Zone – introduced in 2019 – is an area of London in which the most polluting cars are charged. It currently covers the Inner London area inside the North and South Circular roads, which are not affected by the charges themselves. This is different to the daily Congestion Charge of £15, which applies in the city centre.

Photo credit: Screenshot / Transport for London

You can check whether different London postcodes fall inside or outside the zone using this TfL search tool.

The owners of the most polluting cars must pay £12.50 a day to drive in the ULEZ, which is in operation 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 

ULEZ generally affects pre-Euro 6 diesel vehicles – manufactured before 2016 – and pre-Euro 4 petrol vehicles produced before 2006, although there may be some exceptions. 

The Euro6 or Euro4 label refers to the vehicle emissions standards which came into force in 2015 and 2005 respectively. 

Car drivers who forget to pay the ULEZ will receive a penalty charge notice of £160, reduced to £80 if paid within 14 days. 

Vintage cars built before 1979 are not included as long as they have historic vehicle tax status.

Lorries, buses and coaches made before 2013 or 2014 will need to pay £100 to enter the ULEZ with a £1,000 penalty charge if they do not pay.

From August 29, 2023, the ULEZ area will extend to cover the whole of Greater London.

Foreign-plated vehicle owners should take care

TfL consults the DVLA database to determine whether UK-registered cars are exempt or not, but when this is not possible the owner must provide paperwork proving that their vehicle is not concerned by the charge. 

This means that people with foreign-registered cars will need to enter their vehicle details with a copy of their carte grise to avoid receiving a penalty charge. If they do not do this TfL will not know the car’s status and will issue penalties. 

You can check if your vehicle is subject to the ULEZ charge using this TfL tool.

If you did not pre-register your vehicle with TfL and have received a ULEZ penalty charge notice even though the vehicle is exempt you can appeal. 

To do so, you need to first register your car with TfL retroactively and then launch the appeal. Once it has been established that your vehicle is not subject to the fees, the penalty should be cancelled.

It is possible to register your vehicle on this EPC page, and appeals can be started here.

Paying for non-compliant vehicles

If your car is subject to ULEZ charges, you can sign up for autopay, which will mean that the fee is automatically deducted from your account when you enter the area. You can find out more about this here.

You can also make one-off payments in advance or up to three days after your journey using this TfL page, the TfL app or by phone. If you are in the UK, the number is 0343 222 2222, and if you are abroad it is +44 343 222 2222. 

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