The frustration when you realise you have forgotten to pay the congestion charge is a familiar feeling for motorists, but for American diplomats it is a habit.
Diplomats from the US are running up quite a tab with Transport for London and now owe more than £6m across 54,100 unpaid congestion charges and fines, according to the government.
Diplomatic missions and international organisations in the UK have £58m in outstanding fines for entering the congestion charging zones, while 64 countries have run up a bill of more than £100,000.
The diplomats have been running up bills since the congestion charge was introduced in London in February 2003, while the figures take into account charges from then until the end of last year.
The US tops the list with 54,156 outstanding fines, while the Russians’ base in London is in second place, with 40,314 fines totalling £4.6m.
Diplomats from North Korea have run up a bill of £150,090 across 1,396 congestion charge fines.
AppealNow.com founder Barrie Segal believes the Americans are well within their rights to not pay the congestion charge, even if it upsets the ordinary motorist.
Segal said: “My take on it is that it is a tax and therefore the American government, who say we don’t have to pay if it is a tax, are correct.
“It is different when you go to parking tickets because in my view that is not a tax and any parking tickets should be paid.
“I believe the Americans have paid every parking ticket that they have ever got, but there are a few countries who have not from memory, such as Nigeria, Afghanistan and France.”
Transport for London could be more understanding when it deals with motorists who have not paid the congestion charge, according to Segal.
“There are issues. One of the things I find disturbing about the enforcement of the congestion charge is that Transport for London seem intractable in dealing with genuine points about the congestion charge.
“For example, if a policeman has to divert traffic and you are sent into the congestion charge zone, it seems from contact I have had with people over the years that TfL don’t believe you and want you to produce evidence, which is impossible.”
Diplomatic missions and international organisations in the UK had a total of £331,323 in outstanding parking fines last year, while a further £145,964 was written off by councils.
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