A man has been hit with a £500 fine and woken up by bailiffs knocking on his door after a W on his number 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 and sent evidence that his vehicle was in Oldham – not Birmingham – at the time of the alleged offense and, as he heard nothing, he assumed the matter was closed.
But Steven received a second letter – an extended penalty notice – last December asking for more money, this time from the CDER group.
He called and received CCTV of a silver Vauxhall Corsa with the number plate ending in AMO or AHO.
But Steven sent back a photo of his car, a red Peugeot 206 with the AWO license plate. He claims he was told no further action would be taken after reporting the error.
Steven Ward with his car – a red Peugeot 206 with AWO license plate
Photographic evidence sent to Steven Ward – a silver Vauxhall Corsa with the number plate ending in AMO or AHO
So Steve was shocked when bailiffs came to his door on the morning of January 13 demanding £499.
He says employees from law enforcement firm CDER Group bothered him after a night shift and slapped him with a notice, warning that if he didn’t pay they would take his car – then he was wrong.
Steven has since collected his money from debt collectors.
But Oldham HGV driver Gtr Manchester said: “It’s just not fair.. I had no choice [but to pay].
“It was horrible and so degrading, that all the neighbors saw two people coming to take money that I really didn’t owe.
“I’m not happy at all.”
Steve was shocked when bailiffs came to his door on the morning of January 13 demanding £499
Steven had started work at 4 p.m. the day before the incident and finally went to bed at 5 a.m. – only to be woken up at 9 a.m.
Steven said: ‘I could see them taking pictures in my drive, so I went down to find the letter.
“Someone or a machine has just confused the Vauxhall Corsa registration with my Peugeot registration.
“I was afraid it would happen and checked with them, but they said everything was sorted out.”
Steven claims he was told he had to pay or his second car – a blue Vauxhall Astra – would be taken away within the hour.
Bailiffs also said they would also take a red and black Citreon belonging to his partner Danielle Clarke, 28, he said.
Steve said: “On the phone I had explained what they had 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 would take the cars.
“I even showed them the photo of the silver car that was actually in Birmingham that day, but they weren’t interested.
“They said I would also have to pay the cost of towing the cars.
“They said they couldn’t do anything because it went to court. I couldn’t let them take this Astra because it’s precious to me.
Steven says he has since been reimbursed, and a screenshot of his bank account shows a payment of £499 from CDER Group on January 26.
Steven had assumed the case was closed when he provided photographic evidence of his car
Birmingham City Council said: “Council is following the statutory enforcement process for issuing and enforcing penalty notices.
“This process provides a number of opportunities to appeal or dispute a fine.
“Opportunities for appeal are also defined at every stage of the process so that anyone who receives a penalty notice understands how they can pay or dispute it.
‘ANPR cameras provide a high level of accuracy when capturing vehicle registration numbers, however, misreads sometimes occur due to dirty, damaged or altered license plates or the position of mountings of license plate, so there are contributing facts that can lead to a possible misreading.
“There is a statutory process in place for motorists to challenge a penalty notice and each case is assessed individually to decide whether or not the notice should be overturned.
“In cases where a vehicle registration number has possibly been misread, motorists should follow legal process to allow an investigation to be conducted and, if confirmed, the case is dismissed.”
It is understood that the board is investigating Steven’s complaint further.
MailOnline has contacted the CDER Group and for comment, and Birmingham City Council for further comment.