A self-employed dad from south London was unable to visit his son for his birthday due to being “overcharged” by ULEZ, leaving him £350 down.

Andrew Forsyth, a business owner from Mitcham who specialises in window and exterior cleaning, has highlighted difficulties faced by small businesses due to the ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone) charges.

He was also left out of pocket after an unintended total of £350 was deducted from his account over the holiday period, leading to him being unable to pay a visit to his son in Kent on his birthday.

Andrew said: "My son's birthday is in December and I was going to go down there but because they had taken £350 out my account, and he lives in Kent, I would have had to pay the fuel cost and I couldn’t afford to pay another ULEZ charge.

"I am lucky I had the money in my account but what if it was someone living hand to mouth, this payment would have seriously messed them up.

"Not a very good Christmas as I was stressing over it."

He explained that issues began when he attempted to pay £175 online but the website said it could not take his payment, leading him to call up and pay the same amount over the phone.

He claims he was initially assured that the first payment would not have gone through and would be put back into his bank but he later discovered on December 28 that an additional £175 had been deducted from his account, leaving him £350 down.

He added: “A woman on the phone told me that the first payment wouldn't go through because it's only pending in my account - she said it will automatically be stopped."

Andrew criticised the ULEZ autopay system, which collects charges over the month and then deducts a lump sum from drivers' bank accounts – which he believes can catch people off-guard.

He added: “You've got to make sure you've left that money in your account, but they don't. They don't make that clear.”

He explained that after trying to get through to the ULEZ payment team he was faced with extended telephone conversations, unhelpful responses, and was simply directed to apply for a refund.

Andrew added: "They are the worst customer service I've dealt with and I was on the phone for about two hours and a half total.”

TfL has said that Andrew made a manual payment over the phone while a direct debit payment for his Auto Pay account was already in progress leaving him with extra credit on his Auto Pay account.

A TfL spokesperson said: “We apologise for any distress caused to Mr Forsyth. The monthly statement was issued at the same time as the payment was made, which caused confusion over the outstanding balance.

“We have resolved the issue and refunded to cover the additional charges.”

"It's robbery," said Andrew, emphasising the unfair burden put on those struggling with the rising cost of living in the UK.

"That's what he's (Sadiq Khan) doing—robbing from the poor. We know he's wealthy, and his wife is well off too.

“He can't understand how it affects people as they have not been grassroots.

“They need to walk in my shoes for a day, see what I have to do to make money, and then he takes it."

Andrew has altered his driving routes to avoid cameras, stating that if "you track your route, you can avoid some of the charges."

He explained: "If I was to just slightly move my car off the drive, I’m supposed to pay £12.50 each day.

"I’ve had to work out routes to avoid cameras, which might take me five to ten minutes longer but it saves me the £12.50."

Andrew said he is concerned that the ULEZ charges mean that he would have to pass on the costs to his customers, many of whom are elderly, but he tries his best to keep his prices the same and has also had to take on other jobs to do this.

He added that the cost of ULEZ fees has to be passed on somewhere, giving the example that even delivery drivers would have to buy new trucks to avoid charges and this cost had likely been passed on to their customers.

He explained: “When it was Covid, everyone was becoming window cleaners to earn some money, but when things went back to normal and people returned to the office they became less common but even now a lot of companies are going to the wall because of ULEZ.”

The ULEZ is an emission control area operating 24 hours a day, 364 days a year, except for Christmas Day, aimed at reducing harmful emissions in London's air.

The area covered by the ULEZ was expanded to include almost all of Greater London in August 2023, impacting millions of car and van drivers, like Andrew.

Transport for London (TfL) manages the ULEZ, which is in effect in central London.

A spokesperson for TfL added: “The ULEZ is not about making money and will not generate a surplus in the next few years as compliance increases.

“It will lead to cleaner air while generating ever smaller net revenues, as has been the case with the previous expansion to inner London where people switched to greener vehicles and more sustainable modes.

“Any net revenue received from the scheme is reinvested into running and improving London’s transport network, including the roll-out of the Superloop network, walking and cycling routes, and funding to London’s boroughs so they can improve their roads”