THE BUS gate fine fiasco rumbles on after a row over Coventry council changed an email address which the public could contact to claim back their money – sparking fresh accusations of Coventry council ‘misleading’ the public.
For months, motorists wrongly fined for driving through city bus gates while signs had been de-authorised between December 2015 and April 2016 have been told they have to individually contact the council to claim their £30 or £60 refund by writing a letter or sending an email to the address firstname.lastname@example.org with their details.
However, it has emerged this week that the council has changed this email address to email@example.com.
Now there is confusion over whether emails to the old account are getting through to the new address.
When contacted by the Observer about the change, acting chief executive of Coventry City Council, Martin Yardley put the change down to ‘back office reorganisation’ and assured people any emails sent to firstname.lastname@example.org were being automatically forwarded on to the new ‘parking appeals’ address.
However, when a test email was sent to the old email address it was met with an automatic response from the council, which read: “Please be advised the Parking Enforcement email is no longer in use.
“Please resend your email to email@example.com.”
Road safety campaigner and city resident, Richard Heneghan, has long-argued that motorists affected by the fines should be automatically refunded or individually written to to notify them of their right to their money back.
However, he argues this latest incident in the ongoing bus gate furore is the council simply ‘misleading the public’.
Mr Heneghan said: “Why in such a vital point of the refund process has the council changed the email address and why did they not notify people that the change would be happening?
“This increases the chances of people not seeking their refund, as once they have already sent the email they are then being told to send it again to a different email address.
“And I’m concerned that this auto-response from the council will land in people’s spam folders – like it did mine.
“It is just more hoops for people to jump through to get their money back and this is again the council simply being evasive and reactionary.”
The email address change follows months of cabinet member for city services, Coun Jayne Innes, arguing the council will not automatically refund affected motorists or simply write to drivers notifying them of their right for a refund as the issue had been ‘widely reported’ in the local press and on social media.
However, all media outlets had been directing people to the old ‘parking enforcement’ email address.
To date, only £18,000 of the £398,460 has been returned to motorists who drove through the bus gates when the signs at Park Road, Greyfriars Green and Gosford Street had been de-authorised by, what the council claims, was a ‘typo’ in a letter the Department for Transport.
Mr Yardley has told the Observer he understands how the automatic response could cause ‘more confusion’ and has said it will be removed, with all emails sent to ‘parking enforcement’ simply forwarded on automatically to the ‘parking appeals’ address.