Hidden charges - Boris bike user hit with £900 charge for "free" journeys… but he's still a fan

Docking stations fail to record bikes' return, refund on the way plus £200 compensation

by Simon_MacMichael   September 13, 2010  

Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme bikes on hire station © Simon MacMichael.jpg

One of the more publicised teething problems of London’s Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme was cyclists being overcharged for using the distinctive navy blue Boris bikes, and it’s now emerged that one user has been wrongly charged £900, equivalent to £20 a day since the initiative was launched at the end of July.

According to BBC News, Dave Ward from Colliers Wood, South West London, is among 14 users of the scheme erroneously charged multiple times for returning bikes late. Transport for London (TfL) has stated that anyone charged in error will receive a refund, and Mr Ward has also been given £200 compensation.

The 38-year-old, who works in Westminster, joined the scheme soon after it was launched and returned a bike to a docking station on Horseferry Road on 8th August, but although the docking mechanism engaged properly, the green light to signal that the bicycle had been put back didn’t come on.

Mr Ward rang TfL and told them what had happened, but they still charged him £150 for non-return of the bike and his membership key was cancelled.

This happened several more times, and on each occasion Mr Ward called TfL, the money taken by mistake from his bank account refunded, and his key reactivated.

Then, on 1st September, the date he had set to be billed for his use of the scheme, he was charged £900, even though the journeys he made were each under 30 minutes and therefore should have been free.

The £900 is due to be credited to Mr Ward’s account today, while he has already received the £200 compensation, but despite the billing problems, Mr Ward remains enthusiastic about the scheme, telling BBC News: "I think it is a great scheme. It's healthier and cheaper than using the Tube but obviously there are teething problems."

TfL has apologised for the error and a spokesman said: "We have been assured by Serco that these members have now had, or are about to have, their money paid back into their bank accounts, and that they have all been offered compensation for the inconvenience they have experienced.

"Serco have put in place measures to make sure this issue with their billing system doesn't happen again," he added.

5 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Should your headline read " Bike hire error man given £200 compensation" rather than the one obviously produced by your newly employed Daily Mail headline writer?


posted by solentine [96 posts]
13th September 2010 - 9:17

1 Like

I disagree solentine - the initial mistake is the more newsworthy part of the story. Charging this chap £900 is a huge error - you wouldn't want it to happen to you (though you might be glad of the £200 afterwards).

At least it hasn't put him off the bikes... or is he hoping for another £200 soon? Wink

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2414 posts]
13th September 2010 - 9:30

1 Like

Yes, I'd find it pretty stressful if i was suddenly faced with a £900 charge even if I was pretty sure that I was going to get it back… something the story's homepage strapline makes clear is going to happen + it mentions the compensation too. Maybe the best headline would be something that also mentions that Mr Ward hasn't been put off using the scheme. When we did a preview ride on London's hire bikes I think we said they were going to be a massive success - I'm starting to wonder whether Boris & TfL haven't massively under estimated the level of possible demand.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4201 posts]
13th September 2010 - 9:39

1 Like

£200 compensation! How on earth do they justify that?

posted by john_l [7 posts]
13th September 2010 - 12:26

1 Like

If they'd debited his account and he'd incurred any bank charges, bounced direct debits etc, etc he could easily have racked up £200 in charges. I reckon that for a lot of people having £900 removed from their bank account unexpectedly would be a tad stressful too, especially when you then have to go to the hassle of trying to get it back.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4201 posts]
13th September 2010 - 14:19

1 Like