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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...

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.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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