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Are you owed money from Dart Charge?

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Written by: Emma Lunn
18/02/2021
Up to £1m could be stuck in Dart Charge accounts due to inactivity during the pandemic.

Up to 78,000 drivers may be able to reclaim cash from Dartford Crossing payment accounts which have been automatically closed because they’ve not been used for 15 months.

An investigation by MoneySavingExpert.com using figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that as of last November 77,949 accounts had been closed solely due to inactivity, with a total of £1,014,414 still in them.

What is Dart Charge?

Dart Charge is the fee for using the Dartford Crossing tunnel or bridge which links Kent and Essex and is part of the M25.

It normally costs £2.50 per car per crossing but if you set up a Dart Charge account and top it up in advance, this is reduced to £2 per crossing.

If you set up a Dart Charge account you can choose either ‘prepay’ or ‘pay as you go’. With prepay, you must top the account up with at least £10 before you travel.

With the pay-as-you-go option, your credit or debit card is automatically debited each time you cross.

But you only get the discount from £2.50 to £2 with the prepay option.

Account inactivity

If you don’t use your registered vehicle to make a crossing for at least a year, you’ll be notified by email that your Dart Charge account will be closed.

If you don’t then use it for a further 90 days, or actively choose to keep it open, it will be closed.

If there is money in your account you won’t be refunded automatically and if you later use the Dartford Crossing your account won’t be reactivated, so if you don’t pay a different way you may be fined.

MoneySavingExpert has heard from drivers with Dart Charge accounts who have been fined after making a crossing but payment wasn’t taken from their account because it had become inactive and therefore been closed.

Highways England, which manages the Dartford Crossing, says it’s unable to reopen automatically closed accounts or automatically refund accountholders because it has to delete personal data to comply with data protection rules.

How to get your money back

If you haven’t used your Dart Charge account for a year, then you’ll be notified by email that it’s due to be closed.

If you don’t then make a crossing in the next 90 days, it’ll be closed – unless you call customer services and ask for the account to remain open. This isn’t normally an option, but Highways England says as travel plans have been affected by the pandemic you can currently request that your account remains open for another 12 months even if you don’t make any crossings in that time.

If you have a Dart Charge account and haven’t used it for a while, you can check if it’s still active by logging in or phoning customer services on 0300 300 0120.

If your account has been closed, or you want to close it yourself, you can request a refund by phoning this number.

There’s no time limit on how far back you can claim and once you’ve requested your refund, it will be paid back to the debit or credit card which was linked to the account.

If your account’s been closed but you will want to make crossings in future, it’s not possible to re-activate your closed account. Instead you’ll need to ring up and request a refund from your closed account, then create a new one to use in the future.

Steve Nowottny, news and investigations editor at MoneySavingExpert.com, said: “Motorists who use the Dartford Crossing may be surprised to learn that cash can be stuck in closed Dart Charge accounts – and especially that if accounts are automatically closed due to inactivity, they won’t be automatically reopened when you next cross, even if there’s still money in there.

“Of course, right now, with many driving less and cancelling travel due to the pandemic, occasional drivers could be even more likely than normal to see accounts lapse. Ideally, those with money stuck in closed accounts would be automatically refunded. But with that not happening, the message to motorists is clear – if you’ve a prepay Dart Charge account you’ve not used in a while, check if it’s closed and if so, whether you’re due money back.”

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