Note: This post is now irrelevant as Oyster Extension Permits have been abolished.
I’ve just become aware that there has been a very serious change to the way OEPs are handled. It definitely affects Southeastern and may well affect other operators as well. Originally the system was set up so that if you didn’t set an OEP but nevertheless touched in within your zones and touched out outside your zones then the system would work out what you should pay and deduct that, exactly like it does on the TfL operated Underground, Overground and DLR. However, now it seems that exit gates have been programmed to flash up “Seek assistance”, and when you do you get charged a penalty fare. Nasty!
At the moment I have heard reports of this happening at London Bridge and Cannon Street, both cases where the stored travelcard did not include zone 1. I’m making enquiries about how widespread this new practice is, but in the meantime it seems that the golden rule is to always set the OEP before starting a journey that will require it.
Of course the downside to all this is that you can’t change your plans while on the train (unless you get off and possibly have to wait for the next one). There’s also the added gotcha when a station is dual zoned. If you have a zone 3-5 travelcard and get on at Lewisham for instance, you still need an OEP even if you are going to London. Unless, that is, you use the DLR first!