Important change to OEPs

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!

17 thoughts on “Important change to OEPs”

  1. Travelled from zone 3 into Charing Cross with annual zone 2/3 travelcard and no OEP today (29th January) and exited without any problems. Took off 95p on gate as expected. Had forgotten about need for OEP until reading this!

    • Thanks Daniel, that’s really interesting. As you say, it’s a mess. I hesitate to think this, but I wonder how many thousands of journeys are being made where the passenger forgets both the OEP and to touch out?

  2. No idea. And impossible to calculate, as the journey would be assumed by the back-end to terminate within the Travelcard’s coverage area with no charge applied (something of which I am sure you are aware) :o).

  3. I have only recently moved to London and had heard from numerous people who live in London and have done for a long time (who also had no idea about OEPs) and travelled from Lewisham to charing Cross on a Z2-3 Travelcard. When I got to Charing Cross I couldnt get through the gate. I didn’t understand what was going on as I had almost £10 on my card. Three gate guards pointed me towards the information desk and a southeastern guy fined me the £20 and asked if I wanted to appeal. Apparently ‘I have never heard of an OEP’ wasn’t good enough defence. Then he walked me to a machine and told me how to put the OEP on.

    I imagine he’s done that walk a number of times.

    • Hi Louise,

      That’s really bad news. I’m going to email you direct for some more details. I believe that Southeastern are on quite dodgy ground with this policy because they are stopping you paying the fare that is due when you had the means to do it. It would be different if an inspector checked your card after New Cross while still on the train.

  4. Hi Mike

    I had a same problem with Southeastern today. And I do believe Southeastern is being very dodgy about it. I have weekly zone 2-3 on Oyster and £8.60 PAYG. Today morning when I went to Lewisham from Clapham Common through London Bridge everything was fine. However on my way back from Lewisham to London Bridge the barriers at London Bridge did not open even though I had £8.60 PAYG. After countless of explanation that I honesly did not know about OEP, the Southeastern man aggressively insisted that I have to pay fine of £20. I did not have any cash on me and when I asked him if they can send the penalty to my home address (mind you at that time I had a letter with me that validated my address), he refused and told me that I can not go home unless I pay the fine on the spot. So I had to pay by my credit card which I didn’t even have money on.

    Also I hear if they make people pay on the spot they get commission. Could you please advice me on this?

    Thank you

    • Hi Musha,

      I don’t think that they get commission on penalty fares, which is what the ‘fine’ actually is, but I may be wrong. I’ll send you an email shortly.

  5. Also got caught out by this. I have a zone 2/3 travelcard and regularly make trips into zone 1. However they seem to have reprogrammed the london bridge gates.

    I was so angry that the ticket inspectors were letting people off who simply hadn’t bothered to pay for a ticket at all, whereas they seemed hell bent on fining someone who spends £100s a pounds a month on a season ticket on a commute that is ungated.

    The guy was extremely aggressive with me and I refused to pay the full fine and refused to sign the sheet that the guy asked me to sign.

    I intend to appeal on the following three points:
    * The two local newsagents I asked had never heard of an OEP and couldn’t find it on their machines
    * Southeastern ticket offices can’t give you an OEP
    * There is only one ticket machine with oyster facilities at my local station which regularly has a 3-5 minute queue at during the rush hour.
    * The guy charged me the wrong fare, charging me for my full journey and not the zone 1 part of it.

    Is it worth appealing? I want to even if I lose just to make a point about OEPs but I suspect that all appeals are automatically rejected by a data processing facility. Otherwise I will just fare evade on my ungated commute until I have made up the difference! 😉

    Also, they haven’t sent me a letter. I’m hoping this is because the fine was unsigned by me. Shall I just keep quiet?

    • Hi Daniel,

      Can you reply again giving some more details – what the journey was, when it was, what you were charged. Also, please confirm your email address (which I won’t publish) so I can contact you direct.

  6. Yesterday i was caught out by what I can only describe as a stealth tax. Until yesterday I had never heard of OEP….I have now.

    I had a 2-5z travel card on my oyster and £14 credit and was trying to exit Charing X station. I was fined £20 despite trying to pay the fare by tapping my Oyster at the gates. I have used Oyster to get to z1 for over a year and never had a problem before. The ticket inspector saifd they had changed the settings on the gate because the inspectors where there.

    I have looked round Bexleyheath station for any notice mentioning OEP + picked up all oyster leaflets and not one mentions OEP. How are people supposed to know about this and why are they suddenly enforcing it? (especially when it will be abolished in may)

    • South Eastern are being particularly odious about this. As you say, hardly anyone knows about OEPs, the TOCs make virtually no effort to publicise them, yet here are SET taking the easy way to a fast buck by stopping people doing what would cause them to pay the correct fare.

  7. A possible way to avoid being fined is to have another Oyster card (with only PAYG credit loaded) on you. If the readers have been reprogrammed not to accept your usual Oyster without an active OEP, then simply use your PAYG Oyster and get charged the maximum fare. Still cheaper than the fine. This might also work when encountering revenue protection officers on the train. Any thoughts on this???

    Shame on Southeastern for exploiting this!!! Probably the worst TOC in London and now this!

    • Hi Jeff,

      It depends on exactly how the gates have been reprogrammed. If they are detecting the prescence or otherwise of the OEP flag then your plan may work at a gateline (if you can touch your other card before the staff see what you’re doing). On the train it wouldn’t work because you are liable for a penalty fare if you haven’t touched in regardless. However, if they are detecting the lack of a maximum fare deduction then it wouldn’t work in any case.

      Quite agree about Southeastern though. Talk about easy targets, they get the gates to sift out the problems so the staff only have to issue the penalty fares. And they seem to have forgotten that many of these easy targets have spent thousands on season tickets. That really is biting the hand that feeds you!

  8. I see about checks on the train. But the PAYG only method should work at the gateline. If you touch out (without having previously touched in) the reader will make its usual beep and you will be charged the maximum fare. No need for the inspectors to get involved in this case. Oyster prepay (without any zones loaded) doesn’t require OEPs, right?

    • It should work at the gateline IF they are testing for the OEP flag and the gateline staff don’t spot that you’ve switched cards before you get the second card to open the gates. However, if they are testing for the lack of a maximum fare deduction (which happens when you touch in) then the PAYG method will fail as well.

      For the remaining two months of OEPs it really is better just to set them if needed. Obviously there’s the issue if you don’t know about them, but if people are reading this site then they do know about them.

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