back to article 0ops. 1,OOO-plus parking fine refunds ordered after drivers typed 'O' instead of '0'

The local council overseeing the core of the Australian city of Melbourne has been told to refund around 1,200 fines that resulted from drivers making a minor typo. Melbourne is the capital of the State of Victoria, and the ombudsman there probed the matter after someone blew the whistle on unfair parking fines caused by …

  1. IGotOut Silver badge

    And this ladies and gentlemen...

    Is why you don't have the letter "O" in UK number plates.

    The fines are not the issue, but the idiots that came up with the number plate scheme.

    1. tfewster Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      It's unusual, but not unheard of. I had a car with S401 ONH on the plate - and not by special request, it was an ex-rental vehicle.

      Presumably the reverse, where an Inspector confused 0's and O's, was grounds for appeal?

      If only there was a way of printing a receipt for a payment, that could be attached to the car as proof of payment.

      1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

        > If only there was a way of printing a receipt for a payment, that could be attached to the car as proof of payment.

        Indeed. And if that receipt were to be placed somewhere in view, on the car's dashboard perhaps, then there would be no need to enter the vehicle's registration details at all. I wonder if such a handy and convenient process is available already?

        1. StephenH

          Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

          Having paper tickets allows a driver who has paid for more parking than they have used to give the ticket to someone else.

          That might prevent the council from raising more than one hour of parking fees per hour which they clearly would not want.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

            The solution to that is ticket machines which require you to enter your full reg number. Oddly, they are much more expensive machine than the ones that simply issue a parking receipt/ticket. On the other hand, ticket machines capable of giving change are seen as too expensive, so it does seem a little odd that they suddenly have the extra money for a different type of expensive machine.

            1. Glen 1 Silver badge

              Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

              I suspect the problem expense for change-giving machines isn't the capital outlay, its the costs of keeping it stocked with change.

              Its harder to rob a card terminal - assuming EMV these days - or at the very least, it requires a different skill set.

        2. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

          Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

          Rather then adding a printers, setup the system to accept either O or 0 as a valid character match. The occasional driver might get free parking because 2 plates appear to match, but I expect the lost revenues will be less then the cost of operating printers.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

          Finally, an application that could use a little AI (A1?) as there is very little real intelligence at work here.

      2. ICL1900-G3

        Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

        In the previous system, MO was one of the registrations for Berkshire. There are doubtless many others. Off topic, but, I think it would be hard to come up with a stupider system than the one we now have.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

          A good rule of thumb; if you have to stop and think about this kind of system before you can ascertain the information it's a bad system.

      3. Stuart Castle Silver badge

        Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

        Of course, we in the uk have a defined number plate format.

        It is currently 2 letters indicating registration area, 2 numbers representing the year or registration followed by 3 random characters.

        At least for government issued numbers. Private number plates seem to be pretty much unrestricted.

    2. Nick 10

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      We do. in the 1980s, my mum's Ford Fiesta was GOO 522 Y. My current car has the last 3 letters HFO.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

        In the TV programme "That's Life", viewers sent in their unusual photos or odd-shaped vegetables etc.

        I remember one photo they showed that had two cars parked next to each other. The registration plates were:

        YOU ... .

        COW ... .

      2. Spanners Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

        And my mum had a Ford Popular VCO 237 at the end of the 1960's. There is probably a geek test to remember such stuff 50 years, later.

        You can generally tell by the location whether it's a letter or number

        1. Precordial thump

          Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

          My parents' cars were LNG070 and IOZ782. They upgraded in 1983 when I was 6 and I can still remember them.

          As a Victorian, number plates have been letter-letter-letter-number-number-number since the 1950s, and they changed to number-letter-letter number-letter-letter about 5 years ago. Unless, of course, you choose your own. So if you get it wrong, you get it wrong by choice and not by chance.

          1. Dagg
            Mushroom

            Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

            And how many normal people know completely useless facts like that? It is anything but common knowledge. And I know as I live in Melbourne.

          2. Maventi

            Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

            Such a format change applied so recently is all the more reason for the plebs to be genuinely mistaken when entering their rego.

          3. Martin-73 Silver badge

            Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

            To be fair to the government, literally EVERYONE KNOWS their own license plate... the issue arises with hire or loan vehicles.

      3. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

        Letter O is common enough in UK vehicle registrations. One of my past cars' registration ended MRO.

        UK number-plate format rules do allow a letter O to appear in specific sections of the registration. Permitted sections depend on the format rules for the registration year of the car. The format rules used to change roughly every 20 years to allow for more registrations.

        The current format rules are good for 50 years, and, again, allow letter O in specifc sections of the registration.

        1. ChrisBedford

          Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

          Saw photos of my mate's new car which is RO70 xyz which can be confused with circa 1992 style "R" followed by three digits and three letters. The first 4 characters are not spaced apart and there is no difference between the "O" and the "0" - if you have been living under a rock you might be forgiven for thinking it was a 30 year old car.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

            I don't think there has ever been a leading zero on numbers on UK regs until the current one which represents the year or half year. It would be R70 XYZ.

          2. Andrew Norton

            Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

            92 was J/K with the August 1 split.

            R-reg was 1 August 97 - 31 july 98. It was the year I and my friends passed our tests. I got a G-reg volvo 340, while my friend got a brand new (R) Fiesta (the 1.25). Both cars had pretty much identical performance to 70, ... or so I'm told because we totally didn't try dragging them down the southport coast road.

            Also my RWD was a lot more fun, and my volvo suspension totally didn't tempt me into jumping it on Marshside road...

      4. Andy Denton

        Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

        Under that system the last two letters denoted the area where the car was registered. OO and NO were south Essex registrations if I remember correctly. This was carried over into the system that followed (year letter, numbers and then three letters). The current system uses the first two letter to denote where the car was registered.

    3. Pete Smith 2

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      I'm going to have to disagree with you there.

      My current car has the letter "O" in it's registration, and a previous car had 2 letter "O"s in the registration.

      In the UK and Aus case though, the number plates are deterministic. You know which are letters, and which are numbers. Perhaps the ticket machines didn't have a QWERTY keyboard, and were confusing to use.

      1. StephenD

        Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

        Correction - it's possible to know which are letters and which are numbers. Not everyone does, and why should they be expected to?

        I've seen plenty of UK number plates like OOO7 ABC - the first two are O's, the third is a zero. I know this because I happen to understand the format, but it would be unreasonable to expect everyone to do so, and to base parking enforcement fines on this, particularly when the UK number plate font has identical characters for O and zero, and for I and one.

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

          It's certainly reasonable to expect an ANPR robot, or a parking enforcement officer, to understand the difference even if the owner of the plate doesn't. (I just sold a car with 03OU as the first digits.)

          Bloody hell, MISRA compliance checkers know the difference when looking at variable names and sulk if they see one where it can be misread by a fleshy meatsack.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

          If it's a known format, the users entry can be rejected or corrected automatically.

          For example AA11AAA is a valid modern number plate. AAIIAAA is not.

          ( Come to think of it, my last car but two had two "O" characters in it and one 0, in the format AA01 OAO).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            good grief

            it was AAA 000A when I was a kid, the last letter was the year. When they got to Y (because Z looks too much like 2?) it became A000 AAA with the first letter indicating the year. When they reached the end of the alphabet again it became AA00 AAA with 00 indicating the year, 00 for the first half of 2000 and 50 for the second.

            It's not tricky to work out, it's obvious enough in most cases. Is it weird that I know that from looking at number plates and not from having it explained to me?

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: good grief

              Works fine on deterministic plate layouts

              Until you have personalised plates

              1. JDPower

                Re: good grief

                If you've paid to get a specific plate there's even less excuse for getting it wrong.

                1. TheRealRoland

                  Re: good grief

                  US states also allow for 'branded' plates. The license plate saying 'you suck 1' can be issued multiple times. One to show that you're a fire fighter, as a 'fleet car', showing you support hunting, wildlife, nature, school, etc.

                  only the combination of the letters and numbers on the plate, plus the type of plate is unique.

                  Guess what lazy parking cops here sometimes do when writing a ticket? 'forgetting' to include the type of plate.

                  https://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/vehicles/license_plate_guide/licenseplates.html

                  1. TomG

                    Re: good grief

                    Not that way in the great state of Texas. The number/letter portion of the plate must be unique, no duplications allowed. Also, the letter/number combination must not be offensive. "you suck 1" would not be allowed.

                  2. Martin-73 Silver badge

                    Re: good grief

                    That sounds spectacularly stupid. And the site you posted is a .com, not a .gov... and timed out. Illinois was always weird

            2. jmch Silver badge

              Re: good grief

              Which is an absolutely terrible way to run things. Why use letters at all? As far as I know, anyone else outside UK only uses letters as a prefix to identify a region. (again, not really sure why but I presume in the era before digitisation each local office could keep its own house in order)

              Surely it's far more sensible to have only letters or only numbers, and if you want to identify registration year or half year put it in front or tag it on at the end instead of randomly plonking it down in the middle.

              I know, far too sensible for a committee of buerocrats

              1. TiredNConfused80

                Re: good grief

                Having a format of some sort instead of random letters / numbers does help a bit in avoiding conversations such as:

                And what was the number plate of th car that plowed into the group of kittens Sir?

                Erm.....??

                1. agurney

                  Re: good grief

                  Erm.....?? ERM 29C my first car, a red MK I mini I owned as a student.

                  RM: Carlisle

                  C: 1965

              2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
                Boffin

                Re: good grief

                In the UK case, the first 2 letters of the modern format specify the location of issue. The next 2 digits specify the half-year. The final 2 letters are the unique identifier.

                It's not that complicated.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: good grief

                  Hmm, seems it is complicated seeing as there are 3 letters at the end and the whole plate is clearly the "unique identifier" not just the final "2"(3).

                  1. Martin-73 Silver badge

                    Re: good grief

                    letter, 3 digits, letter [DL] used to be good for identifying Isle of Wight registered drivers hereabouts. They were usually very good drivers, as the isle of wight does NOT believe in road signs, so they had a sixth sense

              3. TRT Silver badge

                Re: good grief

                Why not just an EAN39 barcode?

                Because people need to remember it.

              4. A.P. Veening Silver badge

                Re: good grief

                As far as I know, anyone else outside UK only uses letters as a prefix to identify a region.

                In that case, please let me correct you. In the Netherlands there is no way whatsoever to determine a region from the license plate. The only information to be derived from it, is when the car was first sold (and assigned a license "number"). On the other hand, there is no confusion between "0" (cipher) and "O" (letter) as vowels aren't used (with the exception of "AA" sometime in the past for the royal house).

                1. Kobus Botes
                  Boffin

                  Re: good grief

                  And in South Africa it is a mixed bag.

                  The first number plates had the following format:

                  Two or three letters followed by numbers (six if it had two letters, else 5). The first letter designated the province, whilst all the letters indicated the origin/town/municipality. Each province had their own scheme of how letters were allocated to places. The Cape Province used population (which makes it quite interesting to see how growth has differed over the years). So Cape Town was CA (still is, but they have stopped recycling old/deregistered numbers, so added CAA, but then ran into trouble when the 99999 numbers were inexplicably used up in less than two years, so they now are contemplating to go to incognito numbers like most of the other provinces now use), Port Elizabeth was CB and so on.

                  Natal used the town or municipality name. Durban therefore is ND, Pietermaritzburg became NP, Ixopo became NIX, et cetera. The Transvaal and the Orange Free State had their own schemes. I know that the person who set up the rules for the OFS was very unhappy when Sasolburg was proclaimed (it was built specifically to service the coal to oil refinery that was erected in the mid fifties) and someone with a sense of humour designated OIL as the place designator. It stayed OIL.

                  Somewhere in the seventies the Transvaal had run out of letters and numbers, so they changed the whole province to a computer-generated number that had the format of BBB 000 T (where T indicated Transvaal). No vowels were allowed and Q was also disqualified.

                  After independence in 1994 and with the four provinces now reorganised into nine, the whole thing changed again. The Western Cape and Natal elected to continue with their old system, whilst the other provinces went with the system that the Transvaal had used. Gauteng therefore became BBB 000 GP, North West BBB 000 NW, and so on.

                  Gauteng ran out of their 8 million numbers two or three years ago, so they changed to a new format, BB 00 BB GP, which gives them 8 million extra (all old numbers had to change to the new format at the next renewal due).

                  When personal numbers were allowed the Western Cape went with a WP suffix and Natal with NZ (for KwaZulu/Natal, wich is its new name post 1994). Any combination is allowed, as long as it is not obviously rude. Some rude ones therefore slipped through, as the officials in charge of approval do not necessarily know how to read it. The worst one I saw (on an Audi A4), and the way he drove, made me decide that if ever I was looking for a job and he happened to be an executive at that company, I would not accept it. His number was A4Q2 - WP. (It is of course entirely possible that his second car was an Audi Q2 with Q2A4 - WP, but I would take it as his defence should he be called out on it. It cannot have not been deliberate).

                  I rather prefer knowing where the car comes from. When I grew up in the sixties, it was customary to flash your headlights at someone from your hometown, if you were travelling far away from home.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: good grief

                    "[...] but then ran into trouble when the 99999 numbers were inexplicably used up in less than two years,"

                    In South Africa in the 1970s your car had to get a new registration number if you moved town or area. IIRC you also had to get the vehicle "MoT" tested - even if it was only a few weeks old. If you didn't move area - your car never needed an "MoT".

                    These laws created several mini-industries. The obvious one was lots of shops making car new number plates.

                    Less obvious was the "MoT" test spin-offs. Only the government's local testing centre - usually only one per area - could do the official test. There were no appointments. You had to join the queue from about 5am - and come back the next day if you didn't get a test. You could hire people to spend the day queuing in your car.

                    A garage could do your pre-test to rectify any problems - and then handle the queue for you too. It was not unknown - after a successful "MoT" - for all the new parts to be stripped off and the old ones replaced.

              5. Cynical Pie

                Re: good grief

                Part of UK number plates are for identifying the region and this has always been the case.

                Currently its the first 2 letters ie HW for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight registered vehicle

                Under the previous format it was the last 3 letters - WDL for an Isle of Wight registered vehicle.

                Apropos of nothing cars with the WDL suffix used to carry a premium with used car dealers as it was assumed they would be low mileage and well looked after.

                1. Cynical Pie

                  Re: good grief

                  Suffix was DL not WDL, - the perils of trying to recall 30 yr old car regs too early in the day!!

              6. Ahosewithnoname

                Re: good grief

                Apart from France, where they use numbers, the Netherlands where they don't use anything, and I'm sure many more examples

              7. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

                Re: good grief

                "Why use letters at all? As far as I know, anyone else outside UK only uses letters as a prefix to identify a region."

                In Sweden the format is "ABC 123".

                I don't know if there's a system to it or not. But they remove obvious naughty words (in Swedish).

                The reason for using letters is to get a much larger allocation space. The reason to mix letters and number is probably to make it easier to remember, or something to do with legacy stuff.

                You used to be able to see from the reg no where the car was registered, but they dropped that when they introduced the "ABC 123" format.

              8. TomG

                Re: good grief

                What would you do if the licensing area (state) had 100,000 cars, or 1,000,000 cars? Would you have license plates that wrap around the car?

                1. Martin-73 Silver badge

                  Re: good grief

                  1 million cars is plausible and doable in 6 digits. fewer if you use letters. ?

              9. Stork Silver badge

                Re: good grief

                Because only using numbers would give far fewer combinations for a given length, and combinations are perhaps easier to remember?

                Anyway, your knowledge on Outside UK is obviously limited. Portugal started (at least the registrations you see now) with AA0000, then went 0000AA, and then 00AA00. This year they then went to AA00AA. Denmark and Norway both use(d?) AA 00000, I think in Norway the letters denote region whereas in Denmark it hasn't since early 70es or so. Spain a few years ago changed from a regional system to what appears to be national with the format AAA 0000. So there!

            3. Emir Al Weeq

              Re: good grief

              With the AAA999A and A999AAA formats, Z was only used in Northern Irish plates.

            4. Outski Bronze badge

              Re: good grief

              I think Z and Q were reserved for military and Northern Ireland, respectively. Diplomatic plates stll have D in the middle of two sets of numbers, with one of the sets indicating the diplomatic mission to which the vehicle belongs.

              1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

                Re: good grief

                I thought that Q was for kit cars and that military plates are distinguishable as they are black with silver/white text and a completely different registration scheme?

                1. Outski Bronze badge

                  Re: good grief

                  That's for 'uniformed' vehicles, jeeps, trucks, etc in camo. They also use 'plainclothes' vehicles in some circumstances.

            5. Martin-73 Silver badge

              Re: good grief

              That brings to mind the sketch from the Two Ronnies where Mr Corbett claims to have an 'A reg'. As indeed he did. LOL

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: good grief

                "Mr Corbett claims to have an 'A reg'."

                The British system at the time had just changed format - for about the third time - to avoid running out of registration plate numbers. The prior system was AAA123 - followed by a year letter. The new system was a year letter - followed by 123AAA.

                In a pub/club they both offer a young woman a lift home. She asks for their cars' year letter - which are "A" and "X". She opts for the "A" - expecting a very new car. In the car park she is lead to an old "A" Morris Minor - while the other guy gets into a nearly new "X" Rolls Royce.

        3. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge

          Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

          When I was at Uni, one of our number had OO 7007 (Essex, early 60's) on his Mini. He split the plate in half and attached one to each side of the bonnet, so it read 007 007. I don't think he was ever stopped, as it was obvious what it meant.

      2. Flywheel Silver badge

        Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

        QWERTY keyboard

        I believe some UK machines don't have a QWERTY keyboard - it can be a real pain if you're used to typing with one

        1. brakepad

          Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

          Definitely this, but not just non-qwerty (alphabetical is arguably fine for most people), but some machines have *vertical* layouts with ~4 columns of 10 rows, with one column being for numbers.

          There is no staggering of spacing or any differentiation between numbers & characters e.g. this

          https://www.userfocus.co.uk/images/Car-park-machine-at-Buxton.jpg

          I've had a ticket issued & refunded in the UK for this 0/O reason and am well aware of which is which on my car, but mistyped as result of a wacky keypad layout.

          1. JDPower

            Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

            Wow, that is spectacularly crap design!

            1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

              Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

              Holy hell that's bad. Almost as if it were deliberately designed to be confusing and cause mistakes to trigger fines.

          2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

            And please tell me how the blind drivers are expected to type on this keyboard?

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

              Braille. Same as on the road signs.

              1. Simon Harris Silver badge

                Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

                Are Braille bumper stickers available?

                “If you can feel this, you’re driving too close”

      3. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

        https://www.autoexpress.co.uk/car-news/96260/uk-car-number-plates-explained-rules-history-and-what-they-mean

        States that O isn't used, but Wikipedia says that O is used for Oxford area. There was a change around 2001. Five minutes of digging hasn't brpught up anything definitive - perhaps you guys can do better.

        Ultimately, the whole damned point of a licence plate is that someone can report that a "red car, TF20 something something possibly a P" has just sped off after running over their dog - and understandably they won't have the best view of the plate or the best state of mind to remember it. The first part of the plate is the area code on the grounds that witnesses are more likely to read it, and knowing the area makes searching for 'red car's easier - especially in the days when different areas had different databases.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

          https://www.autoexpress.co.uk/car-news/96260/uk-car-number-plates-explained-rules-history-and-what-they-mean

          States that O isn't used, For example the letters ‘I’, ‘O’, ‘I’ and ‘Z’ are never seen on number plates

          And they have that comment immediately under a photo of a car with plate "EK16 LLO".

          They're wrong anyway, my first car had a Co. Down plate beginning FOI and had a digit 1 in the number, and the letter Z is common in NI plates as well.

      4. PM2

        Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

        I don't believe that it is completely deterministic in the UK which are letters and which are numbers if you take into account plates which have no age numbers or letters and the fact that newly made plates have to use a font which explicitly have 0 the same as O, and, 1 the same as I. For instance, how would one differentiate between newly made plate of PMI 729 and PM1729, both of which could be valid registrations.

    4. Naich

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      They certainly can contain the letter "O", and I've had two cars with it. The only letters excluded are I and Q.

      1. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge
        Trollface

        Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

        It is logical to exclude any IQ from a numbering scheme...

        1. Rob Daglish

          Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

          The guy who used to be one of the managers at Stagecoach had the personalised plate WBH 36 on his car. The drivers there reckoned he must have been the first person in the country to have his initials and his IQ on the same numberplate...

      2. katrinab Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

        Q plates do exist. They are issued when they don't know the age of the vehicle. It is pretty difficult to get insurance for them.

        1. Evil_Goblin

          Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

          Or for kit or bitsa cars.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

            IIRC also "temporary" imports.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

        I (the letter) is used in UK plates in N Ireland. When GIL numbers were issued they became very popular in the rest of the UK as personalised plates.

    5. Sykowasp

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      The UK has simple number plate formats. Any parking app should be able to correct 0/O errors because the number plate format dictates where the numbers and letters go, except some esoteric ancient and custom formats. But in the main, yes, certain letters are excluded from numberplates because of the risk of confusion.

      (TBH RingGo does a DVLA lookup of your car when you enter the numberplate, to get a confirmation from you that all is correct, which would negate the possibility of this issue entirely)

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

        Let's leave aside the fact the DVLA should not be sharing personally identifiable data in the first place. I had a huge fight with them over this. Hint... i won. Never paid the ticket from a private bunch of bastards they leaked my data to. (no i was NOT avoiding paying for parking)

    6. katrinab Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      Yes we do have O in number plates. O and 0 look exactly the same, as does I and 1. The only way to know which it is is to know the position of the character on the plate. They can be:

      LL00 LLL (the most recent form, for plates issued since Sept 2001)

      L000 LLL (from 1983 to 2001) - the number portion never has a leading 0, and can have fewer than 3 digits

      LLL 000L (from 1963 to 1983) - the number portion never has a leading 0, and can have fewer than 3 digits

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

        When it comes to custom number plates, do the DVLA still sell plates which could possibly be confuse?

        (eg OO7 and 007?)

        1. katrinab Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

          Or BO07 - for a plate issued in Birmingham between April - September 2007 ...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

            In the 1960s our GP was pleased with his new car's xxx 999

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

          > When it comes to custom number plates, do the DVLA still sell plates which could possibly be confuse?

          > (eg OO7 and 007?)

          These aren't custom number plates - they are plates issued according to the numbering system(s) in place before the 1963 change noted above.

      2. Smooth Newt Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

        It is plainly absurd to have a number plate format where there can be any ambiguity between letters and numbers. How would that work? e.g. would they send the speed camera fine to 1YO0I2 when it was IY0O12 that was photographed?

        That being the case, there really isn't any excuse for the council to issue fines to people who put an 0 instead of an O.

      3. ovation1357 Bronze badge

        Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

        What about vintage cars pre-dating 1963?

        Just corroborating my vague memory of seeing such cars with a Google image search, shows up at least:

        LL 000

        LL 0000

        LLL 000

        000 LLL

        This apparently simple parsing task suddenly become a whole load more complex because of overlapping formats which no way to guarantee for example that ABC 123 is LLL 000 and isn't LLL 000L missing a character.

        Add into the mix another commenters point about the 'cherished' plates like '007' as well as formats like my previous car of 'L0 LLL' and I think the best you could hope for based purely on the parsing of the registration they entered would be some fun passive-aggressive on-screen hints such as: "You appear to have entered a vintage registration number - are you really parking an Austin 7 or did you make a mistake?"

        As other commenters have pointed out, RingGo hooks into DVLA and gets you to confirm your vehivle make,model and colour which is far harder to get wrong.

        I certainly think that it should be mandatory for all council and private enforcement systems to perform a fuzzy match of the details entered to cope with such mistakes.

        Can any of our antipodean friends on here tell us whether an equivalent database exists in Oz?

      4. jmch Silver badge

        Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

        "O and 0 look exactly the same, as does I and 1. The only way to know which it is is to know the position of the character on the plate"

        How effing difficult is it to use a 1 with serifs and 0 with a strike through?

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

          How effing difficult is it to use a 1 with serifs and 0 with a strike through?

          Judging by what I see on this site, the latter seems impossible.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

          "[...] and 0 with a strike through?"

          In my days as a junior programmer I learned the notation standard for punched card data sheets. Buying a new jacket with a cheque in 1970 I crossed the zero out of habit. The shop assistant asked me to sign my "correction" as they thought I had written 1971 and then changed it to 1970.

      5. TRT Silver badge

        Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

        There's no 'O' in 'number plate'.

        1. Simon Harris Silver badge

          Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

          although there is in ‘registration plate’

        2. herman Silver badge

          Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

          There's no 'O' in 'number plate', but any Cheesehead knows, there is an 'O' in 'Nommer Plaat'.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

          "There's no 'O' in 'number plate'."

          It's silent - like the P in psnow.

          1. Screwed

            Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

            Thanks, or not, for reminding me of this story from nine years or so ago:

            https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/picture/2011/dec/13/helen-chadwick-piss-flowers

    7. cbars Silver badge

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      Yes we do

      https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/vehicle-registration-numbers-and-number-plates

    8. jfollows

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      My last car’s number started OE60, nothing unusual in that. The O and the 0 looked identical too.

      In the past, companies enforcing parking on private land in the UK would invoice people for payment when they entered the wrong registration, confusing O with 0. More recently, the British Parking Association has been embarrassed into updating its "code of practice" to tell its members to "let off" people who make this mistake.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

        "More recently, the British Parking Association has been embarrassed into updating its "code of practice" to tell its members to "let off" people who make this mistake"

        Specifically, "reduce the charge to £20" (according to the BPA man who was on You & Yours earlier this week). :( Really, there's no excuse (from a design perspective*) for not looking up the plate against a database ...

        * as in desigining something good, not designed to make as much money as possible

        1. ovation1357 Bronze badge

          Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

          "Really, there's no excuse (from a design perspective*) for not looking up the plate against a database":

          https://www.bucksfreepress.co.uk/news/15022494.council-forced-to-ditch-anpr-parking-system-in-favour-of-pay-and-display/

          ^^^ *THIS* happened in my local town, and it was a massive step backwards because of a totally bonkers legal problem...

          Despite a few teething issues, the new ANPR based system was brilliant. Firstly, it enabled occasional visitors the ability to pay on exit for the exact amount of time they'd been parked instead of having to try and guess how long they'll be and buy a non-refundable ticket up-front.

          But regular users like me could pre-register their vehicle and payment details and then simply drive in and out with no further action required. The system was installed at all the council-run car parks in the county so it meant I could turn up at most of the surrounding towns and villages and simply park. It appeared to be accurate and we only one had a minor problem when it registered my wifes car entering but not leaving and I don't recall that being any hassle to resolve.

          You could log on to your account and download a full parking history and VAT receipts...

          But then it turned out that whilst private parking operators can use DVLA data to invoice punters for unpaid parking; local government bodies are prohibited from doing so. This actually resulted in DVLA blocking the council's access to registered keeper records and therefore they couldn't send any fines for non-payment. People eventually figured this out and abused the system.

          Sadly now it's back to a pay and display system :-( Technically they could still do the preregistration thing but they've opted to go back to the old-school way of doing things. It's a sad fauilre. The council was lambasted for the waste of public money but I do actually feel some sympathy for them in this case.

          Hopefully this law will be changed eventually and allow them to reinstate the service: But meanwhile, they actually can't lookup the plate against the database :-(

          1. Martin-73 Silver badge

            Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

            I genuinely wonder about the nuances of this... having been harrassed by a private parking company for a horrible 2 years. Is there a law against me having an LCD on my license plates that simply blacks them out... and flipping the switch when entering ANPR range?

            Other options include parking out of range, using my keys to open the ANPR camera mast's access cover, and unplugging that shit.

      2. katrinab Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

        Any plate issued in Oxfordshire in mid-2010 would look like that. The second letter will vary depending on whereabouts in Oxfordshire it was issued.

    9. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      Exactly. It's a problem that was clearly foreseen - and averted - by the designers of the UK number plate system.

      Also worthy of respect: the husband and wife team who design the font for UK highways. Birmingham is more immediately readable than BIRMINGHAM (as it would be in Alabama).

      1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

        Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

        As a fan of typography, I agree, and my recent jaunt up to the Midlands, after a long lock-down, reminded me how good the signage is with this 'highway font'. That and the one for the Underground are constant pleasures.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

          All highway signs use the "Transport" font, designed by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert. Motorway signage uses the "Motorway" font, also designed by Kinneir and Calvert. The main difference is that Motorway is taller to be more legible at speed and at the size Motoway signs have to be.

          1. Hazmoid
            Trollface

            Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

            Shame that most road signage in Western Australia is designed by people who know where they want to go and how to get there, and therefore never look at the signs for directions :)

            1. Precordial thump
              Alert

              Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

              Most road signage in Western Australia is designed as target practice for the next hoon hanging out the passenger side window with a 12-gauge.

            2. Kobus Botes
              FAIL

              Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

              ...designed by people who know where they want to go and how to get there...

              This happened in South Africa as well. Guidance signs on freeways around cities used to tell you where the next off-ramp goes (i.e. suburb or town, et cetera). Then someone in government decided that that is too easy, so all signs were converted to the street name (or road designation) if it puts you on a road somewhere else.

              So where previously you would have seen Welgemoed Bellville Parow at exit 20 on the N1 in Cape Town (going east), you are now confronted with Mike Pienaar Blvd Jip de Jager ln M16. Even for locals, going to a suburb where you do not often venture, it is easy to miss your turn-off.

              It's beyond stupid.

    10. anonynon

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      My current plate is EO08, presumably it used to belong to James Bonds collegue. The scrapes down the side certain point to that being the case.

    11. Beeblebrox

      Poorly coded app

      App should validate input

      a) for valid characters - perhaps numeric / alphabetic only allowed in certain positions

      b) against vehicle registration database

      c) allow input which fails validation only after a warning, so your foreign registered vehicle which may be hard to validate can still buy a ticket.

    12. My-Handle Silver badge

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      I currently own a car whose plate begins AO04 (that's oh-zero in the middle there).

    13. tip pc Silver badge

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      her 19 plate car has O as the last character. its obvious to me its a letter and not a number as i know the format precludes numbers in the first 2 or last 3 places on +2001 new registrations.

    14. Ambivalous Crowboard

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      EO53 PRF checking in here

    15. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      "....but the idiots that came up with the number plate scheme" or alternatively you can blame the system that failed to validate the input, something that would reasonably be expected given the environment.

      To me it stinks of the same issue found in the UK i.e.giving control to retards who fk things up because they are inept and only got the job because their bosses were also inept but smart enough not to employ anyone who might replace them due to being competent.

    16. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      A friend of mine in the UK had a normal registration endng in OTT*.

      The UK didn't use the "O" as the year identifier (Along with a few others).

      https://www.autobulbsdirect.co.uk/blog/car-registration-years-chart/

      *I still recall it in full, One of those quirks of my memory for recalling near trivial stuff, but not always important stuff

    17. Andrew Scaife

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      Oh yes you do. Middle of mine is 0O, easy to see the difference here...

    18. Roopee
      Headmaster

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      Rubbish - my number plate has both O and 0 in it, as do many others! In fact they are adjacent and as several people have pointed out, they look identical but you can work out what they are from the post-2001 format of the plate (AA99 AAA).

    19. This post has been deleted by its author

    20. Cynical Pie

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      Wrong but due to the way our number plates were/are structured it is always possible to work out which is which.

    21. ChrisBedford

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      Ummm yeahhh, except you do. Reading DVLA office is currently (or was, as of a couple of weeks ago) issuing "RO" initial letters. A mate just bought a new Jag e-car and its registration starts with RO 70 - and incidentally, looking at the photos, there is absolutely no discernible difference between the "O" and the "0" on his number plates.

    22. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      Back when the UK used a single letter for the year, (either at the end, then at the beginning of the plate) - then you wouldn't get an "O" reg

    23. JCitizen Bronze badge
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      This harks back to something we did early in the computer days, where you were required to write a zero with a diagonal cross in it to eliminate the confusion with capital O's. We also had to put a horizontal dash across any 7s, so they wouldn't be confused as the number one (1). I kept that habit for decades afterward, and it actually came in handy when I ended up in military supply, and using coded entries so the computer could read the difference as well.

      Ah the memories of those good ol' days! First it was to help keep from confusing the keypunch operator, and later the optical computer reader - either way, it helped end the confusion - Oh and the numeral one looked like an upside down capital T! Ah yesss!

      1. onemark03

        'O' instead of '0'

        Back home in NZ, zeros on car number plates are printed "Ø", with the part of the slash in the centre of the number being omitted so that there is just the tip of the slash projecting from the top right and the bottom left. This makes it impossible to confuse the letter "O" from a "0".

        Here in Germany the letter "O" on car number plates is "wider" or "rounder" than the figure "0".

        I find the Kiwi method slightly clearer.

    24. Ivan Headache

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      That’s what I thought until this afternoon while following a car in London with the reg comprising the letter V and three Os or 0s and three Is or 1s.

      I commented to the lovely Ivana that I thought that it was odd as I understood that those where never used because they led to confusion

      For the rest of the journey she kept pointing Out cars and vans with the offending characters In their plates.

    25. Archivist

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      Incorrect. My plate was issued in Milton Keynes and begins KO19...

    26. G7mzh

      Re: And this ladies and gentlemen...

      You do. With the new system, it is not uncommon to have the two adjacent. For example, GO 08 (Golf Oscar zero eight) ABC is a valid number, and since the O and 0 are the same, it's easy to read it as Golf zero zero 8 (which is the format of the old system, although an impossible number).

      I have never heard of someone being penalised for confusing the two though.

  2. Dwarf Silver badge

    Strewth

    Given that both are valid (Which is stupid in the first place), then how hard can it be to test for both combinations before issuing a fine.

    The other option is to make the symbols look more difficult, a diagonal line through a zero is how the rest of the world fixed the same problem

    Are there any other conflicting symbols - such as 1, I, L, etc.

    1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Strewth

      Two things follow from the registration number formatting rules.

      1. Entering O instead of 0 cause an easily detectable invalid number. This could be immediately reported by either the app or the front-end system and the sale refused.

      2. It's also therefore trivial to self-correct the data entry.

      Since neither of these were done, the parking authority took money for an invalid sale. This is fraud.

      The lawyers for the drivers did an extremely bad job in only getting a refund. They should have got a prosecution for fraud for the mis-sale of parking permission, and embezzlement for proceding to a fine.

      1. coconuthead

        Re: Strewth

        The "rules" you are assuming apply only to recent (< 7 years) Victorian numbers. Older Victorian numbers, and numbers from other states, use different rules.

        In Australia, each state issues number plates according to its own scheme and the number normally stays valid for the life of the car. That means the Victorian plate IOT 123 from the 1970s could still be driving around.

        (The states do agree to issue distinct numbers from each other.)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Strewth

      But if you put a diagonal line through the zero, how will you tell it apart from the Scandinavian letter Ø???

      The solution is normalisation. In the same way dictionaries don't contain both "hello" and "Hello" and "HELLO", the software should normalise both 0 and O to the same value.

      But that would require 1. work (= expense) and 2. losing out on ill-gotten gains. So none of these companies are going to do that unless forced to by court or by law.

      1. Norman Nescio

        Re: Strewth

        Do what IBM did. Put a dot in the middle of the zero(0).

  3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Where did the money go

    If I paid to park OO7 and got fined for parking 007 what happened to the money paid for a car that was never in the car park?

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Where did the money go

      Yes, it's funny isn't it that these errors only ever work in the authority's favour.

      "So sorry - you paid a fee for a vehicle that never actually used the facility, so here's your refund"... yeah, right, never going to happen.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Where did the money go

        Yes. I made a mistake typing my car reg no. at the Dartford crossing.(Used some letters from a car I had a few months previously)

        Got the letter, phoned and they said the penalty stood, but I could just pay the fee. It's only about £3.

        However they don't credit my card with the £3 that went against a non-existant vehicle number, though I had the email confirmation it had been paid.

        Two issues, then.

        1) I had a confirmation that a fee had been paid at the correct time for a reg number that was mostly correct for mine, but they can't just reconcile the fee paid to the reg number that did cross at that time when requested to. A pretty trivial bit of work.

        2) They did not refund a fee paid for a crossing that was not made (by the reg number).

    2. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: Where did the money go

      MAC addresses! No Os in there, only zeros! I hate serial numbers with the dreaded "O"

      1. jh27

        Re: Where did the money go

        No Os in MAC addresses... but there are Bs and 8s

        1. chivo243 Silver badge

          Re: Where did the money go

          yes, yes there are 8een there!

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Where did the money go

        Mac serial numbers. That are etched in grey microdot into a grey casing in a location that's only readable with your head upside down.

    3. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: Where did the money go

      Pierce Brosnan wouldn't have had a problem, cos the 'meter maid' wouldn't have been able to even see his Aston Martin!

    4. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge
      Joke

      Re: Where did the money go

      it will go against a bar tab for Martinis (shaken, not stirred)

  4. Giles C Bronze badge

    The number plate fonts worldwide are mostly badly designed. The best one I have seen is the Dutch system where it is hard to get wrong.

    The uk font, well from a distance O and 0, and I and 1 are the same due to the 1 not having serifs far too many people stick a pair of 1s close together and add a suitable fixing hole with a black cap, the same as a 8 with a white cap in the centre.

    But then it comes down to the issuers being sensible and blocks say I and O from the letters to make it easier to read.

    1. StephenD

      The UK font has them identical when close up, not just at a distance.

    2. cbars Silver badge

      https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/vehicle-registration-numbers-and-number-plates

      i ("eye") is not used.

      I suppose you could sort that with a QR code in addition to human readable, so copper's ANPR doesn't get confused either, no matter how creative the screw placement

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Despite the .gov.uk source it's GB-only. NI uses I. I once had EOI as the letters.

    3. ovation1357 Bronze badge

      In the UK it surely doesn't help at all that many people say 'Oh' for both the lettter 'O' and the number '0' - My wife's car starts RO09 which many would say as 'ar, oh, oh, nine'.

      Apply that same thing to the minds of those individuals who may not be very technical, nor very good at remembering their own registration plate - they'll verbalise it in their head and quite possibly use Os instead of 0s or vice-versa.

      I strongly believe that people should never be punished for making a mistake because of a badly designed interface.

      1. Dwarf Silver badge

        However there is a standard on what characters are valid for each character position within the registration, so easy to break down and correct mistakes automatically

        Alpha, Alpha, Number, Number, Whitespace, Alpha, Alpha, Alpha

        Full specification can be found on the DVLA's website lists the valid character set for each position too.

        1. PhoenixKebab

          It's not only 1/I and 0/O, on a dim night 5/S look alike.

          SSS555S and SS55SSS are both registered with the DVLA and I've seen one of them on the road.

          Thankfully they are different coloured BMWs, so there's at least one distinguishing feature if the need should arise.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Both registered to Lord Voldemort.

            1. Cynical Pie
              Joke

              And neither with indicators

        2. ovation1357 Bronze badge

          Thanks for the link but this only covers the current standard. There are very numbers of vehicles on the road which have plates based on several previous standards as well as personalised 'cherished' plates which have all sorts of weird formatting.

          If you search the comments for 'LLL' you'll find a separate thread which covers several of these.

          Given that we're IT geeks here I should probably try to prove my point by writing a pseudo-code number plate parser which tries to validate all the possible variations. I think we'd conclude at the least that the task is complex and quite hard, but also that there's many scenarios where we just don't know for sure.

          1. Emir Al Weeq

            > the task is complex and quite hard,

            Complex, yes. Hard, no: once you know the rules, it's a few lines of awk. There are no overlaps.

          2. hoola Bronze badge

            And not forgetting the fashion in number plates that have varying degrees of shade so that they look almost black (I assume ANPR defeat).

            Various adjustments to the fonts with fake 3D effects

            Spacing and screws eto try and make personalised plates out of shite

            The "display plates" that are completely illegible.

            I believe all of the above are illegal but people will rarely be pulled for it because the police simply don't have the resources.

      2. keith_w Bronze badge

        I don't think that double-zero seven has quite the same effect as double-oh seven.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Or even double-nought! Like one of them there double nought spies, Uncle Jed!

  5. rnturn

    Old school solution

    Smooth move creating license plates' using a typeface doesn't have an easily recognized difference between the two characters.

    If I'm handing off handwritten information to someone, I'll slash my zeroes if there's any chance of the reader having to distinguish between an "O" and a zero. (Also, sevens to avoid anyone thinking I was trying to write a "1". If you've seen my handwriting...)

    In a former life, one of our Oracle data warehouses used multiple mount points for tablespaces: /u01a, /u01b, etc. Once the database began growing by leaps and bounds, the DBAs and I made the decision that we would //not// use "l" or "o" as suffixes for mount points. We just //knew// that using either of those would create headaches at some point.

    1. rtharrison

      Re: Old school solution

      I cross my z's (zed) too. That comes from my A level pure mathematics days. Stops confusion when you are writing equations fast and a 'z' could look like a '2'.

  6. Pangasinan Philippines

    Any letter is OK

    Here in the Philippines.

    I O and Q are all valid. Number 0 has a small gap in it.

    New cars here are using dealer plates for years after purchase because the Govt contract with a dutch firm was cancelled due to (suspected) corruption. Govt set up a plate manufacturing factory, but is taking long time to catch up.

    No NPR here so it don't really matter.

    1. WolfFan Silver badge

      Re: Any letter is OK

      In some states the licensing authorities have updated the fonts and character settings. O is blockier than 0, Q has a prominent tail, B is flatter on the left than 8, 2 has a noticeable tip on the upper left, Z is just three straight lines, I has serifs at top and bottom, 1 has a serif at an angle at the top and is distinct from I, L has a prominent bar at the bottom. Why? There are a lot of traffic cameras, and they had problems reading old style plates. One red light camera in West Palm Beach had 97%, that’s ninety seven percent, of tickets dropped because it couldn’t read the plates....

  7. You aint sin me, roit Silver badge
    Holmes

    Drivers innocently mistyped...

    Innocently? Mistyped? Typing O instead of 0, and vice versa?

    Hmmm... I know my reg and I can operate a keyboard (even a touchscreen). So why did so many drivers get it wrong?

    It's almost like they did it on purpose...

    1. Smooth Newt Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Drivers innocently mistyped...

      Hmmm... I know my reg and I can operate a keyboard (even a touchscreen).

      You probably aren't late for that appointment, or have poor eyesight, dyslexia or couple of screaming kids distracting you either.

    2. KBeee Bronze badge

      Re: Drivers innocently mistyped...

      You're missing the point. They didn't mistype to avoid paying, they mistyped WHILE paying. So they paid the parking fee, but also got a fine for not paying for THAT car reg.

  8. Flicker

    The 0 / O confusion is less hellish than the 1 (numeric) / I (Upper-case letter i) / l (Lower-case letter L) mess which bedevils most fonts. Trying to figure this out for system-assigned User IDs and Booking References etc. is a constant nightmare when you can't copy/paste.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Bitcoin base-58

      Generally you won't find me saying much nice about Bitcoin, but their decision to use base-58 encoding was brilliant. No digit 0 or upper case O, no digit 1 or lower case l.

  9. steamnut

    Unbelievable

    What an amazing amount of typing has been generated by a simple topic as car number plates. And it is not even a Friday....

  10. MatthewSt Bronze badge

    Easily done...

    https://www.theregister.com/2017/11/17/ees_5g_test_analysis/

    https://www.theregister.com/2015/09/29/liberty_puts_kibosh_on_vodafone_deal/

    https://www.theregister.com/2013/03/01/bskyb_to_buy_o2_be_home_fixed_line_broadband_service/

    3 articles where El Reg got a 0 and an o mixed up when talking about mobile operators...!

  11. ovation1357 Bronze badge

    I'm a big fan of monospaced console-style fonts where the zero either has a slash or a dot in the middle. The O vs 0 (and other suspects) problem has bitten me plenty of times before.

    Perhaps the most annoying/bizarre one was around 10 years ago when I sailed to France. This was pre-4G and also back when data roaming was extortionate. I'd tried to pre-order a French SIM card for 3G mobile data but it wasn't possible to sent it internationally, so with the help of a colleague in Paris I bought it and had it shipped to the UK.

    Upon arrival in France I set about trying to activate it. There was a long code that had to be sent to me by SMS for me to enter into the registration system. The code duly arrived. I forget which way around this was but it was either mainly alphabetic with some zeroes thrown in or mainly numeric with letter 'O's but on the tiny screen of my pre-smartphone Nokia with a tiny sans-serif, variable width font I failed to discern the difference. I tried three times and then my account was locked.

    It was a Wednesday in the middle of July and I learnt that it's only us Brits that conveniently glue our public holidays to the weekends: When I called Orange FR I also discovered that it was Bastille day and the correct department was closed. I can't speak French (well, very little) so I was mega-lucky to get transferred to a person who could speak English and somehow the guy successfully unlocked the account and pointed out the mistake I'd made.

    I still remember just how stupid I thought it was back then to be sending out codes which include characters that can be easily misread.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Deffo not the UK where Smart Parking make a large part of their profit by misdirecting customers into getting fines.

    Hiding clocks so you're nevre sure exactly when you entered the car park.

    Non querty keyboard that are small and badly coloured (yellow on silver) so it's very easy to mistype your reg.

    Just a shower of shites really.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Ohhh The Pain The Pain!

      Non QUERTY keyboard?

      1. Steve Jackson

        Re: Ohhh The Pain The Pain!

        QUUERTY that’s what he said

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      That being said, long preceding this, the area round St. Mary's hospital Paddington had parking meters along the front of the hospital that, from one short section to the next, had different parking charge schemes, with different combinations of change required. So the chance of having the right money for your visit, and getting on a meter that took your change, and being able to get the appropriate time period were slim to none.

      There was a team of wardens that quite literally went round in circles, continuously. ticketing people who had given up and parked where they could. This being a hospital most people weren't regular visitors who'd know the drill or could just take their time and wait for the right meter. ( Don't give birth yet, I'll be right in when I've found a meter that takes 10ps )

  13. Maelstorm Bronze badge

    The idiot who came up with such a plate scheme is the one who should be fined. Here in the US, we don't really have O or 0, it's O period. That way there is no confusion.

    1. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge

      Sorry, wrong! My father's Kentucky registration is J35 120

    2. Lon24

      Binary?

      As title no confusion. OK you would need wider cars but you could go hex without confusion. White cars could start "ffffff"

    3. jtaylor

      California happily uses zero. A few years ago, my neighbor's license plate ended in 699 and mine in 700. We figured out that we registered our cars at the same office on the same day.

      1. Maelstorm Bronze badge

        What I probably should have said is that it's a single character regardless of how it's used.

  14. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C

    Was it really drivers mistyping?

    From the article: "PayStay allows parking inspectors to check that payments have been made for a parked car." and "the typography used on car number plates issued in Victoria makes it all-but-impossible to distinguish a capital O and a zero"

    Perhaps it was the inspectors who "innocently"* mistyped the number plates. I'd guess that the probability that an inspector knows how to use a keyboard but not how to interpret an ambiguous plate is greater than a driver not remembering a number plate or having difficulty with a keyboard.

    * A statistical analysis of fines for non 0&1 number plates vs plates containing 0&1 might point to less-than-innocent checking of payments, but let's let Occam decide.

  15. DS999

    Unrelated

    But in the US state of Missouri, the governor's office can issue special plates consisting of only numbers (up to 4)

    Supposedly it is done as a status symbol, though the real reason is it serves as a way of letting the cops know you are an Important Person and shouldn't be bothered with petty stuff like driving 20 mph over the speed limit or parking in a no parking zone. Especially the two digit plates, apparently you can get away with almost anything driving around in one of those.

    There may be something similar in other states, I don't know, I just recall this because I had a resident explain this to me when we saw a big SUV parked right next to a fire hydrant in front of a bar. It had a two digit plate, and she knew that it was Augie Busch's car (heir to the Anheuser Busch fortune) since everyone in town knew it was his by the two digits.

  16. Kevin Fairhurst

    People joke about using paper tickets

    However they now have it where you have to enter your registration plate for those, too!

    It used to be the case that you’d not know how long you were going to be, so you’d pay for 3 hours parking. When returning to the car with an hour still on the ticket, you’d give that to someone who was just arriving in the car park, good deed for the day and all that (and sometimes you’d be the recipient of the ticket).

    However this community spiritedness meant that parking spaces were only being paid for once within a given period, even if multiple vehicles had used that space.

    So pay & display machines changed to include the registration on the ticket so that you couldn’t pass it on if there was still time left on it :(

    1. YetAnotherLocksmith

      Re: People joke about using paper tickets

      Currently they'd probably beg for people to do that, to boost the footfall!

  17. david 12

    Council Policy

    This was the same council that took me to court for parking legally in front of my house.

    I didn't blame the parking inspector -- it was not a clear situation, and it's not the parking inspectors job to decide who to let off.

    But when I wound up in court, I found that not only had they not read my protest, they hadn't even briefed the barrister. I had to explain to the magistrate, and to their barrister, where I had been parked.

  18. Dog11

    Letters, because that gives you a larger character set, and more permutations. In the US, plates are provided by 55 (or so) subdivisions (states, territories, DC) and they all have different rules. Where I was a kid, 2 letters identified the county and 4 digits. Where I am now, the pattern was "ZZZ 999" until they used that up, and switched to "001 AAA". That's enough permutations to last over 7 years, the maximum lifetime of a plate. Except for custom plates, the numbers and letters are always segregated.

  19. nh525

    Simple Software Fix

    Just program the software so that the letter O and the digit 0 match, similarly the letter I and the digit 1 could be accepted as a match.

    What could be simpler?

    1. coconuthead

      Re: Simple Software Fix

      Doesn't work, because both combinations (e.g. both 1 and i) are in use, albeit in different states, and the vehicle could be from interstate.

      Example:

      - NSW plates have form AA11AA

      - new VIC plates have form 1AA1AA

      1AI1AA is a valid VIC number (appears on the car as 1AI·1AA) and IA11AA a valid NSW number (appears on the car as IA·11·AA).

      When viewed as an ASCII string without the middle dots, a standard issue plate is unique in Australia, e.g. for electronic tolling.

      1. tin 2

        Re: Simple Software Fix

        Does work in the car park situation though, because if the random combination of 1AI1AA IA11AA both come and park in the same car park at the same time, and one of them accidentally enters their registration number wrongly, then how about just letting them off the $2 or whatever it is for the sake of everyone's sanity?

      2. onemark03

        Aussie number plates

        Here in Germany number plates denote the county (not the state) the vehicle is registered in with one, two or three letters of the alphabet. (The larger the population, the fewer letters.) Then two or three letters followed by three or four numbers.

        It is something of a minor national sport on longer car journeys to guess where vehicles with different plates are from, especially when the name of the county is not the same as the name of the the county seat, e.g. "HD" for Heidelberg denotes the Rhine-Neckar County.

        Similarly, it is not always easy to guess where many vehicles registered in eastern Germany come from as those counties are not necessarily well-known here in the west, e.g. "AE" for the Vogtland County in Saxony.

        And then there were the number plates from former East Germany (no longer valid). The name of the former "Bezirk" or District was not discernible from the numbers/letters on the number plate. See: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_der_Kfz-Kennzeichen_der_DDR_(1953%E2%80%931990) . (German only.)

        1. coconuthead

          Re: Aussie number plates

          The numbers are a fixed length within a state in Australia, because the plates are embossed in special machines. This is also probably why Victoria didn't do the obvious and add a V in front of the AAA·111 to ZZZ·999 series when that ran out, as South Australia did with an S, They didn't want to buy new machines that could press more than 6 characters!

          Supposedly the embossing is so the plate is still legible when the paint fades, but many or all of the plates AAA·000 to FFF·999, issued from 1978 to 1994, were physically replaced anyway when it turned out the paint used faded quickly. I think they may have taken that opportunity to remove duplicates with NSW, since that had been a range formerly used by NSW.

          You can still buy available numbers in the old sequence for a fee of around $500. I sat behind the amusing "HAG·000" at a traffic light this afternoon.

          The police have in-car number plate recognition and a database that tells them instantly what address a car is registered to – and they are using it at the moment to pick up people who have travelled where they are not allowed under the COVID-19 restrictions. So technology means there isn't much reason any more for needing that information encoded in the actual number (and it would cause practical problems anyway, as most Australians live in a few large cities but move house from suburb to suburb).

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Simple Software Fix

      This is just a simpler version to typing a passcode on a phone. You type the key that has the character on it, It is one of four [ 2 abc] for example. But it doesn't matter . And with a car reg it's only 1 of two each time.

  20. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Thankfully, the investigation did not find that those attitudes were motivated by a desire to increase revenue-raising through parking fines.

    So what was the motivation for those attitudes?

    Now the council has not changed its rules to allow parking inspectors discretion to not issue fines based on Zero/O confusion, but has made it a valid reason for an appeal against a fine.

    So as long as people don't complain, money is flowing even if the council management knows that the mistakes are innocent. And increase revenue-raising is not the reason of that decision, of course!

    1. david 136

      Restrictive rules are an anti-corruption approach

      One reason for the rules is to eliminate the possibility of corruption by parking officials. If given the discretion to waive fines, then that discretion is likely to be abused. "Fixing" parking tickets has a long history of being a mode of petty corruption.

      Adopting a more flexible approach requires auditing of waived tickets.

  21. AdrianMontagu

    Characters

    Why don't we use "Ø"for zero.

    I always use "7" with a bar through it when writing a seven.I prevents a mix up with a german styled 1

    1. onemark03

      Write a "7" with a bar through it when writing a seven

      Similarly, we should arguably also cross our "Z's". That way, there would be even less of a risk in confusing it with the number "2".

      Those Germans know what they're doing.

      However, I confess I still write the figure "1" without an upward stroke - just the up-and-down slash.

  22. Torben Mogensen

    ABC80

    In the 1980s there was a Swedish-made home computer called ABC80. On this computer, the pixel patterns for O and 0 were EXACTLY the same. Since O and 0 are close on a keyboard, this could give hard-to-find errors when programming in BASIC. Is this a variable called "O" or the number 0? It didn't help that the designers had the bright idea that distinguishing integer constants from floating point constants, you added a "%" at the end of integer constants (similar to how integer variables were suffixed in most BASICs at the time). So O% and 0% were both valid. Variable names could only be a single letter or a single letter followed by a single digit (and suffixed with % or $ to indicate integer or string variables). All in all, this was not hugely user friendly. The follow-up ABC800 added a dot in the centre of zero, but the BASIC was otherwise the same.

    I was the happy owner of a BBC Micro, but I was briefly hired by a company to port some school software to ABC80. The way it operated on strings used huge amounts of memory, so I had to add a small machine-code routine to make in-place updates (insert char, delete char, replace char) in strings to keep it from running out of memory.

  23. David Nash

    The point of fining people is to ensure that people pay for their parking.

    If it can be shown that you paid the correct amount for parking for the duration in that location, then there is no justification for a fine for a minor, trivial, or inconsequential mistake in the process.

    Yet these companies and their rules seem to make it their mission to make it hard for drivers and refuse appeals for no obvious reason.

    They need to be held to some kind of standards when awarding them the contracts.

    Ruling that a paper ticket is non-transferrable to a different vehicle is another one that's unjustifiable in my view, but that's a different story.

    1. tin 2

      100% this IMHO. Lots of talk about stupid people, mistakes, typefaces, standards etc but frankly the fine is about whether you paid and not about whether you can remember your reg, not mistake 0 and O, and/or operate the bloody machine.

  24. Ochib

    Relevant XKCD

    https://xkcd.com/1105/

  25. harmjschoonhoven

    Do not mention the war

    AFAIK, numberplates commencing with SS, WH, WL, WM and WP are not used in the Netherlands. These were used during WWII by German SS and Wehrmacht of which memories are still fresh.

  26. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Kill the humans

    Why won't they give discretion to the parking inspectors? If they catch the substitution, it's far cheaper than issuing a citation that may be challenged further up the line. The further it goes, the more cost is added.

    When I had a manufacturing company, we had inspection steps all along the processes to catch mistakes and bad components. If we only did one final QC test at the end of the line, we might have missed things that should have been rejected straight away. I see the citation issue as being very analogous. Unless, of course, the idea is to assess lots of fines where many people won't take the time to fight them.

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