Thought I'd provide an update on this situation (sorry if it's a bit of a long ramble).
After following up my initial email with a written representation, in which I reiterated my suggestion that Transport for London had made an error in misidentifying my vehicle, requested physical evidence of my car being in the area of Croydon and that in order for their allegation to be accurate, my vehicle would have to have been stolen and returned, refuelled and undamaged to exactly where we left it in the secure car park, I received a rather irritating and ignorant reply letter.
They said in a very brief note that I had 'stated that I believe my vehicle may have been taken without my consent' and requested documentary evidence of this, including front, side and rear photos of the vehicle and a crime reference number, while suggesting I report the matter to the police immediately. They also stated that without that documentation, the PCN would stand and failed to either acknowledge or fulfil my request for evidence of the contravention.
Absolutely furious with this and feeling that they were effectively asking me to waste police time by reporting a crime there was absolutely no evidence had ever taken place, I approached my local constabulary for advice. The helpful female officer reviewed the correspondence and agreed with me that there were no grounds to suggest the car ever moved from the car park and that a crime reference number couldn't be issued. She said the likelihood was that my plates had been cloned and suggested phoning TfL rather than pursue their required route of writing.
I did so and the operator on the phone, who was initially quite adamant that my car must've been stolen as they had evidence of it being in Croydon, reiterated that I needed to report it to the police or there was nothing they could do. I re-stated that there was no evidence as far as I was concerned because they hadn't provided me with it. She then informed me that the photos can be viewed online. Note this is not mentioned anywhere on any of the documentation received from Transport for London, not the PCN and not in the reply to my representation. Unable to access a computer at that time, I asked her to view the pictures and describe the vehicle in them.
To my 'surprise' she described a vehicle that was not the same make, model or colour as mine. When I pointed this out, she stated that my plates must've been cloned and I would need to go to the police anyway. She then read the number plate in the photos - it did not match my number plate or the one on the PCN. That's right - the number plate they put on the PCN was mine, but the one they photographed in Croydon was not.
The PCN has obviously now been cancelled, but I think it's worth highlighting publicly the staggering level of incompetance required for this error to occur. They managed to get my personal details (presumably from the DVLA) by using the number plate they mistyped, but never thought to cross reference the vehicle's make, model or colour. They also never provided any images or even a basic description of the vehicle they photographed at any stage, despite an explicit request from me for this evidence. Not only that, but they have not even managed to spot this glaring error upon receipt of my representation suggesting they had made a mistake, or through their subsequent 'investigation' into it.
I am preparing a thorough (and long) complaint letter to send to them pointing out my concerns over the failings of their basic systems, procedures, public relations and communications strategies. I am also highlighting their apparent 'guilty until proven innocent' system and refusal to provide evidence upon request, while demanding that I spend my time and resources gathering evidence to prove my innocence. I have in addition raised the issue of them suggesting that police forces waste their time investigating frivolous and unsubstantiated car thefts based on their say-so along with an extensive list of basic and common sense procedures they should have implemented which would avoid this kind of mistake happening. It is breath-taking that an organisation like this can send out demands for money (accompanied with threats of county court orders and bailiffs for failure to pay) on a fraudulent basis due to sheer incompetence on their part.
I will be writing to my local MP and am considering approaching the media to make public the way in which they operate. I hope anyone who reads this is aware that if you are in any doubt as to the legitimacy of a PCN against your vehicle that you MUST challenge it and demand photographic evidence. Do not submit to their scaremongering.
I am hugely concerned that there simply must be many, many instances of this kind of thing and that they will be receiving money from innocent people who are either frightened to challenge them or unable to prove their innocence (something that you shouldn't have to do in this day and age).
Once again, I hope my plight raises awareness amongst people and helps reduce the chances of others suffering the sleepless nights that I have over their handling of this matter.