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Motorists urged to take care over private parking charges

Motorists are once again being urged to take care about private parking charges. In many cases, drivers don’t actually have to pay the fines, with one law expert, Michael Green, suggesting that private companies should refund all the money they’ve taken. Mr Green has such confidence in his claim that he’s currently seeking to take the matter before the High Court.

Over the past few years, an increasing number of private land owners have been utilising a parking penalty system to ensure drivers, regardless of whether they have a personalised number plate, don’t outstay their welcome. In many cases, automatic number plate readers are utilised. It means that if someone in a supermarket, for example, overstays by only a minute, they’re slapped with a fine often costing £60 or more. Mr Green’s campaign began when he was charged £120 for a small parking error when he left his car in a Travelodge car park. The expert also revealed that many firms operate on private land around value-focussed shops, such as Asda or Aldi. It results in some of the country’s most vulnerable people being targeted.

“When you park in a car park you are entering into a contract with the company which provides that parking space,” Mr Green said, adding, “If you breach a contract then under contract law that company is only allowed to make a claim for the amount they have actually lost. But because these spaces are free to park in, I would argue the amount is actually nothing. The current model is a one-size-fits-all regime, and exists simply because it maximises profit for the firms; most people overstay in the region of a few minutes, and the current charging structure allows the firms to make up to £100 for every minor transgression of the parking rules”.

After the fine’s been made, people often receive demanding letters through the post until they pay. If the initial letter from car park operators isn’t dealt with, debt collectors and other agencies will often begin to hassle drivers and it can result in people being taken to court. However, it’s been revealed that almost half of those applying to an independent adjudicator actually have their charge cancelled.

Of course, the best way to avoid fines in the first place is for drivers to ensure they’re aware of new parking measures and regimes. But, for motorists who are penalised, seeking independent advice is a good idea before making a payment.

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