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Private parking firm complaints rise by 41%

Figures from 2014 have shown there’s been a 41 per cent rise in the number of complaints against private parking firms. Reports of the behaviour of companies came to light last year as many more private car parks, such as service stations and supermarkets, had automatic number plate readers installed so that drivers’ movements could be tracked. With many firms automatically charging upwards of £60 for overstays, it’s unsurprising that both those with private number plates and traditional registrations have become frustrated.

New results from the Citizens Advice Bureau have shown that the number of people using the charity’s website for advice has soared to 155,000. In many cases, people want to know whether the fines are legal and if not, how they can get out of them. Whilst the penalties aren’t a criminal charge, such as a speeding fine, for example, companies will chase fine recipients until they’ve paid. Once someone has overstayed their welcome, companies pay the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) a small administration fee to get people’s personal details. Letters are then sent out, and money demanded.

Under civil law, staying too long on private land should result in a fine that’s proportional to the amount of business lost by the land owner. For example, if someone overstays by a few minutes in a car park that costs £1 per hour to park, it could be argued that £1 was lost because another customer wasn’t able to park. However, many fees are nearer the £100 mark. For those who receive fines, there are several steps to take. Firstly, any ticket received from a member of the Independent Parking Commission (IPC) or British Parking Association (BPA) should be replied to immediately with reasons as to why a fine shouldn’t be paid. If paying within a fortnight, then a reduction of at least 40 per cent should be offered. Meanwhile, if the penalty is over £100, drivers should check that the BPA and IPC have been informed in advance. Evidence is vital when applying for a fine to be overruled. Therefore, information such as photos, parking permits and tickets need to be provided.

Meanwhile, Gillian Guy, the chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The public is paying for parking firms’ errors. Broken ticket machines, hidden signs, contact numbers that just ring out, and charges that fail to take into account emergency situations are leading to unfair charges. The sharp rise in parking problems reveals an industry that is letting drivers down. Parking charges should be a deterrent but should also reflect the actual loss rather than just the whim of the firm. We’re concerned firms are chasing drivers for fees entirely disproportionate to the length of time that a car overstays.”

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