Earlier in the year, my wife and I drove into a car park, paid for two hours of parking, displayed the ticket in the windscreen, left within one hour – and still a charge came through the post for £60 for non-payment after the car was spotted on an ANPR camera.
I appealed once, luckily I had paid by debit card and had a payment reference for the parking which I sent across. That was rejected. It apparently was not enough proof – did I still have the ticket?
The answer was: ‘No. I’m not in the habit of keeping every single parking ticket I pay for.’ I appealed again and asked for the private parking firm to track the payment. Surely it could find it if it wanted to?
Nope. Rejected again – and I could either pay, face it escalating to £100 after 14 days, or use independent appeals process POPLA.
Parking pain: We recently had a charge in the post from a private company, despite paying and adhering to the terms of the car park
I did just that within minutes of receiving the second rejection out of pure bewilderment. A horrible feeling of being found guilty, despite knowing we were innocent.
A couple of weeks passed and then I had an email from POPLA. The private firm in question had magically decided to cancel the charge.
But how many people would have been panicked into paying such an unjust charge or simple wouldn’t bother to fight it, despite being in the right?
It’s an incredibly frustrating part of modern British life – the plague of private parking firms.
We were in a town we’d never visited before, so picked the easiest central car park we could find and went through the rigmarole of entering the car registration plate and paying more than I usually would to park.
Had I entered the reg plate incorrectly? Well I know it in the same way I know my phone number and PIN, and usually double check – but the private firm didn’t say I had, nor did it seem to check.
In fact, it didn’t explain how this unjust charge had come to fruition, whatsoever.
I mean, what’s the point of issuing me a ticket to put in the windscreen of the car if an ANPR camera is being used?
It is now the third time we’ve had a penalty charge come through the post in the last four years, addressed to my wife as she is the registered keeper of the vehicle – the DVLA selling her details for £2.50 a pop.
I won’t tell you who was driving as it is a crucial part of the appeal, not revealing who was at the wheel.
All three have been cancelled after appealing, the first went through POPLA – I argued that the charge had been sent in the post way past the deadline that is set out in guidelines; the second one in a supermarket car park was cancelled almost immediately; and now this one that after a battle also got canned.
They have all been different companies.
What would have happened if I had paid by cash, which I do fairly often? I would have no way of proving the payment unless I had kept the ticket.
I’m now in the daft scenario in which I keep an envelope in my car and put parking tickets I’ve paid for as I’ve gone along. I don’t trust these private firms.
A few years ago, This is Money started a campaign to try and stamp this behaviour out. It’s fair to charge for parking, it’s fair to lay out terms and conditions, but these charges are being sent out – in my opinion – in a scattergun fashion and often without merit.
Where is the common sense approach?
There were meant to be changes afoot and we were happy that the campaign may have helped in a small way to help improve the situation for drivers.
However, that plan looks to be in jeopardy with ministers recently temporarily withdrawing the Private Parking Code of Practice.
If you do end up with a parking charge in the post, appeal it. Never tell the company who was driving, put your case together as well as you can, and if it is rejected, persevere.
Parking companies’ tactics seem to be to turn down your first appeal, however reasonable or right you are. So don’t falter at the first hurdle.
This most recent parking charge episode has incensed me so much. Why have we allowed a simple thing like using a car park become so complicated?
So far it has been Lee 3 – 0 Parking Firms. I really hope I don’t have to score a fourth any time soon.
Parking apps can be a pain too…
While we’re on the subject of car parks, I was in one recently, in a seaside village in East Anglia, which had made us use one of those often frustrating car park payment apps. No choice to use a machine to pay by card or cash.
The mobile signal was patchy, and two separate older people asked me where to pay for parking. I felt bad when I said it could only be done by phone. They drove out of the car park.
These car parking apps are not built the same either. For example, the one I use in my local town doesn’t require me to have an account, or tick a load of boxes opting out of sharing my details with third parties and is easy to use.
In this particular car park with a different company, I had to create an account with a password, tick a load of boxes before I could go through to pay the measly £2.
I entered my debit card details, and then it required a two-factor request from my bank. Finally, after all of that, it went through. It’s tedious compared to sticking a £2 coin in a machine or tapping a debit card.
Did those two cars that didn’t park in there drive away without spending their cash in that village? Possibly.
Modern life and technology can be great, but it shouldn’t be to the detriment of those who are not as tech savvy, might not own a smartphone and want a simple way to pay to park.