Drivers blast the 'aggressive' and 'threatening' tactics of private parking firms
PUBLISHED: 14:02 24 November 2018 | UPDATED: 10:11 27 November 2018
© Archant Norfolk 2014
Drivers across Norfolk, a charity manager, and the elderly spoke to JESSICA FRANK-KEYES about the frustration of dealing with private parking charges and the impact of the 'disgraceful' tactics on the vulnerable.
Furious drivers across the region have blasted private parking firms for their use of “disgraceful”, “aggressive” and “threatening” tactics.
After taxi firm bosses slammed parking companies as “modern-day pirates” for chasing car park users for payment via automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras, Norfolk pensioners and a charity worker have highlighted the impact on the vulnerable.
It comes as the government backs legislation to regulate the private parking industry, cap charges at £100, and bring in a compulsory grace period.
Ian Duckmanton, manager at a volunteering charity, received a private parking charge after his ticket in Norwich overran while he was helping a distressed adult with a learning difficulty.
He says Highview Parking have ignored his appeal, and letters show the fine has increased from £42 to almost £150. He described the company’s tactics as “aggressive and threatening”.
Highview Parking have been approached for comment.
Mr Duckmanton, who works for Volunteering Matters, parked at Riverside Retail car park in the evening of July 24.
The 50-year-old OBE from Cromer planned to meet a group of international volunteers to discuss safeguarding issues.
He said: “I intended to park for no more than an hour or so and the car park allows two and a half hours free parking.”
But after dealing with a serious safeguarding issue, on his way back to his car he met one of the charity’s volunteers who has a learning difficulty.
“He had injured himself and was scared and anxious,” he said.
“I attended to his first aid needs and spent time with him.”
Mr Duckmanton overran his free car park use by 32 minutes and subsequently received a fine of £42 from Highview Parking.
And the charity worker said despite appealing within the time frame given, the company have “ignored his genuinely compassionate reason”.
He said: “I’ve tried to call them and it goes straight to payment.
“The language used in letters is aggressive and threatening.
“They say ‘don’t talk to us, talk to our debt collectors’. I’m a level-headed, sensible professional and it bothers me. If somebody who’s ill received it they’re going to pay.”
This was the situation Elizabeth Tuddenham found herself in after receiving a parking fine.
The 61-year-old Fakenham housewife received a fine from National Parking Enforcement (NPE) after using Millers’ Walk car park on September 24.
She said: “I just popped to the bank with my 81-year-old mum.
“One of the ticket machines was broken and one of them had a sign on saying out of order.
“All of a sudden last week we get a final demand for £100.
“We didn’t get any other letters but it said the opportunity to appeal is now gone.”
The couple ended up paying the fine due to the difficulty of challenging the notice.
Mrs Tuddenham, whose husband suffers from mental health issues, said: “We’re not on the computer and you can’t appeal it any other way.
“You can pay by cheque or the phone which is an automated line.
“If it was up to me I wouldn’t pay but my husband has got a lot of health problems. He just wanted to get it out the way.”
And Mrs Tuddenham’s son Lee, 35, said: “I emailed and all they said was ‘we can’t talk to you’.”
He added: “It’s just disgraceful. My dad suffers from mental health problems. It caused him panic attacks left, right and centre.”
However, a spokesperson for Fakenham Citizens’ Advice Bureau said: “The company that manage the car park in Fakenham have changed their signage and improved it over time.
“They do provide two free hours of parking provided you get a ticket from the machine.
“There’s a body these parking companies belong to and they do have to work within the guidelines and there is a move to bring in some laws to govern them.”
“They have introduced a grace period of 10 minutes between parking and getting your ticket.”
A spokesperson for NPE said the company is an International Parking Community (IPC) approved operator.
They said: “Final Demands are only issued if we do not receive payment or an appeal within a month of parking charge issue.
“The wording is not ‘threatening’, it is advising what action will be taken if payment or appeal, by post, email or online, is not submitted.
“Due to GDPR, we are unable to accept appeals from anyone other than the registered keeper.”
‘They’re con men trying to get money out of you’ - pensioner hit with fine
Others in Norfolk have been affected by parking charges which they say have been wrongly issued.
74-year-old John Barnham, said he received a parking charge notice from NPE after driving past Millers’ Walk car park in Fakenham.
Mr Barnham, from Walsingham, said: “It’s very strange to me that there’s a picture of me driving past the road and they say that counts.
“They’re con men trying to get money out of people.”
And Robin Kelly, from Norwich, received a parking charge notice from ParkingEye after using the ASDA car park in Norwich.
Mr Kelly, 66, said: “I was shocked to receive a £70 fine for parking for 17 hours.”
He said the camera had not recorded him leaving and returning the following day.
He added: “The wording was quite intimidating.
“I was really angry. I’m only 66 but if someone frail in their 70s got this - they are preying on the vulnerable.”
A spokesperson from ParkingEye said: “ParkingEye are a member of the British Parking Association and operate a BPA audited appeals service.
“Anyone who believes they have mitigating circumstances is encouraged to appeal.
“In this case, the individual appealed the case and the charge was consequently cancelled.”
What does Citizens’ Advice recommend?
In a warning published on its website, Citizens’ Advice advises caution when dealing with parking charges from private companies.
The advice service said: “Don’t appeal or pay a ticket from a parking company that’s not an Accredited Trade Association (ATA) member.
“They can’t take you to court to make you pay as they can’t get your details from the DVLA.
“Look on the British Parking Association (BPA) or International Parking Community (IPC) websites to check if a parking company is an ATA member.
“You can also call the BPA on 01444 447 300 to check if a company is an ATA member.
“Calls to this number can cost up to 12p a minute from a landline, or between 8p and 40p a minute from a mobile (your phone supplier can tell you how much you’ll pay).
“If you get a ticket in the post from a non-ATA member, report them to Action Fraud because the company could have your details illegally.”