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People in Scotland urged to stand up to car park rip-offs

16 Oct 2014

Unscrupulous car parking operators, including those operating on behalf on major supermarkets and shopping centres, are in the sights of Citizens Advice Scotland. Their new ‘It’s Not Fine’ campaign aims to highlight bad practice and empower consumers to fight back.

The campaign has been launched in the wake of a 50% rise in the number of people asking for advice about private car-parks over the last year. Customers are being charged up to £200 for overstaying allotted time slots by as little as half an hour.

Today we publish that evidence, while launching a national survey for people to tell us their experiences of this problem at www.surveymonkey.com/r/itsnotfine.

The attached report, ‘It’s Not Fine’, details a number of common problems which have emerged regularly in the cases we have seen. These include:

  • Private car parks with unclear signage, meaning drivers don’t know how long they can park and how much they will be charged, if at all;
  • Parking tickets which are misleading – for example tickets using terminology such as ‘Parking Charge Notice’, which is easily confused with ‘Penalty Charge Notice’ – the name of statutory parking fines distributed by local authorities;
  • Private car parks noncompliance with their own industry guidelines, e.g. on how much should be charged and not dealing fairly with appeals and complaints

In addition to taking our report and recommendations to major retailers and car park operators, we are also contacting the Scottish Government, asking them to regulate the industry in a similar way to what currently takes place in England and Wales.

CAS Chief Executive Margaret Lynch comments,

“The evidence we are presenting today will strike a chord with many drivers. This is an issue that has affected thousands of people across Scotland. We are urging anyone who has experienced unfair treatment by a private car-parking company to tell us about it, through our online survey which is at www.surveymonkey.com/r/itsnotfine 

“Meanwhile we want to make sure that the private car parking industry, retailers, the Scottish Government, and drivers all take heed of what our report today says.  

“To the parking companies we say clean up your industry and offer a fair deal to your customers. To the Scottish Government we say introduce regulations so that Scottish drivers have the same protections as those in England and Wales. And to drivers themselves we say make sure you know your rights and that you stand up for them. We will help you do that, and between us we can end this problem and create a fairer system. 

“I want to be very clear that we are not telling people not to pay parking tickets. We have no problem with charges which are levied fairly, with clear terms and conditions, appropriate signage and robust appeal mechanisms. Parking on publicly-owned land generally follows these patterns, so we are not talking here about charges by traffic wardens or the police. Nor are we talking about those private parking companies who do behave fairly and follow the guidelines set down by the industry. 

“What we are talking about is those parking companies who don’t use proper signage, charge inflated fees and then fail to respond properly to people who appeal. 

“We are hoping to start a campaign that will reform the way this industry operates in Scotland. Anyone who feels they have been treated unfairly by a parking company should contact their CAB for advice on what their rights are and how to stand up for them. We will help you all we can, and by mobilising consumer power we hope to bring about the changes that are long overdue to make parking the fair service that people deserve.” 

ENDS

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