Picture this: you go out to a local retail park to do some Christmas shopping. You spend a few hours and several hundred pounds, and go home happy. A week later you receive a letter in the post appearing to be some sort of fine, for overstaying your welcome at the car park. The letter is carefully crafted to appear intimidating and “official”, and kindly offers the opportunity to settle at a reduced sum if paid within a short timescale.
This is exactly what happened to a member of my family after shopping in the Mostyn Champneys retail park in Llandudno. Apparently the maximum stay allowed is 3 hours, a figure surely decided upon by males, to catch women out. Who ever heard of a female shopping trip of shorter duration?
Almost immediately my bullshit detector kicked in. This letter looked like it was dressed up to subtly resemble official notices from the police, or local councils. It was clearly trying to appeal to most people’s sense of blind compliance with authority.
A quick google for “Parking Eye, Llandudno” lead to several threads of conversation on the excellent moneysavingexpert forums. The advice here seems to be saying that private companies have no grounds to issue fines, that they carry no legal weight, and the best course of action is to simply ignore the letters demanding payment. It all hinges on the difference between criminal law and contract law. By parking there, they are saying that you’ve entered into an agreement, which you then broke, so they’re charging you.
The advice on the forums tends to suggest that it is not a fine (only the police and local authorities can issue fines), and you didn’t enter into an agreement with them, and you do not have to pay anything.
Apparently, Parking Eye and other private car park companies are renowned for their bullying and intimidating letters, and there are several scanned examples on the mse forum. These companies thrive by using scare tactics to frighten vulnerable people into paying “fines” they could quite easily ignore.
The scanned image of the letter shows a design clearly intended to make people think that the letter is somehow “official”. Misrepresentation of authority is forbidden in section 15.4 of the BPA guidance, in terms of the usage of words such as ‘fine’ or ‘penalty’. I would argue that the visual design alone is a misrepresentation of authority.
Anyhow, I did little more googling and discovered that this has been a hot topic on TV, with programmes like Watchdog covering it several times.
Here’s a clip from Watchdog about parking tickets from these private companies.
I read several comments on the mse forum from people who declared that they would do their shopping in Chester instead of being ripped off by these car park cowboys.
One can hardly blame them, and it would be interesting to know what, if anything, is being done about it.
Have you had a ticket?
Please share your experiences in the comments.