After several letters in the Journal of the ‘I was fined for staying too long in a supermarket car park’ variety, I think the time has come to remind people of certain rights, which do not include being ripped off by unscrupulous parking management companies.
If you stay longer than allowed in a public car park, i.e. one owned and managed by the local council, you may well be given a notice to pay a fine and you are legally obliged to pay it, or you will end up in court.
If you over-stay in a private car park, e.g. one owned by a supermarket, you may be issued with a ‘notice to pay’.
This is not a fine, it is simply a request to pay what they consider a fair price for breaching the contract they claim you have broken when using the facilities.
The fact that the parking companies dress up their letters to look highly official, even going so far as to use a police-style chequered border pattern, does not make them any more enforceable.
If you agree that your extra few minutes of parking has, in fact, cost them £90 or so in lost revenue, then by all means pay up.
If you do not pay and choose to ignore such a ridiculous charge, what will happen?
You will get another letter asking for the same or more money.
Ignoring this will most likely lead to a third stating that the company is going to refer you to their debt collection division – the desk next to the person who sent you the original demand.
Of course, there is no debt to collect as you still have not agreed to pay their outrageous invoice.
The final letter will, of course, be a threat of court action to recover the ‘debt’.
This would, if carried through, be a purely civil action to reclaim their losses under the contract that you agreed, and since they have made no monetary loss, it is difficult to see how they could possibly win such a case.
To date, I have been through this process twice and since done considerable research.
I have yet to find any evidence that such a case has ever been taken to court. Write to the British Parking Association as indicated on the signs?
This is simply an organisation that many of the car parking operators belong to by paying a membership fee so they can use one more official-looking logo and, from everything I have heard, will do absolutely nothing except tell you to pay up.
This whole system is based on instilling fear of unreal consequences into those who have no idea of their rights.
If you have any doubts please do some research online (e.g. MoneySavingExpert) before meekly handing over your money.