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Parking charge confusion

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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 17:34 UK time, Monday, 8 November 2010

Visitors have always flocked to the market town of Abergavenny in Monmouthshire, but with its busy traffic and narrow roads on-street parking is almost impossible. Fortunately there's no shortage of car parks in the town centre. Most of them are operated by the local council, but one which isn't has been causing quite a stir!

The Cibi Walk car park is run by a private company called Parking Eye. The charges seem reasonable; just 80p for a two hour stay, but if you're not careful you could end up paying much more than that.

Back in September, Angela Mullens from Crickhowell visited the car park. "I was going shopping in town and my son went get the ticket for me", she explained. "I thought everything was fine, I didn't think any more of it."

However, the parking company was keeping a close eye on Angela's visit through their security cameras, which record the number plates of cars using the site. A whole week after she'd visited the car park, Angela received a letter from Parking Eye which said she'd broken the rules of the car park by not having a valid ticket. Having already paid eighty pence, she now faced a demand for £80, or 50 if she paid straight away. By this time she'd thrown away her original ticket.

So why was Angela being chased for payment? Her son had typed in the last three letters of the number plate, put money in the machine and Angela had displayed the ticket in the car. The problem is, Parking Eye's signs say the full registration number must be entered. And there is a good reason why many people in Abergavenny are getting confused. In the eight council-run car parks in Abergavenny motorists only have to enter the last three letters of the vehicle registration. If you do this in Parking Eye's car park, you may think you have a valid ticket, but you'd be wrong!

Andrea King is another driver who was left confused after her visit to Cibi Walk car park. She explained, "I paid my 80 pence for the two hours and went off shopping". Like Angela, she'd entered the last three digits of her registration. "I assumed it was the same for that car park as all the other car parks in Abergavenny. Eleven days later the penalty notice came through the letterbox. I was really, really upset. Luckily I'd kept my ticket."

Andrea has now written to appeal against the demand. In the meantime, one of her work colleagues was having his own ticket trouble with Parking Eye. Lecturer Tim Jarvis received two demands for payment after he and a colleague left their minibuses in the car park during a fundraising trip. He paid the right amount and the machine printed two tickets.

"It accepted three digits, so as far as we were aware that was what it wanted," he said. "Unfortunately by the time we had the parking notice and we'd found the ticket, the date was up on the first minibus. The college paid the first minibus so that came out of my budget, disadvantaging the students. By then we'd had a second fine for the second vehicle. This time we're contesting it, letters have been sent and we'll wait to hear what the company says."

So some drivers aren't happy with Parking Eye's rather inflexible system. But has the company actually done anything wrong?

We asked solicitor Wayne Beynon from Capital Law for his expert view. "It is a situation I have sympathy with", he told X-Ray. "Where you have a person entering a car park and enter part of a registration number, they believe they've paid a good value for their space but strictly speaking they haven't complied with terms and conditions as stipulated by the car park owner."

Angela Mullens no longer has her original ticket and has appealed to Parking Eye, but the charge has now risen to £110. If she refuses to pay she could face court action and potentially even a visit from the bailiffs. "I think it is scary, I think a lot of people have paid and they will pay because they think it's the only thing to do. I'm not going to pay out of principle because I did buy a ticket, if it comes to court I will go to court."

If that were to happen, solicitor Wayne Beynon had the following advice. "Where the motorist has lost their parking ticket, it is for the parking company to demonstrate to the court that the motorist parked in the space and failed to pay for their car park ticket. I don't think it would be unreasonable for the motorist to ask the company to present evidence from their ticket machine that they haven't paid for their ticket."

And there may be some good news on the horizon for the people of Abergavenny. Nigel Beavan, the manager of Cibi Walk shopping centre which owns the car park told us that he agrees that the current system is not working as efficiently as it needs to. He told us, "What we're looking to do is to try to resolve that by bringing back a human element to the process. So I've got a meeting with Parking Eye to see if we can actually do that. We'll look to use someone on site to act as a parking attendant to come and look in the cars, very much like local authority do at the moment."

After we filmed, Parking Eye, the company which runs the car park on behalf of the shopping centre, told X-Ray that they're going to cancel the parking charge notices for the three people we featured. The company also said that their signs, at the entrance and right through the car park, and the instructions on the Pay and Display machine itself all say clearly that you have to put in your full registration details when you buy a ticket. They add that very few motorists fail to follow the straightforward instructions and if anyone gets a parking charge notice because they didn't put in their full details, then they should appeal and the company will investigate. If it can be proved that you actually bought a ticket, Parking Eye will waive the penalty charge.


  • Comment number 1.

    I have been sent a parking charge when i parked in the cibi walk car park.
    my query to parking eye was the machine would not let me input my full registration, so i was only able to type the last three letters.
    luckily i found the ticket in my bin.
    after three letters and a phone call to their head office they eventually canceled the parking charge.
    At one point I even considered charging them for the the time i spent attempting to rectify the situation.
    a curious twist to this situation was i had just moved house and had changed my licence address but not the car log book address and yet the parking eye letter still got to me, but my car tax reminder did not!
    I have found out that their ANPR cameras are linked into the dvla data base.
    this is a normal practice for car parking operators, given the amount of problems this car park has caused maybe we should all register complaints with the dvla and give back the hassle parking eye have caused us!

  • Comment number 2.

    [Personal details removed by Moderator]I'm so pleased that someone has contacted you about this issue. Because of a similar expereience, i had contemplated contacting you myself. On 25th September my car was having a service so i was using my husbands car. I took him to work at nevill hall hospital and then went shopping in Abergavenny. I also parked in Cibi walk car park, paid my 80 pence parking and did some shopping. Two weeks later my husband recieved notification from Parking Eye of a fine for non payment of parking. As luck had it, the parking ticket was in the car. On closer inspection of the ticket i realised that i had put my car registration details in by mistake. We wrote to Parking Eye explaining the details and requesting that they review the case, also we enclosed a copy of the ticket which clearly showed the date, time and payment. Our first appeal was declined, we then wrote a further appeal letter, asking for the landlords appeal criteria which they said we didn't meet. We then recieved a final demand threatening court and legal action. I was so incensed by their unreasonable behaviour that i contacted a local solicitor who gave me free telephone advice. Before i had chance to write to them detailing the advice i'd been given, i had a further letter stating that they had waived the fine. I assume that the third letter was automatically sent before they recieved my second letter of appeal.

    When notification is recieved the only telephone number is an automated payment facility. Also the fine increases if you don't pay by a certain date. furthermore the small print highlights that if you pay then you admit the offence, which denies you the right to appeal at a later date.

    For us, the end result was beneficial. If i hadn't had the ticket or accepted their first decision declining the appeal then they would have charged us over £100 for parking that i had clearly paid.

    I wonder how many others have paid in similar circumstances because they have been intimidated and threatened with legal proceedings and bailiffs.

    I intend never to park there again and urge others to follow suit. should you wish confirmation of these details i have kept all correspondence because i still fear that we may recieve further requests for payment at a later date.

  • Comment number 3.

    I have recently received a letter from Parking Eye that I have breached there rules & not payed. I entered my car reg into the machine followed by 5 £1 coins it was £4.80 which gives me 4hrs and it didn't give me any change. I displayed it on my dashboard cause couldn't take the sticky back off. After 2hrs shopping we left the car park & 10 days after received this notice. I have wrote on 2 occasions stating I paid they gave me photo evidence entering & leaving car park & say I didn't pay. So the machine must be faulty cause I would never not pay. I have told them this in the 2nd letter & asked them to stop harrasing me as I will not pay this notice especially when I did pay for the parking ticket. I did not save my ticket as I never expected anything like this I will keep you informed .

  • Comment number 4.

    I stuck it out with Parking eye, they wavered there decision & dropped the charge cause they said i'd entered wrong registration. Like I say I new I was in the right and I urge others to do the same.

  • Comment number 5.

    I am somewhat surprised by the advice given by the solicitor as he appears to confer legitimacy on Parking Eye's "Parking Charge Notices"

    Parking Eye are a member of the British Parking Association's 'Approved Operator Scheme'. They have signed an undertaking to comply with the BPA AOS Code of Practice.

    That CoP specifies that the Parking Charge Notice (PCN) must point out the parking 'infringement' and ask the driver for payment.

    That section is crucial, so I'm going to repeat it. It is the driver and only the driver who is (potentially) liable for any 'charge' and not the registered keeper.

    Yet the Parking Eye PCNs specifically target the registered keeper (and more recently the owner) and in doing so they deliberately misrepresent the true legal position because only the driver is (potentially)liable.

    Any such misrepresentations are a clear breach of the CoP and make the 'charge' unenforceable. Any motorists who receive such Parking Charge Notices should complain to the British Parking Association, Trading Standards and finally the DVLA.

    Why the DVLA? Well they are the government body who sell our registered keeper data to these private parking companies but they do so on the basis that the data is used to try and trace the driver, if the Parking Company deliberately targets the registered keeper then that is a misuse of the data.

    Finally, I said above that only the driver is 'potentially' liable, the reason for this is because private parking 'infringements' are based on contract law, the parking company is only entitled to 'damages' arising from the breach of contract.

    Therefore, if you failed to buy the 80p parking ticket then their 'damages' would be 80p (for the ticket) + £2.50 (to buy the registered keeper data from the DVLA) + lets call it another tenner or so for admin and the generic letters they send out, making a grand total somewhere in the region of no more than than about £15.

    I would therefore advise motorists to either

    a) ignore the generic threatening letters (they usually stop bothering you after about five ever more threatening letters)

    b) ignore the letters but also complain as above


    c) for the more adventurous, write back to Parking Eye (without making any admission as to who the driver was) and ask them for a breakdown of their costs that they've incurred in order for them to justify their claim for damages of £80.


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