Investigation Update - Excel parking
A number of people meet with X-Ray at the Ebbw Vale Institute
After another raft of complaints X-Ray is back on the case of Excel Parking.
Last year our reporter Rachel Treadaway-Williams visited The Walk Car Park in Ebbw Vale where a new parking management firm had left a lot of drivers very unhappy.
Local residents felt the changes had been brought in without enough notice and there wasn’t clear information for blue badge holders. Parking charges hadn’t been enforced against disabled drivers in the past and many badge holders didn’t realise they now had to pay to park at The Walk.
The company which sent the letters, Excel Parking Services, insists it follows the British Parking Association’s rules on signage and how to run its car parks. But many drivers were shocked to receive parking charge notices through the post - demanding £60 a time - with the threat of court action if the payment wasn’t made.
After X-Ray showed how many vulnerable people felt unfairly treated, the landowners made Excel improve the signs. They wanted to make it clearer that all drivers had to pay to park and they promised that blue badge holders who'd received charges before the 23rd of November 2011 would have them cancelled or refunded.
But since then X-Ray received more complaints from people who claimed those promises hadn’t been kept and Excel was refusing to refund some blue badge holders who’d received letters demanding money for parking without paying - when they hadn't had a chance to get used to the new system.
X-Ray’s Rachel arranged to meet a number of people at the Ebbw Vale Institute to hear about their complaints. Raymond Dicks - a blue badge holder who’d paid the charge after receiving a letter from Excel in November - told Rachel, “I applied to be refunded my £60, they sent me a note back saying no. Because I didn't have multiple charges, they would keep my £60.”
Bob Price’s – whose son is a blue badge holder - claimed, “It doesn't matter what position you're in, if you're a blue badge holder then every blue badge holder should have their money refunded.”
And Suzanne Phelps told us why she’d paid Excel, even though it seemed to be an unfair charge, “I was afraid that it was going to go up to £90 and they said if you didn't pay the £90 it would then go to court. And I was frightened - just I didn't know what to do.”
Some of the people who received the notices didn't even use a parking space at The Walk. David Williams is a driver for GAVO - the Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisations, transporting people with mobility issues in specially adapted vehicles. In November the charity received a letter from Excel demanding £60 because David had taken too long dropping his passenger off.
David asked, “Why should we pay it? I've been doing it four years and never had it like this before. I think it's just disgusting.”
X-Ray also heard from disabled drivers who insisted they bought a valid ticket to park but still rceeived a letter from Excel. David Hambly, who is a double amputee, takes at least 20 minutes to get in and out of his specially adapted car. He made sure he put the right details in the machine when he bought his tickets to park at The Walk in December, but received two letters demanding payment from Excel.
Julie Hallford’s son four year old Ryan has cerebral palsy. She has a blue badge because he needs help getting around. She tried to pay Excel’s charge after they demanded money from her, but was shocked when she realised they’d taken two payments from her debit card.
People who don’t have blue badges have also had problems parking at The Walk. Anthony Davies told us he’d definitely bought a valid ticket, and displayed it in his car, but he still got a letter demanding cash. He complained to Rachel, “As soon as I knew I had the right ticket, I was straight onto them, email, copy of the ticket, and we're just waiting now for a reply. It must be a fault at their end.”
Excel admits that on the day Anthony parked at The Walk - the 10th of November - there was a problem with the machines at the car park which led to some people, like him, who had bought valid tickets getting parking charge notices. They're apologising and will cancel the charges.
In David Hambly's case, Excel's cancelled the charges. David will now have up to an hour to buy a ticket. They've also granted the GAVO minibus extra time to drop people off at The Walk. But they're not changing their rules for all disabled people - they'll only make allowances for people with mobility issues on a 'case by case' basis.
Julie Hallford's payments will be refunded and Excel has confirmed that any blue badge holders who parked at The Walk before 23rd November 2011 will now get their refunds. Admin charges paid by some people will also be refunded.
So if you've been charged the advice is get in touch with the company straightaway and send proof of your claim. We’ll be monitoring the situation.