Private Parking Company’s (PPCs)
26 January 2013
Earlier today my daughter had occasion to visit an out of town store and park in the free car park. She was shocked to return to her car to find she had been issued with a £95 parking ticket. She spoke briefly to a parking attendant who told her that she had been issued with a ticket because her car was not accurately in the parking bay – slightly over the line he said. She pointed out to him that a number of cars were not accurately in their parking bay, including a car that was straddling a bay line – the attendant said this belonged to the Manager of the store (none of these cars had been given tickets that she saw).
The Manager of an adjacent store which shares the car park confided that the attendant had spoken to them personally about their car not being accurately in its bay, but they were not issued with a ticket.
The Manager of the store said he had no control over such parking matters, but he thought that the attendant was being unreasonable because of a number of issues: the car park was relatively quiet, the parking bay lines were faint and not clear and were waiting repainting, and there was a lot of snow partially obliterating the lines. He told me he had had a number of complaints about car park attendant behaviour.
While this is a free car park, it is understandable that the store do not want it abused i.e. car parking by non-shoppers or cars causing obstructions and indeed the Car Park Notice covers that – but it does not cover the issue of cars not being accurately in their bay.
This is a major national store and spends a lot of money on Media & Advertising to enhance its image as a reputable company and one offering value for money. There is a serious risk of damaging such a reputation if they allow their car parking company to behave like a rogue parking operator and target vulnerable people. This is not the kind of publicity they need so I am personally very surprised that the store are knowingly party to this kind of intimidation of customers.
I don’t believe that my daughter committed any offence or that any monies were owed at all. I would like to know though if the store has actually given authority to the car parking operator to bring civil legal actions again their customers! Also I would point out that my daughter had no contractual arrangement with either the store or the car park operator, and that the demand for a £95 payment is itself extortionate and that requires a breakdown and explanation of how such a figure can be justified.
As for the car park operators themselves, the general advice seems to be to ignore any correspondence and do not contact them. Any debt recovery agents they might send are completely powerless individuals who can’t do anything. In the incredibly rare event that one should turn up at your door (and they are unlikely to as the general rule is to scare and mislead people by letter) you tell them to scarper. They don’t sue because civil penalties are unenforceable.
Although the best course of action is to ignore car park operator in such circumstances, you should instead contact the car park owner directly – which is what I did on my daughter’s behalf (and the ticket was cancelled!).