Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Private Parking Companies - Parking Eye, MET Parking Services, etc - the lowdown

Reading this story on the Evening Post Website reminded me of a post I've been meaning to do for a while on these fucking shysters.

A Bristol motorist has been fined after being accused of leaving her car in a McDonald's car park for 41 days.

Teresa Tremlett was stunned when she opened a letter to find a £100 fine from MET Parking Services claiming she had overstayed her welcome in the car park in Bedminster by 60,160 minutes.

The parking company enclosed CCTV images of Mrs Tremlett's Mercedes entering the car park in Sheene Road on September 24 and another one of her leaving the car park on November 5.

But Mrs Tremlett, 34, from Headley, says she had simply gone into McDonald's to buy food using the drive-through on both dates and had not parked her car in the car park on either occasion.

When she explained to MET Parking Services, she was told her fine would be waived.


OK, let's get a few things straight here.

1) The "fines" are not fines. They are (unenforceable) invoices for a civil contract they allege you have entered into. These companies are for all intents and purposes, fucking con-artists. They put up signs in car parks of selected companies such as B&Q, McDonalds, Pizza Hut etc which are sometimes easy to see, sometimes not, and then post you a letter demanding money if you overstay in the car park. They rely on two things: a) You not knowing the law and b) You being duped by their attempts to make their demand look official such as a chequered border round the edge of the letter, and using terms in the letter such as "Penalty Charge Notice" or "PCN" (it's not one), as well as attaching a tear-off cheque.

2) These companies are operating with the permission of the car park's owners (be that B&Q, McD's or whatever) but often the owner has no idea of what kind of shady business practices the companies get up to, with threatening letters, abusive phonecalls, etc.

3) These companies are private parking companies. They have no legal authority whatsoever to issue parking tickets. The only people that can are the Police and the Council, and only then on the public highway or publically owned land.

4) The "contract" that parking company claim exists between you and them (i.e. by parking in the car park you agree to their terms and conditions) only exists if you are aware of it. In order for you to be aware of it you need to have seen the sign. These signs need to be clearly placed and be reasonably visible from where you parked.

5) The "debt collectors" and "CCJs" threatened by the letters will not materialise. You may well be sent letters from a credit collection company, but miraculously they will have the same address and bank account details as the parking company. It's a front. Furthermore, they haven't yet taken anyone to court. Why do you suppose this might be? Because these invoices are unenforceable in law. They are in a clear breach of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 by charging a "fine" which is completely disproportionate to the loss incurred by the company (i.e. charging you £100 for overstaying in a free car park). These are the very same regulations used succesfully by many people fighting bank overdraft charges. As with overdraft charges, it doesn't even matter if you're made aware of these fine amounts and agree to them when you park (on the sign) - it's not relevant as far as the law is concerned. The only thing they are legally allowed to do is claim actual damages for breach of contract. (And even then they have to prove who was driving, and you have no obligation whatsoever to tell them as a private company). And since no damages have occurred (you have parked a bit too long in a free car park), there's nothing really they can claim for.

What should you do if you get a letter

My advice, based on extensive research, is just to ignore it. They will send another, maybe 2. You may then get (but not always) a letter from a "credit collection company". This is normally the same company as the private parking one, under a different guise. Ignore this like you have done the previous letters. Nothing will happen. If it does go to court (which it won't), you will win anyway. If you respond, you'll go onto a "potential fuckwit" list and they'll just pester you even more. Fuck them.

An interesting aside is that this also applies to paid car parks, e.g. NCP. They may try to charge you a similar amount for overstaying your paid-for parking ticket, but they can't, due to the same reasons as detailed above. All they can claim for in court is the loss that they have incurred, which would be how much it would have cost you to buy a ticket to cover the overstayed time.

18 comments:

Rooski said...

I read your blog a lot. Great post - thanks.

Verification word today: bilywo

banned said...

Don't forget how they got your address to send their 'fine' to, supplied by the DVLA to them for the princley sum of about £2.50.

Bristol Dave said...

Indeed. Which opens another interesting legal point in that they send the letter to the Registered Keeper who is not legally responsible - which is why the police can demand you name who was driving at the time of an offence but a private company can't. If you ever have to get involved legally with one of these companies you are under no obligation whatsoever to tell them who was driving.

AngryDave said...

Great post!
I hate these fuckers and all those like them. They make their money by intimidating money out of people using fake regulations. Most people would pay out of fear, and lack of legal knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Great post, thanks for the info! Just got an £80 fine for parking at B & Q for 4 hours and would have paid if I hadn't read this.

Anonymous said...

this link also says the same thing, just ignore, which is what I'm doing, I'm on letter number 3 which is from CCS collections agency, address same as parking eye.

http://whatastate.org.uk/car-parking-penalties

Anonymous said...

I have just received a parking charge from MET for being too long at McDonalds. I didnt see the sign and I was longer than allowed My 5 year old daughter always likes to play then eat, then play, then eat followed by a pudding,its a lengthy process!
Should I ignore even though I was over the maximum stay?

Richie said...

I just paid the charge by credit card. Can i stop it? but they already have my car details, what can I do?

ronald mcdonald said...

great blog this has confirmed what I thought when I received the "fine" for apparently overstaying at Mcdonalds. you would think Mcdonalds et al would do something about this.

Anonymous said...

Great blog, I just got stung by one of these so called Private Eye (spy) companies in Aldi - I WILL NOT BE PAYING after reading this and similar posts.

Anonymous said...

Have just had the memory of my recent holiday in weymouth ruined by receiving a parking charge notice from parking eye. Still have the ticket showing my payment.Will be ignoring charge notice and weymouth has now lost some tourists.

Suezie said...

I have had a PCN (??) from Met Parking Services after I allegedly overstayed my welcome at Gatwick McDonalds- they sent a lovely picture of me driving out of the car park (one for the album). I immediately got on-line to investigate whether this was a legitimate parking fine and found an enormous amount of people who have been in this situation. I have now received my 2nd letter and, if honest, was getting a little nervous and thought i'd just cave in and pay but thanks to you bloggers im gonna stay strong and sit it out..... and go to court if I have to!!!!!
Great Big Mac though ;-)

julianwade said...

So happy I found this thread, brilliant. So angry at thieving b's. I shall never eat at McDonalds again - hello Burger king. Do they use MET?
Thank goodness I read this before I sent my letter rant, thereby declaring myself as the driver!!
Bristol Dave, you are my new best friend.

Anonymous said...

Just had one of these rather threatening letters from MET for an over stay at Macdonalds, Stanstead, what i did notice was picture of front number plate at one angle and another of car leaving, but it was just white number plate at different angle. Aren't rear number plates yellow??? Thanks to this site i now won't be paying it. I wasn't even driving, and i can prove it. "JOG ON" YOU CRANKS

Susan D said...

Received PCN from Parking Eye for overstaying 14 minutes at Shopping Park. They say pay by Wed 29-2 £50 or it will increase to £80. I have shopping receipts which they sk for if I am going to appeal but now thinking to just ignore it altogether. Any suggesgtions. Thanks Susan D (Herts)

Anonymous said...

Out of curiousity, should you ignore a parking ticket, what's to stop MET Parking from clamping you next time you park in the car park? I got a ticket at the station, which I'm ignoring, but I'm now avoiding parking there in case they just clamp my car!

kale stone said...

Thanks for sharing so informative post with us. It is really amazing and helpful in meeting the parking needs of today’s world.

Port of Tampa Cruises Parking

Patsie Jarman said...

PLEASE MAY I MAKE YOU AWARE OF MY GOVERNMENT PETITION TO BAN AUTOMATIC NUMBER-PLATE RECOGNITION SYSTEMS IN NHS HOSPITAL CAR PARKS & ASK YOU TO CONSIDER SIGNING IT, THEN PASS IT ON TO YOUR COLLEAGUES AND FRIENDS TO ENSURE THAT NHS HOSPITAL PATIENTS & VISITORS DO NOT HAVE TO SUFFER THIS NUISANCE

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/61854

Many NHS Hospital car parks have, or are about to, adopt this car parking system. The contractor has a wonderful sales pitch; they supply all the equipment at no charge, the hospital gets the cash from the ticket machines, and they gets the ‘fines’, so it is in their interest to generate ‘fines’. They do this by having inadequate notices, faulty key-pads, that only accept part of the car registration number, and covering the machines for short periods, with the cameras left running, so if you know how much to pay, the only way to do it is by credit card, which mostly leads to an answering machine – would leave your card details on a cowboy’s answering machine? So while the machines are out of use the hospitals gets nothing!

The Burton NHS Foundation Trust recently installed this system, and chief executive, Helen Ashley, agreed that it was not ‘fit for purpose’ and had been overwhelmed by complaints, but was locked into this contract for 3 years at two of the hospitals, and a year at the Tamworth Hospital, but reviews were taking place. The Northumbria NHS Trust had this system, but got rid of it because of the many complaints. Although not a hospital, the Lake District National Park authority also used these cowboys, and exited them with a good kick up the rump!

Confidentiality and privacy should always be paramount on hospital premises, this is clearly stated in the NHS Confidentiality Code of Practise, especially if a person is there for a sensitive reason, and does not want their privacy invaded by the contractors who operate these camera systems - the ‘get a ticket at the barrier’, and pay when ready to leave is a fairer system, then only payment for the exact amount of time is used. Many of these camera systems expect a person to remember the time of arrival, and leave, when they are often in a stressed situation, resulting in over-payment, or heavy ‘fines’.”

Pease help to put an end to these cowboys by signing this petition.

Thank you, and kind regards from Patsie Jarman