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Yes, I’ll pay your ridiculous, disablist, parking fine, but I am not happy about it and shall tell everyone the reasons why!

November 26, 2011

I recently had reason to forward the following letter to a company who are employed to monitor parking at a retail park near where I live.  As you may be able to tell, I was a tad irked by being issued with said parking ticket.  Some information has been redacted, partly because I wanted a chance to use the word “redacted” in something:

“17th November 2011

UKPC Payments

[Address redacted]

Dear Sir or Madam

RE: Parking Notice No: [redacted]

I am writing to express my disgust at receiving a parking fine for parking inCatfordIslandRetailPark.  As you can see from the enclosed McDonalds receipt, I did use facilities within the retail site.  Your notification sign affixed to the wall of JD Sports states that “failure to comply with the following may result in a £90 parking charge notice reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days” and goes on to list three types of parking fine.  The fact that the wording “following” is used clearly states the following three examples are subject to the specific fine mentioned, and the three are as follows:

  1. 2 Hours Maximum stay (no return within 30 minutes) no parking out of hours.
  2. Park only within marked bays.
  3. Disabled badge holders only in disabled bays.

The first and last two are extremely badly worded – there is no indication in the sign anywhere as to what the ‘hours’ are in order that people can avoid parking ‘out of hours’ and the wording of three implies that anyone holding a disabled badge can only park within the disabled bays.  This is discriminatory – if the bays are all full, I can only presume that disabled people must leave the car park and are unwelcome in the retail site.  As I am an intelligent person, I am guessing what you actually mean to say is that “only people holding a blue disabled badge may park in the disabled bays”.

Above this wording, your sign states “If you leave this site whilst your vehicle remains in this car park, you will be liable to receive a parking charge notice”.  This does not state that you are ONLY allowed to use facilities within the retail park, as I now understand is the case.  This is misrepresentation and misleading.  It also does not clearly state that a fine will be levied, nor does it indicate what level the fine might be, and this implication is further reinforced by the use of the word “following” as detailed above.

As your parking attendant must clearly have noticed in order to register that my partner and I had left the retail site, I was walking with a walking stick and was clearly mobility-impaired and therefore slow in gait.  I was leaving the site to visit a cash machine and visit Lawrence House, and I also visited facilities within the retail park.  I now realise that those who park in the retail site are banned from visiting cash machines (none of which are available within the retail site) and banned from visiting other stores or buildings outside the site, but can only visit stores within the retail site.  You may rest assured I will be publicising this fact to everyone I know, and will be writing to the buildings within the facility to let them know that customers are not allowed to visit cash machines or places off-site.  I can only hope that their business is not affected by your short-sighted, disablist, badly-worded policy and Notice.

I am enclosing the cheque, which I am extremely reluctant to pay as I do not like acquiescing to what amounts to blackmail, as I cannot afford £90 which I am sure you will enforce.

I should appreciate your acknowledging receipt of this cheque, or returning the same to me once you realise your sign is very badly worded and incredibly unclear in intent and consequence, and that as a direct result your policy is damaging the businesses on the retail park site.

I also look forward to receiving your full response to the points made in this letter.

Yours sincerely

Tina Price-Johnson 

CC:      The Manager, Dreams,Plassy Road, Catford, London SE6 2DE

The Manager, Lidls,Plassy Road, Catford,LondonSE6 2DE

The Manager, McDonalds,Plassy Road, Catford,LondonSE6 2DE

The Manager, JD Sports,Plassy Road, Catford,LondonSE6 2DE

The Manager,MeccaBingo,Plassy Road, Catford,LondonSE6 2DE

Encs.”

The result of this missive?  Within 2 days I had the cheque returned to me accompanied by a letter of apology stating the fine had been levied in error!  I am very pleased with this result, but learned in the meantime that many people have received fines for exactly the same reason.  All these people paid the fine without sending a complaint.

How much money, exactly, are these parking fine businesses making from car-owners who have not actually contravened the parking policy?  My ticket was timed at about 10 to 15 minutes after we had first parked the car; having had the cheque returned it appears that one IS allowed to park, leave, and return as long as shops within the retail park are visited.  However, it appears the policy is to ticket as soon as someone leaves the retail park.  People tend to pay, rather than face the larger fine or the hassle of challenging, and the threat of court proceedings is very scary to many people.

I appreciate that there is limited parking in London, and there does have to be some control.  I also understand that the Warden cannot ticket a car as it is moving out of the car park.  However, to ticket a car within 10 minute of it being parked is surely far too short a time to allow for someone to return to their car.  The signage is, as I have stated, poorly worded and there appeared to be only one sign.  There is no sign to indicate hours of parking.

All things told, it appears to me that UKPC, and other private parking companies, I do not want to single UKPC out but they are the ones who ticketed me, have a policy of entrapment.  This is not fair, but is legal.

So, in conclusion – challenge every ticket you get!  If you have broken the rules which are clearly stated then fair enough, you should pay.  But as in my situation, the rules are not always clear and the policy is deliberately ambiguous to enable fines to be levied where they may not actually be due.  Keep proof of purchases, proof of times, take photos of the parking rules where you find them (and if you don’t find them, make sure that is documented too).  Stop the blackmail, the entrapment, the theft, while you can!

Rant over.  Normal service will be… oh what the hell am I saying, this is normal service!

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