Trading Standards is looking into a parking firm which has been infuriating customers in Skegness for several months over ‘inaccurate fines’ and “misleading” signage.
As previously reported, multiple drivers claimed back in June to have been issued inaccurate fines at the main car park at Fantasy Island on Sea Lane.
Some alleged they received fines despite having ‘valid tickets’ and people were unhappy at what they believed to be a ‘faulty’ ticket machine, with many struggling to get hold of car park operator Smart Parking.
Customers have continued to contact Lincolnshire Reporter on the back of the coverage into Smart Parking, who have been completely unreachable on multiple occasions.
Phone calls even go unanswered to those attempting to pay their fines.
Trading Standards ‘looking into it’
Trading Standards confirmed that officers are aware of the issue and are looking into it, and they are urging any concerned people to contact the customer advice line.
No formal investigation has been launched at the time of publishing.
Principal trading standards officer at Lincolnshire County Council Emma Milligan said: “If people have concerns or want further advice they should contact the consumer advice line on 03454 040506.
“Trading Standards works with Citizens Advice to help people report a problem or obtain free, confidential and impartial advice and guidance on consumer issues. We monitor complaints daily basis and task and investigate those that cause serious consumer concerns and are a detriment to businesses.
“For more information on this specific issue, please visit https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/law-and-courts/parking-tickets/appealing-parking-tickets/when-to-appeal-a-parking-ticket/.”
Concerned customers can also find some useful advice on what to do when receiving a fine on the Parking Cowboys website here.
Steve Sidell visited Fantasy Island for the first time with his children in August and, although he enjoyed that part of his visit, the car park ruined his stay.
Barbara Kaye Carl parked and paid in August before receiving a penalty notice 28 days later, which she replied to stating she had paid only to have her appeal turned down on the ground of an incorrect car registration number being inserted.
She said Smart Parking told her they have on records a vehicle being paid for with the last three digits of her registration number, but she is still being accused of having breached their terms and conditions.
Barbara said: “Their system is clearly not fit for purpose as, if a number appears which has not been photographed by their camera on entry, then the equipment should check with the driver that the number recorded is the correct one in the same way that if I mistyped my credit card number purchasing something online it would not be accepted.”
David Hardy was left annoyed after his bad experience, also in August.
After obtaining a ticket for an hour’s parking he then extended it before the time was up using the RingGo app, but last month he received a penalty charge notice containing photos of his car entering and departing the car park.
The letter states the terms and conditions had been contravened due to “insufficient paid time”, which David appealed with a copy of the RingGo receipt.
He received a response last week stating Smart Parking had decided to uphold the PCN as they believe it was “correctly issued in accordance with the terms and conditions advertised within the area concerned”.
They also state that after the comments in the appeal and the evidence provided they “cannot rescind the PCN on this basis”.
Awaiting a court date
Customers, Sam Buckenham, said his appeal was rejected despite photos of the main board stating £3 all day and £1 for one hour.
The letter he received also mentions different tariffs of £1.50 for an hour, which is contrary to what was advertised on the car park signs and the BPA were asked to take this into consideration.
He has since received a debt collector letter and his partner has phoned up stating they want to go to court, so they are awaiting to hear back about a hearing.
British Parking Association investigations
After Lincolnshire Reporter approached the British Parkin Association about the issue over the summer they launched an investigation into Smart Parking.
After an initial investigation inspectors found Smart Parking did not breach its code of practice.
Reporters responded to the BPA regarding the outcome, pointing out that one of the main issues at the car park appears to be that signs are displaying one price per hour, then people are getting letters with prices different to this.
A second investigation was launched and it was again concluded there has been no breach of code of practice.
East Lindsey District Council have had around 10 members of the public contacting them about the car park, but as it is a privately run off-street car park there is unfortunately nothing they can do.
Lincolnshire Police have also been approached for a comment, but there was no reply by the time of publication.
This is not the first time Smart Parking have been the subject of controversy. According to a report in The Courier David Edmeades, who was manager at a Perth site operated by Smart Parking, faced jailed back in 2015 for an elaborate embezzlement plot which netted him £45,000.