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Miracle in Stockport: ‘legible’ signs become six times bigger

[10 Dec 2012] The small print on a private-parking sign at the centre of a court case won by Martin Cutts of Plain Language Commission is no longer small at all. 

Excel Parking Services Ltd, the multi-million pound company that operates the Peel Centre car park in Stockport, insisted during the legal battle in September 2011 that its crucial words ‘Pay and display’ on signs at the car-park entrances were perfectly legible for any motorist to read – at just 13mm (0.5in) high.

The judge disagreed, booting out Excel’s case, leading the company to allege she was not fit to serve in the civil courts and lambast what it called her ‘off-the-wall judgment’. But now the company has changed all its entrance signs, increasing the type size by the little matter of 615%. Let's just repeat that: six hundred and fifteen per cent. So ‘pay and display’ is now in text about 80mm high, giving drivers a clearer alert that they are entering a pay zone. (See new sign: next page.)

In court, Excel admitted it had for several years imposed £100 parking charge notices on 3,800 motorists a year because they hadn’t bought tickets. Cutts said this was probably because, like him, the drivers hadn’t seen the words ‘pay and display’. Thus a stream of phoney (ie, non-official) fines was sloshing into Excel’s coffers. Last year Excel paid its managing director an extraordinary £766,353 salary (Mail on Sunday, 27 May 2012).

Other signs throughout the Peel Centre car park remain as bad as ever, with very small print and, in places, semiliterate and nonsensical text. Excel has covered up whole paragraphs with yellow tape, perhaps because the wording breaks current Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency rules. The DVLA recently suspended Excel for three months from getting lucrative access to its databank of drivers’ names and addresses after Excel broke DVLA rules. This means Excel can’t chase drivers who don’t pay its non-fines – Excel is blocked from getting their details, which is costing the company thousands of pounds a week. [cont]

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