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Insurer returns £30,000 after private-parking pillage hits drivers

[14 Jan 2014] The private-parking industry continues to pillage its customers for penalty income to the tune of about £200milllion a year, but one leading insurer has seen the light by repaying £30,000 to drivers in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire who got £100 tickets after falling foul of a change in car-park rules.

Legal & General had hired parking operator Civil Enforcement Limited (CEL) to put up signs limiting free parking to three-and-a-half hours at the Towerfields cinema, restaurant and shopping complex. Visitors who had got used to parking for free as they watched a film or ate a meal often didn’t notice the signs, especially at night when they weren’t lit up. Their number plates were read by surveillance cameras on entry and exit, enabling CEL to buy details of overstayers from the Government’s DVLA at £2.50 a time and sock them with tickets.

A previous survey found that the car park was never full, even at peak times, so it wasn’t as if drivers needed to be deterred.

The local Hunts Post ran a successful ‘Ditch the Fines’ campaign which, after only a month, led the insurer and its managing agent to pay CEL £30,000 to reimburse the drivers. (What a nice little pay-day for CEL.) A new regime with better signs and longer waiting times has been promised.

Incidentally, the ‘fines’ are not fines at all. They are supposed to be damages under contract law for breaching the terms of parking, and are supposed to represent a genuine estimate of the landowner’s loss from the breach. Since parking was free, it is hard to see how the £100 figure was concocted, except that it is the usual maximum that the British Parking Association Ltd, a members' club, has set for its private-parking members.

Meanwhile, for anyone who can bear to read more about the continuing State-enabled carnage in private car parks, where firms are imposing penalties totalling about £200million a year, below are three links to stories from the Burton Mail. They feature Queen’s Hospital car park in Burton, Staffordshire where visitors have to remember [cont]

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