Euro Car Parks Syston Town Square – Letter received and Our response

Dear editor,
Through your newsletter I would like to alert the community to the effect on Syston of having the old Co-op Car Park administered by Euro Car Parks.
On the 9th November having a meeting in the Methodist Church, I drove into the car park, parked and approached the machines with my £1.50 in my hand to pay the charge. There was already a lady at the machine who was very distressed because one machine was labelled ‘out of order’ and the remaining machine was refusing to accept her money in spite of having correctly put in her registration number.
I then put in my registration number and was equally unable to put in the money, however hard I tried. A young mum and four friends who were intending to have lunch in Syston took one look at the machines’ failure and said “We are going. I have been caught before. I think we will forget Syston and have lunch elsewhere.” I should have listened to her!
Being trusting souls, the other lady and I each put a note on our dashboard stating that we were unable to pay because neither machine was working. We then went to our meeting.
Some weeks later I received a letter stating that I was being fined for non-payment of the parking fee. I could pay £60 now; £100 if I failed to pay within fourteen days or be referred to a Debtors Agency; otherwise I could appeal. I then wrote to the Appeals Department, clearly stating that neither machine was working so I could not pay however hard I tried. I enclosed £1.50.
Just before Christmas I received a letter from Euro Car Parks rejecting my appeal, allegedly ‘After careful consideration’; and demanding £60 now; £100 later or the Debtors Agency. Their advice was that in such a situation the correct procedure is to go to another machine. Can they not read English or is it a system to extort money with menaces from honest people?
As I was about to join my family for Christmas I paid £60. I will not park there again. The other lady has said, like the young mum and friends she will never come to Syston again. Seven people’s custom lost at one lunchtime, how many more have suffered a similar experience?
G.M. Clarke, East Goscote.

The Stn’s response
Following the above letter, the Stn has been contacted by several people about the weekend of 9th and 10th November when both the pay and display machines were not working and people had no way of gaining a valid ticket. Not everyone owns a mobile phone, as apparently they have installed a notice saying pay by phone. Some people tried to ring and got an automated response so were unable to alert the company to the problem and no attendant was on site on Friday.
The Stn has been told by residents parking there on the Saturday, that there was an attendant present and he was trying to repair one of the machines as it wouldn’t print out tickets, and when asked by people parking what they should do, he took their money for the time they proposed to park and told them it would be ok. We don’t know how he recorded who paid him, but people who took his advice have since received a penalty notice from Euro Car Parks and when appealed have been told the appeal has been refused so have paid the £60 charge.
The Stn has spoke to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and Contacted POPLA (Parking on Private Land Appeals) to try and address this situation.
If anyone else has received a notice, please don’t pay it, appeal it to Euro Car Parks initially then if they reject your appeal. Please appeal to POPLA the more people who place an appeal with this independent Ombudsman the more evidence that the individuals where correct and were unable to obtain a ticket due to the machines being faulty and it maybe get those tickets cancelled.
Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert has a whole section on his website:
Explaining how to deal with a private parking tickets. His first statement is to not pay it and if you have a valid reason, then to appeal to the car park management company and if rejected appeal through POPLA.
Legally they can’t enforce payment if you are going through an appeals procedure with POPLA, so please don’t be frightened into paying the charge of £60 or even £100 without appealing to POPLA.
The Stn has written to all those who have contacted us and given them advice as to how to appeal having spoken to POPLA.
The law has changed and you can only appeal if you have a valid reason, overstaying your time is seen as not a valid reason as private landowners can charge for non payment of the correct amount, so to pay slightly more is 80p for up to an hour if you think you will be there longer than half an hour. But always check the clock time with your own time device/watch/phone, to make sure that the time coincides before leaving to do you shopping or going for that coffee. The notices in the Town Square have been updated, but non of them state that you shouldn’t park there is the payment machines are not working, and the number plate recognition camera’s are still operating. They have added pay by phone signs, which is ok if everyone has a mobile phone or wants to pay that way.
These car parks are covered by the law of contract so if the machines are not working and you return directly to your car and leave the car park, then legally you have not accepted the contract and are not liable to pay any charge. Again, if you do receive one appeal it and also to POPLA if it is refused by Euro Car Parks.
If you require further information, please visit POPLA website were all details of how to appeal can be found. You can telephone them on 0330 1596 126 and request a paper copy of the appeals form.
Private landowners have the right to charge fro people to use their land, but the incidents of the weekend of the 9/10th November do seem to be extenuating and we hope that a fair outcome is reached for all those affected.