Westhill SNP Councillors Welcome Parking Clarity

>> 2 February 2015

Westhill & District SNP councillors Amanda Allan and David Aitchison have welcomed the resolution to a thorny parking issue affecting the town.

A car park management company has agreed to refund and cancel more than £10,000 in incorrectly issued parking charge notices following an investigation by Aberdeenshire Council’s Trading Standards Service into notices issued at a private car park in Westhill.

The parking firm issued more than 300 notices to consumers said to have breached terms and conditions in place at the site between September and December 2014. Confusion arose because, although there was an agreement in place between the parking firm and the landowner for the provision of parking management services, a nearby restaurant offered unlimited free parking for customers at the same car park. In a number of cases restaurant customers were incorrectly sent parking charge notices.

The company accepted it had no legal right to issue the notices and immediately agreed to cancel any incorrectly issued. Because of the difficulty in identifying those affected, the parking firm decided to refund all paid, and cancel any outstanding, notices issued between September and December 2014, which had not already been subject to unsuccessful appeals.

This meant around 136 paid parking charge notices worth around £5,500 were refunded and 150 outstanding notices worth £5,940 were cancelled. The parking firm, which co-operated fully with the investigation, agreed to continue to work with Trading Standards and the restaurant to ensure the mistake doesn’t happen again.

Commenting, Cllr Amanda Allan said:

“I am glad people have had this sorted out, but would urge residents not to use the car park as a park and ride as it for use by the shop and restaurant customers.”

Cllr David Aitchison added:

“This was something which obviously caused a lot of concern and confusion over what parking was or wasn't permitted. I am pleased that CAB and Trading Standards have been able to collaborate and resolve the issue with the full co-operation of the parking firm.”

Aberdeenshire Council’s Trading Standards Manager, Wilma Urquhart, said:

“We would like to take this opportunity to remind all consumers of their rights in relation to parking on private land operated by private parking companies and the subsequent issuing of parking charge notices.

“Full information can be found on our website – it is important to note this advice only applies in the case of private car parks and not to parking tickets issued by local authorities or the police.”

The important points to note are:
  • A parking charge notice received after parking at a private car park is not a fine – it is effectively an invoice
  • A parking charge notice is civil in nature – it is ultimately for the small claims courts to decide on its enforceability
  • The issuing of a parking charge notice is based on contract law – consumers must be made aware of all terms and conditions in place and agree to these before they can be held liable. This includes the display of adequate signage
  • The charge being levied must be fair, reasonable and not be excessively high so as to appear to be a penalty. If the charge is for breach of contract it must represent a genuine pre-estimate of loss for the business
  • In Scotland, only the driver can be held liable for a parking charge notice. Any attempt to pursue payment from the registered keeper may constitute an offence
South West Aberdeenshire Citizens Advice Bureau manager, Eveline Crossan, said:

“The staff and volunteer advisers from the Citizens Advice Bureau in Westhill welcome this excellent outcome for our many clients who sought advice on how to challenge these charges.

"Trading Standards and our Bureau have worked collaboratively over a number of months to encourage resolution of the problem.

"If anyone needs further assistance or wants to raise concerns about other parking locations, they can contact the CAB for advice on 01224 747714.”

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