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That Really Grinds My Gears – Part 3…

22 Sep

The first and second parts of this story were bad enough, you’d think, but before too long the tale of woe was to become a trilogy.

A few days after we arrived home, a letter dropped onto the doormat…

parkingcharge

This is actually the second letter they’d sent me but they amount to the same thing…

We were being charged £70 for ‘parking’ for 117 minutes when the limit was 90. That’s approximately £2.60 per minute.

At first I panicked and tried to call the *expletives* at ParkingEye (I knew it was an automated phone line, but as I said, I panicked) and then I fired off an online appeal without thinking to do a Google search on the best way to respond.

After checking the box that named me as driver and registered keeper I told them that we’d tried to leave after being in the car park for 45 minutes, but that the gear stick had snapped off, forcing us to park back up and call for assistance. I said that I hadn’t known there was a time limit on parking, but that even if I had, I probably would have been too stressed out to give it a second thought. I also told them that if I’d have been concious to the fact we were outstaying our welcome I would have thought the presence of an RAC van would have alerted them to the fact that we weren’t parked, but BROKEN DOWN and that surely their CCTV cameras could back this up. I pressed send, read the message that told me they would only reply in writing after AT LEAST ten working days, and (wrongly) assumed that they would honour my appeal.

I had not seen the original letter until a good few days after it had arrived as it had gotten shoved amongst other mail, so eventually I received a second, more threatening letter (pictured above). This one told me that if I hadn’t responded by August 15th (just 14 days after they sent out the first letter) then the charge would go up. It was incredibly intimidating but I decided not to react and waited for a reply to my appeal. It was a good week or so until I eventually got another letter which informed me that I had 14 days to produce an RAC reference number to prove I wasn’t a great big liar…

I was angry,

Okay, so I had told them I could get a reference number to support my appeal if they needed it, but why should I have to? They (or Aldi) were more than certain to have CCTV trained on the car park, and the RAC van would have been picked up by the registration recognition cameras on the way out, with me clearly in pursuit. Besides all that, how dare they impose another deadline on me when they are so free and easy with their own response time?

Once I’d had a search around online at some advice forums I realised that I hadn’t been hard enough in my initial approach…

  • I’d told them that I hadn’t known there was a parking limit, but I should have said I saw no signs about parking limits or charges and therefore had entered into no contract when I had parked.
  • I should have said that their charge of £70 for 40 extra minutes of parking was disproportionately high and failed to represent any loss that might have been incurred by the land owner.
  • I could also have pointed out to them that their parking charge notice was not a penalty charge notice and, as such, was unenforceable by law.
  • I should also not have admitted to being the driver. I couldn’t lie and say it wasn’t me, but they can only claim to have a contract with the driver and I had no legal obligation to tell them who was driving.

Lots of the forums advised ignoring the letters altogether because ParkingEye wouldn’t take it as far as court, but this was advice from early 2012. At this point PE were likely to reject any appeal (no matter how supportive the grounds were), yet those who ignored their demands completely were eventually left alone. In September 2012 a body called POPLA (Parking On Private Land Appeals) was set up to appeal against the unfair appeals, but you can’t get their support without first appealing to the Private Parking Company (PPC) who are charging you.

…And then in 2013 ParkingEye began issuing court claims to those who were following the advice of the forums. A member of the Parking Management Team from Aldi said that this was because people were, en masse, refusing to answer their mail. Presumably revenue was down and so they had to start backing up their threats.

Current advice in the forums is to appeal very clearly, stating lack of contract, excessive and unenforceable charges, and that no losses have been incurred by the land owner.

If such an appeal were to be rejected (and it most likely would be) then the forums advise that you request a POPLA code from ParkingEye (or similar) so that you can take the appeal further. Most people agreed that PE would drop it at that point, being unlikely to want to pay the £37 fee that POPLA would charge them.

My problem would have been that as I broke down (which classes as mitigating circumstances) POPLA weren’t guaranteed to back my appeal, but that doesn’t matter so much…

Although ParkingEye would have had to back off if POPLA supported my appeal, I wouldn’t have to pay up if they didn’t. PE would have to take me to court to get any money out of me, and any judge in their right mind would have laughed them out of the room. How could I have moved off their land with this going on…

Something is clearly wrong here...

Something is clearly wrong here…

I wouldn’t have thought of looking online for advice on my own though…it was actually after few phone calls to Aldi that left me utterly furious when I decided to seek support.

After the second (well, third if you consider their second demand) letter from ParkingEye I called the RAC for a reference, and then I called Aldi customer services to complain about PE and make the supermarket aware of how threatening and pushy their PPC was being.

I made it very clear that I wasn’t trying to appeal the charge, but the operator still tried to get me to call back on a different number, as the Parking Management team were ‘who I should be talking to’. I got a bit miffed at her buck-passing attitude and told her again that I was calling to complain and that I had thought Customer Services would be concerned by my distress. At this point she stopped being snotty with me and agreed that I had every right to be frustrated. She also chose to tell me that she gets lots of people calling with my very complaint. Interesting. The rest of the conversation was fairly pleasant and cathartic, and I ended the call feeling confident that my complaint would be handled as such…a simple complaint about the aggressive attitude of a company that didn’t even have people you could call and speak to. Once again, I was wrong to assume.

I got a voice mail message from a girl called Laura a few days later and I called called her back expecting to get through to a CS operative, but no. Laura (who finishes work at 4.30pm, making it impossible to speak to her outside of my own work hours) is one of the delightful (read: rude and confrontational) members of the Aldi Parking Management team. Rather than talk about my complaint, she wanted to interrupt me, belittle me, and say things like ‘it is your responsibility as a driver to blah blah blah…’. As if this wasn’t bad enough, she shouted at me and called me ‘totally unfair’ for saying that I understood Aldi get numerous complaints about ParkingEye. I pointed out to her that it was one of her team that had fed me that particular piece of information, and that she could probably listen to a recording of the conversation if she wanted hard evidence.

I felt it prudent to tell Laura that it is rude to interrupt people, imply that they are stupid and then call them liars, and that she was doing very little to improve my opinion of Aldi as a company. I then took advantage of her kind silence to remind her that I had called to complain about the disgusting vultures that they employ to police their car parks, and to make her aware that I would prefer to speak to those vultures over her any day. I asked her to stop harassing me while I was at work and kindly never call me back again.

Laura is not a very nice person and I can only assume that she is on some kind of commission from the parking charges. She did nothing to try and help me and wasn’t in the least bit bothered that I was upset, seemingly more interested in intimidating me further.

It’s disgusting enough that Aldi should employ companies like ParkingEye, so imagine how I feel now I know they also employ people like Laura. Don’t even get me started on the fact they allow her to speak to the public.

So…what happened next?

Well, to cut a long (rambling) story short, a few days after I’d given Laura the sharp edge of my tongue (a week or so after I had placed my second appeal), I received an EMAIL from ParkingEye to tell me that the charge had been dismissed. I did an awful lot of shouting at Laura, so I can’t imagine she was feeling overly generous at the end of our conversation, but I do have to wonder if she didn’t have a hand in getting the charge dropped…

As I said already, when you appeal online, ParkingEye state very clearly that they will only respond in writing and that you shouldn’t expect to hear from them until at least ten working days have elapsed. If they had been responding to my second online appeal then surely it would have been by letter? I guess I will never know, but it is terribly tempting to respond to their email or call Laura back for another cosy chat. I just want to thank them for dropping their totally unenforceable charge, of which they would never have seen a penny…

If you happen to be stung with any kind of parking charge, please please please don’t pay it! These charges are completely ridiculous and can always be fought. No car parking space is worth £70 for 40 minutes! You could over park for HOURS and it would cost the land owner nothing. They have no right to charge you.

For more advice, go to…

http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/

or…

http://www.legalbeagles.info/forums/

and start your own thread about your own parking charge problem. Both sites give excellent advice and can show you where to look to compose the best appeal.

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2013 in Random

 

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