Trading Standards and Citizens Advice tackle private car parking problems
The Highland Council’s Trading Standards Officers are backing local Citizens Advice Bureaux in their campaign to ensure that Highland consumers get a fair deal over private car parking. Both agencies have seen an increase in consumer complaints about private parking in recent times, with a range of problems being encountered by motorists, as David MacKenzie, Team Leader at Highland Council Trading Standards explained:
“Sometimes the problem is poor signage resulting in drivers being unaware of large penalty charges and the scale of such charges can also be controversial. Other problems we’ve seen include parking charges being wrongly called a “fine”, and inappropriate and harassing debt collection activities. The range of car park types is also wide: specialist private car parks, retail parks and individual retailers’ premises, e.g. supermarkets”
While many private car parks operate fairly and effectively, elsewhere problems persist and Trading Standards and the CAB are keen to hear about the experiences of consumers in the Highlands. Advice and assistance are also available to help resolve consumers’ individual disputes.
Alasdair Christie, Manager of Inverness, Badenoch & Strathspey CAB commented: “We thought this was an issue consigned to the past in Highland; however it appears to be back in the spotlight once more. We welcome the Citizens Advice Scotland campaign as an opportunity to gather information on poor practices in the private parking sector and we encourage people who have experienced issues to complete the online survey (www.surveymonkey.com/s/itsnotfine).
We would urge people who are worried about this issue, perhaps because they have received a letter demanding an unreasonable “fine” be paid, to visit the CAB for advice and assistance. Alternatively, contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service helpline on 03454 04 05 06.”
The eight Highland CABs work closely with the Council’s Trading Standards team on consumer matters in an initiative known as the “Highland Consumer Partnership”. David MacKenzie continued:
“The CABs alert us to the consumer problems being encountered by their clients and we then take action, either working with businesses to ensure compliance or taking action against rogue traders. Either way, the aim is to get a fair deal for consumers and this Autumn the Highland Consumer Partnership is taking a close look at private car parking”.
Trading Standards are stressing that to be sure of staying inside the law, car park operators should:
· Display signs in clear, plain language throughout the site, including at all entrances
· Not imply that any charges are “fines” or similar
· Use only fair conditions, e.g. any penalty charges should not be disproportionate
· Use debt collection procedures that are fair and fully in line with Scots law and practice
Notes for editors
Campaign website: www.cas.org.uk/itsnotfine