Ritchie Opposes Clamping Companies at Westminster Debate
South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has held a debate in the House of Commons calling for the UK government to introduce proper regulation to the operation of private car parking companies.
Speaking from Westminster Ms Ritchie said: “I have been made aware of the very serious problem of dubious and irregular charges being levied by private parking companies to customers who use private car parks, for example near shopping centres.
“I know that this has been a problem in my own constituency and across the north. Private operators do not actually have the right to levy a statutory fine and instead they are effectively levying a charge for loss incurred by the operator. Worryingly some firms seem to be pursuing these charges in a manner that puts members of the public under a significant degree of stress and pressure to pay up quickly and ask no questions.
“For example the initial letters sent to people are often designed in a manner that makes them appear to be official statutory fines of the type issued by local councils and will often threaten the involvement of the Debt Recovery Agency. Moreover many of these claims have very little basis and are reliant on frequently inaccurate evidence from automated registration recognition devices. Such tactics are completely reprehensible, especially when elderly or more vulnerable people are put under extreme amounts of pressure and stress.
“Frequently people will only be notified of such fines a month after the alleged offence and then asked to provide receipts as evidence that they were using an associated store. Such request are completely unfair after such a duration of time. Also, that the fines often up to 50% higher than the statutory Roads Service fine suggests they far exceed a reasonable claim. As it is the UK Department of Transport who provide information from the DVLA to facilitate these claims there is a clear onus on them to introduce proper regulation that prevents people being put under pressure to pay dubious or erroneous fees.
“The public need to be protected from spurious claims and made more aware of their rights and protections when dealing with private parking companies. The government claim to want people to return to their city centres, to support small business and the local economy but what message does it send out when people return from shopping trips and a month later are served with parking fees such as these,” added Ms Ritchie.