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TONY HETHERINGTON: Fine proves car parks are licence to print money


TONY HETHERINGTON: Fine proves car parks are licence to print money

Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below. 

Mrs J.D. writes: We parked at West Pentire, Crantock in Cornwall, in a car park managed by UK Car Park Management Limited. 

We paid by bank debit card, and although we did not keep the ticket (who does!), we have a bank statement clearly showing we paid. 

However, we later received a Parking Charge Notice (PCN) saying we had not paid and claiming £60. 

Tony Hetherington replies: The PCN demand you received from UK Car Park Management included two pictures of your car, taken by the company’s on-site cameras, and it claimed that you owed £100 as you had failed to pay anything for the time you spent in the West Pentire car park.

If you paid within 14 days, the notice added, the company would accept £60. But if you did not pay within 28 days, the £100 penalty could rise.

Idyllic: But the day was ruined by getting a ticket at West Pentire car park

You appealed to the ‘Independent Appeals Service’, a name used by a commercial business whose proper title is United Trade and Industry Limited. It is paid by UK Car Park Management to consider appeals – and it considered your appeal and promptly turned it down. 

This was more than a bit puzzling, as you had provided evidence from your bank statement that you had used your debit card to pay for the use of the car park. However, the appeals service says that its adjudicator ‘is only allowed to consider the lawfulness of the charge.’

And UK Car Park Management says it was unable to identify your payment, despite the evidence from your bank that it was paid.

The payment machines at the car park ask motorists to enter the registration number of their car. You have told me that your husband did this, and while there is no evidence either way, it is possible he hit a wrong key.

But this still does not explain why your undisputed payment could not be found, simply by eliminating other payments made at around the same time. Logically, UK Car Park Management did receive your money, even if it could not at first sight relate it to your licence plate.

UK Car Park Management has refused to comment, and because of the time taken to appeal, you have had to pay £100. So what we are left with is a situation in which you can prove you paid, but you are being heavily penalised for something quite different, which is a possible mistake in entering the car’s number.

In short, the car park has had its money. You are being fined for something else in its terms and conditions, and not a failure to pay. 

Logically then, a car park firm could make it a condition that drivers must pay while standing on one leg and singing the Hallelujah Chorus. 

And if the cameras spotted them failing to hop and sing, this would count as a breach of contract and the driver would be slapped with a demand for another hundred pounds. It makes just as much sense.

After commercial television was launched in the 1950s, one of its first bosses said it was like having a licence to print money. Today, car park bosses must feel the same way. At least ITV gave us Coronation Street. Often, car park bosses behave little better than parasites.

‘Perfect’ pet insurance really is anything but…

Ms S.E. writes: My son and his partner took out a policy with Perfect Pet Insurance in 2020, with premiums of £44 a month. 

In November 2021, our family’s beloved Cavalier King Charles spaniel became ill with congestive heart failure. 

He passed away in February 2022 and the insurance company was notified, and a claim for £111 was submitted but is still unpaid.

Distress: Family's beloved Cavalier King Charles spaniel became ill with congestive heart failure

Distress: Family’s beloved Cavalier King Charles spaniel became ill with congestive heart failure

Tony Hetherington replies: Your son’s partner signed a legally binding release, allowing Perfect Pet Insurance to discuss your family’s complaint with me and to produce any necessary documents. Unhelpfully, while banks, government departments and so on accept such signed releases, this insurance company insisted on contacting her directly, basically asking, ‘Are you sure you want to authorise this?’

The reason became clear. Perfect Pet Insurance had failed to reply to the claim. ‘This was an oversight on our part,’ the insurer said.

And the explanation for its rejection of your claim was just as depressing. Your dog’s treatment in November 2021 cost £54, and in February 2022 it cost £57, but the policy says you must pay the first £90 a year yourself. Your policy was renewed in January 2022, meaning the two bills fell into two different years, each with its excess of £90, so you get nothing.

Worse still, Perfect Pet Insurance even collected a £44 premium in March 2022, despite knowing that your dog was no longer alive.

I expected it to refund this, but the company says that as it offers the insurance on an annual basis, but allows you to pay premiums monthly, you were effectively in debt to it, despite no longer having a pet. It did not collect any further premiums though. Far from good customer relations.

If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY or email [email protected]. Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned. 

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