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16 October 2014, 07:42
A campaign is being launched to highlight "unfair'' private parking charges amid a 50% increase in the number of people asking for advice about car parks in the last year.
Citizens Advice Scotland is calling on some car park operators to offer a fair deal to customers after it dealt with 3,653 new issues relating to parking, with some drivers being charged up to £200 for overstaying allotted time slots by 30 minutes.
The charity said 30% of charges sent to drivers were above £100 despite industry guidance that firms should charge less than this.
It said research showed private parking charges range from £40 to £200, with a large number clustered at £100.
CAS also revealed that information about parking on private land is the most viewed page on its self-help website, with more than 15,000 views per month.
Now, the campaign It's Not Fine aims to allow consumers to fight back, with CAS also launching a national survey for people to reveal their experiences of any problems relating to private parking companies.
It also calls on the industry to put a stop to using parking charge notices similar to the police's penalty charge notice as the two are not the same.
The report, published today by CAS, details a number of common problems noted in complaints about private car park operators including unclear signs, misleading parking tickets and companies not dealing fairly with appeals and complaints.
Recommendations to the parking industry, retailers and the Scottish Government are also set out in the report, which include setting up an independent third party appeals service to review private parking charges in Scotland and a licensing scheme with a register of private parking firms who must abide to a set code of practice.
Margaret Lynch, CAS chief executive, said the evidence in the report would "strike a chord with many drivers''.
"To the parking companies we say clean up your industry and offer a fair deal to your customers,'' she said.
"To the Scottish Government we say introduce regulations so that Scottish drivers have the same protections as those in England and Wales.
"And to drivers themselves we say make sure you know your rights and that you stand up for them. We will help you do that, and between us we can end this problem and create a fairer system.
"I want to be very clear that we are not telling people not to pay parking tickets. We have no problem with charges which are levied fairly, with clear terms and conditions, appropriate signage and robust appeal mechanisms. Parking on publicly-owned land generally follows these patterns, so we are not talking here about charges by traffic wardens or the police. Nor are we talking about those private parking companies who do behave fairly and follow the guidelines set down by the industry.
"What we are talking about is those parking companies who don't use proper signage, charge inflated fees and then fail to respond properly to people who appeal.''