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Motorist slams 'bullying' firm over disputed charge at Inverness car park


By Val Sweeney

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Julian Fox is disputing a parking ticket in relation to the notorious Strothers Lane car park in Inverness.
Julian Fox is disputing a parking ticket in relation to the notorious Strothers Lane car park in Inverness.

A driver is disputing a parking fine after being accused of not paying for a ticket at a car park in Inverness.

Julian Fox received a letter from Smart Parking and a £60 fine after using the Strothers Lane car park – which has been the subject of numerous similar complaints – when he dropped a friend off at the rail station on October 15 last year.

Mr Fox, who runs a sailing business at Shieldaig, is adamant he paid £2 for a ticket and can only think he entered a wrong digit for the registration.

As he continues his battle with the company, he has contacted regional MSP Rhoda Grant who said the company was being unreasonable.

Under the parking charge notice issued by Smart Parking in October, he was told he had 14 days to pay a £60 charge, which could then rise to £100.

Although he had thrown away his ticket, he lodged an appeal with the British Parking Association (BPA) but lost.

“What I didn’t realise and feel aggrieved about is the fact that appealing and losing the appeal means the fine increases to £100,” Mr Fox said. “I approached Smart Parking direct and offered to settle on the basis that they can only claim that I breached a commercial contract.

“While not accepting that I did anything wrong, I offered to pay £40 just to make the irritation go away.”

He said Smart Parking’s response was to increase the fine to £110 and later £170.

“It is financial bullying,” he said.

Mrs Grant has written several letters to Smart Parking.

“I got in touch with Smart Parking to appeal to their better nature, saying even though my constituent insisted he had paid the ticket in the first place, he would be willing to settle for £40,” she said. “But instead of accepting this offer, they haggled, saying as a ‘gesture of goodwill’ they would drop the £170 fine back down to £100.

“I wrote back to them saying my constituent was willing to make them a ‘gesture of goodwill’ with a full and final offer of £40.

MSP Rhoda Grant.
MSP Rhoda Grant.

“I said if this was not acceptable I would continue to offer my constituent all the help that he needed to fight for a fair resolution.

“I found the company unreasonable to say the least and I will continue to support Mr Fox in his future dealings with them.”

In January, the BPA – of which Smart Parking is a member – announced new rules saying while drivers should still expect to receive a fine if they had not entered their details correctly, private parking operators must cancel it at the first stage of the appeal.

A spokesman for Smart Parking said: “Smart Parking were brought in to manage Strothers Lane car park to stop parking abuse and to ensure spaces are always available for motorists who need them. At the car park we use a state-of-the-art parking management system that monitors cars entering and exiting the car park.

“Motorists who do decide to park at the car park simply need to purchase a ticket by entering their car registration number at one of our ticketing machines. In the case of Mr Fox, he did not do this and received a charge.

“Smart Parking are members of the British Parking Association (BPA) and strictly follow its guidelines. We operate a BPA-audited appeals process and encourage motorists to contact us if they feel they have been incorrectly charged. Mr Fox did appeal to us, so we investigated his case.On the day in question, all of our ticketing machines were in operation, but we could not find any sign of Mr Fox entering his registration into any of our machines or him being issued a ticket.

“In light of this we are able to re-confirm that he was correctly charged. Mr Fox has subsequently contacted POPLA, the independent appeals services, who have also rejected his appeal.”

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