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To pay or not to pay? Shopping spies row gathers pace
RETAILERS are facing growing pressure to say whether they support ‘shopping spies’ fining unknowing customers £100 a time for visiting rival stores.
Earlier this week, The Northern Echo revealed how shoppers face the charges if they park in one area but shop in another at an edge-of-town retail complex.
One victim who was fined £100 claimed she saw officials spying on shoppers from a parked van issue tickets to seven vehicles.
The car park operator, UKCPS, has not responded to repeated requests for comment.
The Northern Echo has also contacted several retailers served by the car park – Halfords, KFC, Pets at Home and Asda Living – but none has made any comment.
Councillor Mark Wilkes, who has urged anyone issued with a ticket to challenge it, said he had received a huge response to the story and was continuing to ask questions.
The issue centres on the car park at the Arnison Centre, in Pity Me, Durham City, where different sections are policed by different firms and people parking in the UKCPS-run area but shopping in another face a £100 fine.
Dozens of people have contacted The Northern Echo’s website questioning the legality of the charges.
Guy Anker, from moneysavingexpert.com, said there was no “one straight answer” on the issue.
Some people have ignored the so-called fines and they have “gone away”, he said, but he questioned whether it was worth the “sleepless nights worrying about the red letter or bailiffs knocking at the door”.
If a car park operator is a British Parking Association (BPA) member, which UKCPS is, motorists can appeal to POPLA (Parking on Private Land Appeals).
If not, the only appeal is to the operator itself.
However, Mr Anker said lodging an appeal “formalises” the process, which could make fighting a court case more difficult.
It remains uncertain whether motorists can be forced to pay large fines or merely an operator’s damages. Mr Anker said this depended on each case.
Operators consider motorists to have entered into a contract, and accepted its terms, on entering their car park, he added.
A guide to fighting private parking tickets can be found at moneysavingexpert.com/privateparking
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