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'Shopping spies' scheme at Arnison Centre, Durham, scrapped following outcry
A SCHEME employing ‘shopping spies’ which fines unknowing customers £100 a time for visiting rival stores has been scrapped following a public outcry.
Last week, The Northern Echo revealed how people were charged if they parked in one area of the Arnison Centre, near Durham City, but shopped in another.
Retailers faced growing pressure to say whether they supported the action, but over the weekend it has emerged that it is no longer in operation at the edge-of-town retail complex.
Durham County Councillor Mark Wilkes, who urged anyone issued with a ticket to challenge it, said: “I am very happy that the company has listened to my requests for all the tickets to be scrapped. “ One victim, who was fined £100, claimed she saw officials spying on shoppers from a parked van issue tickets to seven vehicles.
The issue was raised by shoppers using the car park at the centre, in Pity Me, where different sections are policed by different firms and those parking in the UKCPS run area but shopping in another faced a £100 fine.
Dozens of people 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.
Coun Wilkes said the fines had been scrapped after some shoppers threatened to boycott the centre altogether.
He added: “This is a common sense decision and shows that applying a bit of pressure can pay off.”
The car park operator, UKCPS, has not responded to repeated requests for comment from the newspaper.
The Northern Echo also contacted several retailers served by the car park - Halfords, KFC, Pets at Home and Asda Living but none has made any comment.
Coun Wilkes added: “I hope we don't see this happening again in any part of County Durham as we need all our shopping areas to be welcoming and well used.”
A guide to fighting private parking tickets can be found at money savingexpert. com/privateparking
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