A NORTH-EAST woman has described her disgust towards a parking company after she was ordered to pay £160 or face court action following a 'misprinted' ticket.

Pamela Macnoughton received demands for payment from a debt collection agency after a shopping visit to B&M in Bishop Auckland on Friday, March 6.

Ms Macnoughton, from Willington, near Crook, said she had been unaware of any alleged wrongdoing after the car park’s ticket machine appeared to miss characters off her registration.

The car park, which is controlled by Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), came under fire last week after another customer urged B&M to suspend parking charges during the pandemic. 

Operated by Smart Parking, the Saddler Street car park is managed on behalf of B&M and requires customers to enter their registration number into the machine upon arrival.

But speaking to The Northern Echo, Ms Macnoughton said Smart Parking refused to accept any suggestion that she had correctly entered her number plate while using the machine.

She said that despite having the paper ticket to prove she had paid for a valid ticket, her concerns were dismissed as she was told the error was her 'fault.'

The Northern Echo:

The shopper had paid £1 to park in the Saddler Street car park

She said: “I hadn’t received the original letter telling me I had the original charge because the DVLA had my address down as next door.

“But I eventually got the letter from the debt collection agency wanting £160, and they said if I did not pay it, it would go up and I could be going to court.

“I know that I put my registration number in correctly, but they said that I didn’t – they said it was my fault, but it was their machine.”

Ms Macnoughton said she was then offered £20 off her £160 charge as a ‘gesture of goodwill’ after raising her concerns.

But deciding to pay the reduced charge of £140 as she "couldn’t put up with it any longer," Ms Macnoughton warned dozens of other customers were being routinely caught out.

She said: “My son got involved, they didn't listen – in the end I paid it, I just couldn’t put up with it any longer.

"There have been loads of people being caught out by this, people I know have said their ticket has not printed the number in full – it’s wrong.

"I would never ever park there again.”

Another customer who asked to remain anonymous, said he successfully fought two parking charges from the same car park following a similar issue.

The customer said two of his friends had received a parking charge demanding £100 each after Smart Parking claimed they had provided the wrong registration.

The customer, who appealed one of the charges to POPLA - Parking on Private Land Appeals - said Smart Parking had refused to accept that his friend had the paper ticket to prove correct payment had been made.

He said: “On the first occasion, POPLA ruled in the motorist’s favour and threw out his charge. On the second occasion, Smart Parking said we’re not contesting the charge, you have won.

“That’s what these companies rely on, people who can’t be bothered to fight it or those who don’t know how to go about appealing it.”

In response, Smart Parking told us that all machines 'were fully operational' on the day of Ms Macnoughton's visit, but said it would be getting in touch with Ms Macnoughton to 'discuss' a partial-reimbursement.

It said: "There are numerous signs across the car park which clearly explains its terms and conditions of use. 

"One of these is that motorists must correctly enter their registration numbers into the ticketing machines so that our ANPR parking management system can recognise their vehicles entering and exiting.

"In the case of Mrs Macnoughton she did not do this, so correctly received a charge. 

"In regard to Mrs Macnoughton it is important to say that on the day that she received a charge all of our ticketing machines were fully operational and hundreds of motorists used them without any issues.  

"Additionally, due to the timelines and because we received no formal appeal within 28 days, this case was not reviewed and therefore escalated to DRP. 

"Following this and after escalation, we received an appeal which was reviewed by our team, at which point we identified a partially correct VRN and offered a reduced fee to the motorist IAW the BPA Code of Practice. 

"However, in the interim, payment was made to DRP and we have not heard from the motorist further. 

"In light of the evidence offered we would be delighted to discuss a partial reimbursement with Mrs Macnoughton and will be in touch accordingly."