An MSP has accused a parking company of “intimidating” people into paying unenforceable parking fines issued in a Perth car park.
In the wake of the successful legal action against a woman who has been ordered to pay £24,500 for parking illegally in Dundee, the company has renewed efforts to enforce fines, but the circumstances were different, said Murdo Fraser.
“I have heard from a number of local residents that they are being chased by debt collectors acting for Smart Parking for penalty charges going back as far as 18 months,” said Mr Fraser.
“This appears to be on the back of the recent court case in Dundee which found an individual liable for substantial sums in charges for parking on private land.
“However, as various legal experts have pointed out, the Dundee case doesn’t change our understanding of the law. Under contract law, those parking on private land have to comply with the reasonable terms and conditions set by the landowner, and pay reasonable sums for breaching these.
“That does not mean that in every case penalty charges will be enforceable. As the legal advice published by Citizens’ Advice Scotland makes clear, any charges must be reasonable and proportionate.
“It seems very unlikely that any Scottish court would support a penalty charge of £160 for a short over-stay in a car park, or where a driver has paid the correct sum but has simply made an error in entering registration details into a ticket machine (as happens frequently in Perth’s Kinnoull Street car park).
“In addition, we do not have ‘keeper liability’ in Scotland, which means that it is up to the car park owner to prove who the driver of the vehicle was at the time when it was parked. The registered keeper of the car is not personally liable, and is not obliged to disclose who the driver was.
“My concern is that many individuals, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, are intimidated into paying large sums in charges because they receive threatening letters from debt collectors.
“Bully-boy tactics like this may help drive up the profits of companies like Smart Parking, but they are a disgraceful way in which to treat customers.”
Mr Fraser said there was a need for greater clarity on the legal position and he is working on a Member’s Bill proposal for the Scottish Parliament.
A Smart Parking spokesperson responded: “When parking on private land we always advise motorists to clearly read the term and conditions of use before they decide to park.
“The court case in Dundee clearly demonstrated that parking charges are enforceable in law and motorists who ignore them may find themselves taken to court to recover the outstanding amounts.”
They said they were “disappointed” by Mr Fraser’s comments adding: ”There is a danger that what he says could encourage his constituents to play ‘Russian roulette’ with how they deal with parking charges, which could leave them facing damaging legal costs.”