Throughout my time of writing ’50’ I was involved in a long-running battle with Euro Car Parks about a parking charge notice (aka “parking fine”). Right from the beginning, I wrote that it felt like a con, a money-making scheme, a honey trap for the owners of the car park and nothing to do with me parking in a prohibited place.
On November 12th 2019, I write: “I’ve decided to contest the parking charge notice. It came about because I parked my car outside, but adjacent to, a car park in town in an area where there were no signs about parking restrictions and no yellow lines of any kind. It was just a neat little space outside a car park, on the road. In front of it was a large planter for some kind of bush. Behind, two other cars were parked either side of a small barrier, neither of which were in the car park either. It seemed to be a well-known spot. I had had lunch with Lindsay in a café and when I got back to the car there was the dreaded yellow pouch attached to the front windscreen. I won’t win the appeal, no-one ever does, but if I have the courage to take it further and not back down when they threaten court action I could avoid this unfair fine. It’s a game of chicken. These car parking companies repeatedly menace and pressurise you, but if you don’t back down you have a chance especially, as in my case, when you haven’t even parked in the carpark that the fine applies to!”
I didn’t back down and for over a year ignored threatening letter after threatening letter – usually written in large print with red banners warning me of imminent court action, debt collection, and a greatly increased amount to pay. My ‘fine’ was tripled in price.
For months I felt harassed, bullied, and frightened, but because I strongly believed it was an immoral practice I refused to give in, I refused to pay up (although I did think about it a few times because the letters were so intimidating). Sadly, I’m sure the sheer persistence of the letters and the way they were worded so aggressively would have been enough to make most people pay. But somehow I found the courage to continue to refuse. I emailed Euro Car Parks several times and hand wrote them a letter until, a year-and-a-half later, the letters dribbled to a halt and they apparently gave up. I never paid the money. But I bet 95% of people who undergo such a horrible experience do.
And then this morning, three years later, I read this on the news: Minister Neil O’Brien said: “Private firms issue roughly 22,000 parking tickets every day, often adopting a system of misleading and confusing signage, aggressive debt collection and unreasonable fees designed to extort money from motorists.”
It’s such a vindication, such a glorious paragraph to read, because it exactly sums up my experience. It’s wonderful to have it recognised officially that these car parking companies enact aggressive money-making schemes on often innocent members of the public. It’s so greedy and disgusting. I’m very glad the government is finally recognising this as a dishonourable practice, capping ‘fines’, and cracking down on the worst offenders. AT LAST!