Saturday, August 22, 2009

Credit-card surcharges for parking tickets to be reimbursed

Town halls across Britain are bracing themselves for an inundation of claims by motorists demanding reimbursement of money they were wrongfully charged for paying for a parking ticket by credit card.
[ClickPress, Thu Aug 13 2009]

In a test case in which a London motorist challenged the 1.3% surcharge in Camden, his claim was upheld by the adjudicator (the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service), which said that such surcharges are unlawful and councils could not demand money in addition to the fine for the offence itself.

This ruling applies to all fines set by local authorities, including those outside London which have been given the right to monitor parking offences and keep the fines. This ruling opens the way for millions of drivers who have used a credit card for paying a parking fine to claim reimbursement.

If councils choose not to issue refunds to all those entitled to one, they may face a class action launched by the motorists’ campaign group Parking Appeals.

Neil Herron, a spokesman for the group, said that the surcharges were simply a case of greed on the part of councils “trying to extract every last drop of cash from the motorist”.

A spokesman for the AA also attacked the credit card charges, calling them “outrageous” and a demonstration of “the extent to which councils have been acting as a law unto themselves”.

Peter Roberts, chief executive of the Drivers’ Alliance, welcomed the ruling on the test case. “Councils are taking motorists for a ride with countless stealth taxes and petty fines,” he said, and called on “every council [to] return the illegal charges without delay”.

A government spokesman from the Department of Transport added his voice too to the chorus of critics, saying that “Parking charges should be used to manage demand and not to raise revenue.”

What makes the charges all the more indefensible is that paying parking fines by debit and credit cards is actually much cheaper and more secure for local authorities than processing cheques or dealing with cash brought into a parking shop.

Following the ruling, Camden Council has scrapped its policy of levying an extra fee for processing payments made by credit card, a “goodwill move” which it is applying across all council services, not just on parking fines. It said that processing bills through credit cards was costing the authority some £250,000 a year, costs which the charge was intended to cover.

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News provided by 24 7 Parking Ltd, a leading marketing services provider to the car parking industry in the UK, and a leading de facto marketplace for buyers and sellers, or lessees and lessors, of car parking spaces. 24 7 Parking carries out daily surveys of the national media to provide up-to-date news and commentary on UK transport.

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