Friday, August 14, 2009

Loophole in parking fines: Thousands of pounds could be refunded

Evening Courier
14 August 2009
By Michael Peel

CALDERDALE Council might be forced to pay back thousands of pounds in parking fines because of a legal loophole.
It has been putting a 2.6 per cent surcharge on credit card payments, which is against Department for Transport guidelines.

Car parking campaigner Neil Herron, director of Parking Appeals Ltd has raised the issue with Calderdale Council. "If the council has made a mistake, like several others, they should hold their hands up and waive the entire charge."
Tyne and Wear-based Mr Herron, whose company threatened to take another council to the High Court over the issue, said he has written to the council's chief executive Owen Williams.
He wants to find out how many motorists have paid up and how much might have to be refunded.
Mr Herron also wants the issuing of parking fines to be suspended until references to credit card surcharges are removed from all paperwork, notices and the council's website.
The Parking and Traffic Appeals Service adjudicator Michael Greenslade ruled earlier this year that parking tickets issued by Camden Council were invalid if they had a credit card surcharge added.
In June, Mr Herron threatened to take Harrow Council to the High Court if it did not pay back all fines paid by credit card since September 2007.
"We have found about a dozen councils, including Calderdale, which appear to be charging people more than the penalty prescribed by law," said Mr Herron.
Harrow Council suspended its 1.5 per cent credit card surcharge on parking fines but insisted it was nonsense that it should pay back all tickets paid by credit card since September 2007 and is consulting lawyers.

Guidelines issued by the Department of Transport on the Traffic Management Act 2004, which governs parking fines state: "There are operational savings to debit/credit cards so authorities cannot justify applying surcharges for their use."

Calderdale's head of engineering Martin Hibbins said: "We are aware of the recent ruling and can confirm that we no longer apply a credit-card surcharge for the payment of parking fines.

"Our online payment system has already been updated to ensure that no credit-card surcharge is applied, and the relevant wording on the council website is being changed accordingly."

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