Monday, August 10, 2009

More refunds for Britain's motorists ... have you paid your parking fine by credit card?

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Meanwhile, our latest victory for Britain's motorists is reported in the Daily Telegraph.

Motorists set to recoup parking fines after credit card challenge

Motorists who have paid millions of pounds in parking fines are in line for refunds after a test case ruled that town hall surcharges imposed for paying by credit card are unlawful.

By David Millward, Transport Editor
Published: 9:00PM BST 10 Aug 2009

An estimated eight million drivers, around one in four of the total number on the roads, receive a parking ticket every year, paying an estimated £1 billion in fines.
Millions choose to use a credit card to settle the debt either by paying online or via a telephone service.

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At least a dozen councils across the country are known to have imposed surcharges on motorists who do so, although campaigners believe the number is likely to be higher.

They include several London boroughs, including Camden - the council at the heart of the test case - and authorities from Calderdale in West Yorkshire to Wealden, in East Sussex.
But the practice of imposing the additional surcharge on drivers was challenged by a motorist in London.

His case, which challenged the 1.3 per cent surcharge in Camden, was upheld by the adjudicator.
The ruling applies to all fines imposed by local authorities including those outside the capital which have been given the right to police parking and keep the fines.
It also applies to fines imposed by councils for ‘moving motoring offences’, such as entering a box junction.

The adjudicator said councils could not demand money in addition to the fine for the offence itself.

Town halls were not, the adjudicator added, in the same position as commercial enterprises which were free to negotiate or impose additional fees on their customers.
As a result of the ruling councils which have imposed the illegal surcharges face an avalanche of claims from motorists.

Neil Herron of the motorists’ campaign group Parking Appeals, said he was ready to launch a class action to force town halls to reimburse motorists if they fail to do so voluntarily.
“Yet again we have exposed councils acting unlawfully in their pursuit of the motorist. Councils have a duty to act within the law at all times and yet again their greed, by trying to extract every last drop of cash from the motorist, is going to come back and bite them.
“In this instance they can have no excuses. The legislation is explicitly clear,” he said.
“The process of refunding motorists the full amount could not be simpler. After all they have all the details of the person who paid and, they will not be allowed to keep unlawfully derived income.
“If any council decides not to refund we are quite prepared to launch a class action on behalf of those fined unlawfully.”

An AA spokesman said: “These credit card charges have been outrageous. Councils have got their fingers burned and have been caught acting illegally. It shows the extent to which councils have been acting as a law unto themselves.
“Paying by credit card gives drivers at least some protection against fraud when paying on line. Also using the internet saves councils a fortune, compared to processing cheques or handling fistfuls of cash being brought into a parking shop.
“We expect councils across the country to stop these surcharges straight away of face thousands of appeals.”

The ruling was also welcomed by Peter Roberts, chief executive of the Drivers’ Alliance. “Councils are taking motorists for a ride with countless stealth taxes and petty fines,” he said.
“It is not before time their dubious activities have been challenged and every council must return the illegal charges without delay. The wheels are falling off the councils stealthy bandwagon and not before time.”

The Department for Transport also refused to defend councils which impose the additional levy on motorists.
“Parking charges should be used to manage demand and not to raise revenue,” a spokesman said.
“Our guidance to councils is clear that paying by debit and credit cards is more convenient for many motorists and is cheaper and more secure for local authorities so surcharges for such payments cannot be justified.”

A spokesman for London Councils declined to comment on the Camden case, saying it was up to individual authorities to deal with the ruling.

Meanwhile a spokesman for the Local Government Association, added:"Both local authorities and motorists should abide by the law. In this case, members of the public may question whether it is fair that they as council tax payers should bear the cost of collecting money from people who have broken the law but decided to pay their fine by credit card. Councils will be considering the implications of this decision."

1 comment:

Vale said...

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