Written by Gordon Neish Friday, 01 April 2011 09:06
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£75 ‘fine’ at Oak Mall
WHEN Dunoon man George Nicholl went shopping in Greenock’s Oak Mall two week’s ago he noticed nothing out of the ordinary.
He parked, as usual, in Hunter’s Place – just to the right of the Oak Mall – while he, along with his wife Terri and grandson Jack, went shopping in the mall. Two hours later they returned to Dunoon. Car parking had, in George’s experience, always been free in Hunter’s Place as it is in other retail outlets in Greenock.
However, on Monday George received a nasty shock – a ‘parking fine’ of £75. The invoice came from a Liverpool-based company called Civil Enforcement Ltd and said that if the sum was not paid within 14 days it would rise to £150, and non-payment of this could result in an appearance at a county court – of which there are none in Scotland.
George’s letter said that Civil Enforcement Ltd could provide photographic evidence of his alleged misdemeanour – if he sent the company £10.
Mr Nicholl told the Standard: “I got in touch with police in Greenock and the officer I spoke to said he was very concerned about this as the sign telling people how to pay was so small.”
Being a civil matter, however, police are powerless.
Motorists are supposed to go into the mall to a machine, enter their vehicle registration number and make payment, the charge being £1 per hour for a maximum of four hours.
We raised George’s concerns with Claire Jefcoate, manager of the Oak Mall. She told us that a company called Creative Car Parking began renting two car parks, including Hunter’s Place, from Oak Mall in April last year and that they have been paying car parks since then.
She said that prior to this Inverclyde Council and other Greenock office staff had been parking all day leaving no room for shoppers.
Ms Jefcoate said: “The payment is justified for town centre parking at £1 per hour and is reasonable for the four hour maximum period.”
Civil Enforcements Ltd is the collection wing of London-based Creative Car Parks.
It appears, however, that the company has no basis in law to send bills to people and in the highly unlikely event of them actually taking someone to court they would be unlikely to win.
A Glasgow lawyer who has handled a number of cases relating to private car parking firms said: “The bills these companies send out are not bills - they are invitations to pay. I would advise people not to accept the invitation.
“This particular company takes photographs of vehicles’ registration numbers and issues its invoices to the registered keeper of the vehicle. They do not know who was driving it.
“They do not have authority to make the keeper name the driver – and they can’t sue a car.
“Unless somebody admits liability - maybe by writing back with an excuse - it would be very difficult, probably impossible, for them to successfully sue.”
Internet forums tell of people being hounded with up to 20 letters per week from Civil Enforcement Ltd demanding money they do not owe.
We asked the mall’s manager if she thought that such bullying tactics were good for Oak Mall's business – Ms Jefcoate did not respond.
Neither Creative Car Parks or Civil Enforcement Ltd responded to our requests for comment.