Unsuspecting drivers are getting hit by £100 fines after a new parking system was launched at a city centre leisure complex.
Controversial car park management service Parking Eye now monitors drivers leaving their vehicles at Leisure World car park by taking photos of their registration plates.
Users are required to enter their registration number into an on-site terminal and pay for how long they want to stay – otherwise they will be financially penalised.
Customers at Leisure World’s businesses, including the Odeon, Frankie and Benny’s and ASK, can get up to four hours free parking if they provide their details to the businesses inside the complex.
But the new scheme has already caught out some users of the car park, which used to be free to park in.
It has also hit the footfall in Leisure World according to businesses on site.
Drivers who enter the car park are greeted with a parking sign but are not told their vehicles will be photographed.
There are 66 signs across the car park informing motorists of the new procedure, but the Daily Echo could only see two pay terminal for motorists to enter their registration plates into – if paying to leave their cars there between 4am and 6pm.
Jon Herring, 39, has used the car park to visit the Odeon for the past ten years, but was stunned to receive a £100 penalty from Parking Eye in the post.
He said he was unaware of any changes and left his van in the car park as usual.
He said: “If the signs were there, I didn’t notice them.
“I went into the cinema, bought my drink, and watched the film. Then I received a parking notice through the post and thought “what the hell?”
“If you get a parking ticket from the council, you know straight away.
“If I pay within 14 days, it becomes £60 but if you appeal it – on any grounds – it stays £100. That’s blatant profiteering.
“In the cinema, there must have been three opportunities for someone to tell me about the system.
“It was in the middle of the afternoon and not busy.”
Mr Herring, of Langley, paid for his cinema ticket by cash but queried his penalty with Odeon and security staff, who managed to find his cinema premium card member details, which he used when buying his ticket.
The details were then sent to Parking Eye, which then in turn quashed the fee.
But Wayne Fitzgerald said his wife Joanna immediately paid the £60 fine after she took children Edward, eight, and Eliza, six, to the cinema last month.
Mr Fitzgerald, 44, of Golden Hind Park, Hythe, warned that a lot of unsuspecting people are going to be hit by fines.
He said: “They were bringing business to the area, buy ing cinema tickets and sweets, but what is an expensive day anyway ended up being very expensive.
“It needs a bigger display and it could have been so much more user friendly.
“It’s definitely profiteering.”
Paul Watters, head of public affairs at the AA, said Parking Eye are one of the biggest car park management services in the country but signage needs to be clear for motorists.
He said: “We take the view that the DVLA should tell the keeper that an inquiry has been made against them, so they have time to defend themselves.
“We hope regulation would bring down £100 penalties.
“If it goes down to £60, you are still paying more than if you got a fine from the city council, which is £30 if paid early.
“People need to be cautious but signage needs to be better.
“They often miss unambiguous signs on the entrance.”
Parking Eye says its signs are “twice the size” of the minimum required under the British Parking Association (BPA) code of conduct and were installed a month before the system went live.
A spokesman said: “Parking Eye is a member of the British Parking Association’s (BPA) approved operator scheme.
“Members of the BPA are required to follow a code of practice that is supported by the AA and the DVLA.
“In the case of the Leisure World car park, there are 66 large, clear signs in the car park, spelling out the cost of parking and the parking charge payable if payment is not made.
“We understand that genuine mistakes are sometimes made, however, and operate an audited appeals process, encouraging people to appeal if they feel there are mitigating circumstances.”
What we saw
OUR reporters counted around 30 vehicles in the once bustling car park.
We were told the car park rarely gets used during the day time when charges apply.
There are plenty of signs scattered around the site, informing drivers to input their registration details if using the car park.
One family drove into the car park and stopped to look at one of the signs, before turning
around and driving back off.
Even blue badge holders are required to adhere to the system otherwise they will be hit by the £100 penalty.
The system also seems to be confusing for users. We saw one man, who looked as if he was
going to pay, walk to one terminal before walking to another.
Charge notices show photos of ‘guilty’ car
PARKING charge notices are sent out to motorists captured by Parking Eye cameras if registration details are not entered into onsite terminals.
The notices, which are sent via post, show black and white photos of the vehicle entering and leaving the carpark, including the arrival and departure time.
It states the amount due is £100 but will be discounted to £60 if it is paid within 14 days of the date issued.
The notice reads: “The signage, which is clearly displayed at the entrance to and throughout the car park, states that this is private land, the car park is managed by ParkingEye Ltd, and that this is a pay and display car park for non Leisure World Southampton customers where tariffs apply and that Leisure World Southampton customers must enter their registration (using the terminal inside) to qualify for free parking, or the parking charge displayed will apply.”
The appeals and complaints procedure is highlighted on the back, which asks all complaints to include a store receipt from the day of the penalty, and proof of purchases via a bank statement.