A major investigation is underway into 'rogue' parking companies after cruise passengers have been hit by charges and seen their vehicles damaged.

Warnings have been issued by Southampton City Council for travellers only to use trusted providers after reports of passengers arriving at car parks only to find their bookings are invalid.

Trading Standards are understood to have launched an investigation into ‘several companies that operate cruise parking’ following ‘several complaints’.

Port operator ABP has banned ‘unauthorised organisations’ from the port – and has alerted police.

Daily Echo: ABP SouthamptonABP Southampton (Image: Colin Lee)

An ABP spokesperson said there had been a ‘number of incidents of vehicle damage and significant unexpected additional charges arising from a small number of unauthorised organisations offering cruise parking services’.

They added: “We have been compelled to take action against these unauthorised organisations and are taking this action urgently in the interests of all customers, given the escalation of problems being reported.

"It is not an action we have taken lightly and are working in a coordinated way with the cruise lines, Southampton City Council, Trading Standards and the police.”

Hampshire Constabulary confirmed Trading Standards are leading the investigation. 

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One family told the Echo they arrived in Southampton thinking they had booked two weeks of parking at the NCP car park in Portland Terrace through a company not linked to a cruise operator.

Kelly Cullum said she was left forking out an extra £140 after the meet-and-greet service she booked did not happen.

She and her family arrived in Southampton for a £9,000 cruise of the Mediterranean on Sky Princess.

The 45-year-old from Essex was told to call a company when she arrived at Portland Terrace so someone would meet her but instead no-one was there to meet her family-of-four.

She called the third party company she booked with but it 'rang and rang and went to answering machine'.

Kelly was later refunded after the Echo contacted the company.

NCP told the Echo it has ‘no affiliation with any company offering cruise parking’ at Portland Terrace.

Daily Echo:

Southampton City Council has warned cruise passengers to check their bookings.

Posting on Facebook, the authority said: “We are suggesting that people check before booking as there can be some unscrupulous people out there.”

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Southampton's council is urging people to be careful when they search online for cruise parking.

In a message to passengers, the council said: “Please try to use parking that is recommended to you.

“When using Google, 'sponsored links' appear first as these have been paid for by the companies advertising.

“Some of the car parking that could appear in your search might not be from reputable businesses.

“Please ensure you check the terms and conditions similar to buying any product online.”