Questions of Cash: July 2016

Q. On 23 April, I parked in the Matalan car park in Bury, entered my full vehicle registration as instructed and paid £1.50 for two hours parking. The car park camera footage shows my car entering the car park at 15.10 and leaving at 16.01. My receipt shows that I paid for two hours’ parking at 15.12.  Yet the company managing the car park, Smart Parking, is trying to charge me £50 for breaking the car park rules – and the penalty goes up to £85 if I exercise my right to appeal the charge to Popla [Parking on Private Land Appeals].  Yet Smart Parking knows I paid in full and left within the period that I paid for.  The problem is that someone used the machine before me, began entering their registration number and then went away without paying for a ticket.  That meant that their registration number was still in the system when I entered mine.  As a result, the receipt shows the other car registration number, plus the beginning of my number.  I have sent this evidence, including a photocopy of the receipt, to Smart Parking, but it has rejected my case, claiming that I did not enter my full registration details. There is no indication on any of the signage that you should check that the display is clear before entering your details and it did not cross my mind to do so. It adds an injustice to an injustice that if Popla does not uphold my appeal that I have to pay even more.  Any fair-minded person would conclude that I followed the rules and have legitimately paid for my parking.  CR, Lancashire.

A. We took this up with Smart Parking and, to our amazement, it refused to change its position, despite our repeated requests for it to do so.  On the verge of giving up, we then contacted Matalan about the problem – and miraculously Smart Parking changed its mind.  A spokesman for Smart Parking comments: “The car park in Bury is very busy, and Smart Parking manages it to make sure everybody gets an equal chance to park. There [are] 20 signs across the site which clearly highlight the terms and condition of use. Included in these terms is the condition that motorists must enter their full, correct vehicle registration when using the payment machine at the car park.  In the case of [the reader] he didn’t do this, so correctly received a charge.  The matter has subsequently been forwarded to the MD of Smart Parking who has, as an act of goodwill, decided to cancel the charge.”  Other readers should beware the importance of ensuring that parking machines that record registration numbers are clear before entering their own plate numbers.

Q. I have a mobile phone contract with O2.  On 28 June, O2 made a mistake and accidentally claimed a direct debit of £840 for my monthly bill – many times the correct charge.  The next day I spent the complete day on the phone with O2 trying to get it sorted out.  O2 has promised to refund the charge, but has not done so.  I have contacted my bank, The Co-operative, which says that as O2 has promised to make the refund it cannot honour the direct debit guarantee.  This has left me in financial difficulty, having to fall back on my savings.  RB, Antrim.

A. Both The Co-operative Bank and O2 responded quickly and helpfully when we contacted them.  A spokesman for The Co-operative Bank said: “We are invoking the direct debit guarantee for the customer and the money.  She will receive a refund into her account.”  The full payment was then returned to your account the following day.  O2 has also agreed to make the refund, but as your bank has now correctly applied the direct debit guarantee the refund will not be credited to your account.  However, you will receive a £100 goodwill gesture from O2 to recompense for its error.  A spokesman for O2 says the mistake arose from you initially agreeing a new contract, which you cancelled as you are entitled to do within the 14 day change of mind window. Unfortunately this cancellation was not correctly processed by O2.  The O2 spokesman adds: “We’ve been in touch with [the reader] to apologise for any inconvenience this has caused and as a gesture of goodwill arranged a £100 credit to her mobile account.”

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