SMART PARKING - INDECENT SCAMMERS

"An Australian company, registered in Scotland, ripping off people in England."

Under the guise of managing a public facility, this company are ripping people off, using a rather devious and clever ploy. This 'FREE' carpark is supposed to be 'serving' the community and the local shops, however, many of the people who use it are currently receiving unwarranted, intimidating and threatening demands from the carpark management company, their associated debt collection companies and solicitors, designed to extort money with menaces in what is literally a cleverly disguised, predatory scam!

This type of thing seems to have become quite fashionable up and down the country of late. Smart Parking Ltd, companies like them and their associated so-called debt recovery agencies and solicitors are conning people, misleading people, threatening people and leaning on people for the purpose of extorting money from them!

Smart Parking's signage says they are operating with the blessing of the 'private land' owner, Evolve Estates, who currently own the Riverside retail facility in Erith. However, the carpark managment company are operating a blatant scam incorporating trickery, wordplay, intimidation, threatening behaviour, bullying and extortion. Whether they have the blessing of the landowner to do that is another question! Maybe they're in on it! Perhaps we'll ask them!

If you need help challenging an unwarranted parking charge notice...
Riverside Carpark, Erith. Associated with the Riverside Shopping Centre. A dubious and shameful operation!

Riverside carpark, Erith.
Carpark signage obscured
by gantry on approach.

Short-Changed: We, the public, need sensibly managed, adequate parking facilities, in order to be able to go about our business. At the moment, in many instances, we are not getting the service we deserve. In fact, we are being seriously short-changed and in some cases seriously exploited.

Facilities Eroded: Despite building more houses and forcing more people to live in already built up areas, parking facilities have been gradually eroded and diminished by local authorities over the years, as they paint more and more yellow lines and demolish perfectly good carparks, without replacing them.

Exploit The Challenges: To exploit the challenges facing the motorist created by the local authorities, we have seen an army of traffic wardens, now known as civil enforcement officers, on the march at all times of day and night, hiding in alleyways and behind lampposts, trying to catch people unawares as they try and go about their business.

Carpark Management: In recent times, technology has been employed, and many carparking facilities up and down the country have been turned over to carpark management companies, who use automatic number plate recognition cameras to monitor times of entry and exit to carparks. Although penalties for overstaying are still extortionate, as long as everyone knows the score and there is adequate signage, in theory, where there is an absolute need to limit staying time, rather than just exploit people who are being less than vigilant, this could be considered reasonable.

In the spotlight!

Uncomfortable Ride: However, some carpark management companies are taking the ordinary public for a rather uncomfortable ride using devious scamming techniques and then demanding payment of large sums of money in the form of a PCN, or parking charge notice. One such company exercising such dubious tactics is Smart Parking Ltd. The main subject of this particular article.

Need To Get A Ticket: Riverside carpark, in Erith, was originally a pay and display carpark patrolled by a carpark attendant. Even though it was free for the first three hours, there was a need to display a ticket to indicate to the attendant how long you had been in the carpark. As this carpark now uses a numberplate recognition system, which logs carpark entry and exit times down to the second, there is no longer any need to display a ticket.

No Need To Get A Ticket: As the carpark is monitored solely by the ANPR cameras and the printed time on the ticket is also irrelevent, as we shall see, there is absolutely no need to put registration details into the machine to obtain a ticket for the three hours 'FREE' parking. Nevertheless, this is still a requirement of the so-called terms and conditions of using the carpark.

Why? We can, of course, understand why there is a need to interact with the machine if you are staying longer than three hours and wish to pay for additional time, but for the three hours 'FREE' parking this is wholly unnecessary, so why are the carpark management company so insistent we ask? Answer, because it's a scam! This scam targets people who use the carpark in the following key areas...

  • Those who do not realise they need to get a ticket for the 3 hours 'FREE' parking.
  • Those who forget to get a ticket for the 3 hours 'FREE' parking because they are preoccupied.
  • Those who enter the wrong registration number, e.g. entering a 0 for an O, or vice-versa.
  • Those who do obtain a ticket but are going by the time as printed on the ticket.
  • Those who believe disabled concessions apply when, according to the fine print, they do not.
  • Those who park at night or in off peak hours, therefore believing they don't need to get a ticket.

Up to 3 hours FREE and the other tariffs are clearly visible. Unlike the bits they catch you out on which are all rather cleverly and deviously more obscure!

Devious Signage! Examining the carpark's signage, all the points this company catch you out on are in rather fine print compared to the bits that lull you into a false sense of security. For example, many people do not read past the top line of the tariffs listing, which says "Up to 3 hours FREE". This is printed in a large black font on a white background, and able to be read from a distance. The line that says "Please obtain a ticket against your full and correct registration number for 3 hours free parking", is further down and much less obvious. It is printed in a small orange font, on the same white background, and is patently designed to be more obscure and not clearly visible from a distance. The word FREE has a small orange asterisk on the end of it, also not clearly visible from a distance but supposed to draw one's attention to the small orange print. However, as the asterisk itself is too small and is also orange on a white background, it of course doesn't get noticed. Many people are therefore caught out because they do not realise they need a ticket for three hours free; and why would they!

Ridiculously small keypads on these machines and contact bounce from unreliable buttons make it difficult for elderly and poor-sighted people to put in the correct registration number!

Wrong Number! People are also caught out if they enter the wrong registration number. For example, some people have entered 0 for O, or O for 0. Smart Parking still expect them to pay extortionately for this simple mistake. Sometimes the buttons don't work properly and produce a double character due to contact bounce. This too may go unnoticed by the motorist, but not by Smart Parking, who are quick to pounce on any anomaly they can catch you out on. The machines could easily be configured with the ANPR cameras to warn of any inputting of wrong registration number, but of course, they don't! It's all part of the scam!

Pointless Ticket! One lady I spoke to, going by the time printed on her ticket, whilst assisting her disabled mum, thought she had minutes to spare and still received a PCN. When she pointed out that she had minutes to spare she was told the time on the ticket was irrelevant and that what mattered was the entry and exit times as clocked by the ANPR system. What is the point in having a ticket when the time printed on it is not even valid? You guessed it!

Forget To Get A Ticket! Many people get caught out simply because they don't realise you need a ticket for the three hours FREE parking. One person we know of used the carpark four days in a row without realising they were required to enter their registration number into the machine and then received four parking charge notices. People also forget to get tickets. They just want to park, do a quick shop and get home again. There is absolutely no need to have to type in your registration number into a machine for FREE parking when the carpark has ANPR cameras that monitor your carpark time to the second. This is a disgusting service to the consumers expected to use this shopping centre. It's a modernised form of an old-fashioned extortion racket, intimidating and threatening people to extort money from them!

The front and back of the PCN notice that drops on your mat if you breach this company's underhanded terms and conditions.

PCN or PCN? Private carparking companies are not authorised to issue penalty charge notices to the public. Instead they use an interesting and rather devious play on the familiar acronym and call it a parking charge notice. Everything these companies do is devious and misleading and the correspondence is designed to put psychological pressure on the recipient from the word go. Or more like, as printed on the PCN, from the words...
Parking Charge Notice - Do Not Ignore

Legalised Extortion! The parking charge notices these companies issue are a threatening and intimidating form of legalised extortion. From Smart Parking Ltd, people currently receive demands for a £100 (reduced to £60 if paid within 14 days). It is bad enough being billed this amount of money for overstaying your three hours but being billed this amount for using the carpark for just 15 minutes, as has happened to at one person I know of, or less than an hour even, as has happened to many people, is disgusting.

Considered Reasonable? Smart Parking's blurb quotes a carparking court case where the Supreme Court ruled that "such charges are not extravagant, exorbitant or unconscionable". However, what may be considered reasonable to very well-off Lords and Ladies working for the Supreme Court is significantly different to most ordinary people, who are already struggling in this corrupt and imbalanced society! Such charges, even at the reduced rate, represent a week's food shopping for many families and more for some.


Appealing?

Printed Ticket Irrelevant: Many people have tried appealing to Smart Parking on the very reasonable grounds detailed above. Not least of all that you shouldn't need to obtain a ticket for three hours 'FREE' parking when the carpark is monitored by ANPR. In fact, the printed ticket, and by their own admission, even the time on the printed ticket, is completely irrelevant.

Ruthless And Mercenary: Smart Parking have exhibited a ruthless and mercenary attitude even to poor-sighted and elderly people who have inadvertently entered a wrong character as part of their registration number. Something that the automatic system could be programmed to prevent, but of course it doesn't. This company should not be in a position of responsibility managing what is a necessary public resource and vital facility.

Waste Of Time: Appealing to Smart Parking has been a waste of time for all the instances we have investigated. People rightly think they have reasonable cause to appeal, but Smart Parking, of course, don't see it like. Smart parking will try an get you to appeal and advise you to follow their appeals process, but, by doing this you are literally admitting to the offence. This of course, they know! If you do not want to pay, do not try and appeal through the company's appeal system. By doing what they want you to do, you are falling into their trap.

Smart Response: Smart Parking's routine response to all appeals is...
"There are clear signs across the site that highlight the terms and conditions of use and included is the condition that motorists must enter their full, correct vehicle registration when making payment. Smart Parking are members of the British Parking Association and strictly follows its guidelines."

The following press links detail some experiences people have had at the hands of Smart Parking...
Sun article on Riverside Carpark
News Shopper article on Riverside Carpark
Guardian article on Riverside Carpark


Epic terms and conditions
for a carpark!

Terms And Conditions

Terms And Conditions? Smart Parking's full terms and conditions are laid out on just one wall of the carpark. Most people would not bother to walk over to read such an epic, and when talking of services to the public, people shouldn't have to stand there and read such a load of cobblers to avoid being had over by this dubious and unscrupulous company, especially in the rain.

Able To Trust: The fact is, all companies serving the public should be able to be trusted by the public not to take undue advantage, or rip people off, otherwise they shouldn't be in business serving the public. Likewise, the public should rightly be able trust and expect that facilities such as this carpark would be operated on a fair and trustworthy basis by the company that own the retail facility. After all, they want the public to spend their money there.

Small Print: Smart Parking print their terms and conditions in a very small print on their PCN's. In fact, the print is so small they are very hard to read without a magnifying glass. We have copied them below, in a reasonable sized font, so people CAN actually read them without a magnifying glass...


Smart Parking's Terms and Conditions

Smart Parking Ltd have the right to seek payment of the parking charge for unauthorised parking of the vehicle on the land on the relevant date as owner of the land, on the basis of a contractual right to occupy or to have possession of the land, or acting as agent of the landowner.
A Parking Charge Notice (PCN) is payable with respect to the vehicle registration mark PI55OFF for the alleged breach of advertised terms and conditions within RIVERSIDE SHOPPING CENTRE, ERITH on 30/03/2018.
The signage, which is clearly displayed at the entrance to and throughout the car park, states that this is private land and the car park is managed by Smart Parking Ltd.
By either not purchasing the appropriate parking time or by remaining at the car park for longer than permitted, in accordance with the terms and conditions set out in signage, the Parking Charge is now payable to Smart Parking Ltd (as the Creditor).
A Parking Charge Notice of £100.00 is now due for payment and must be paid before the end of the 28 days from with the date of this notice. If the parking charge notice is paid before 25 Apr 2018 the amount of the parking charge notice will be reduced to £60.00. If you were not the driver of the vehicle and you wish to provide the drivers details, lodge a dispute, appeal or query this must be made online or in writing. Please follow the instructions overleaf.
Following the landmark Supreme Court ruling of Parking Eye v Beavis, it has now been established that a Parking Charge Notice issued on Private Land is enforceable. The Court rejected claims that such charges are extravagant, exorbitant or unconscionable and advised that such charges act a necessary deterrent for breach of contract. If you feel you have sufficient grounds to appeal this notice you will find full details of the appeals process overleaf.
Yours sincerely,
Smart Parking Limited


Smart Parking's Terms And Conditions And Unanswered Questions

Smart Parking Ltd have the right to seek payment of the parking charge for unauthorised parking of the vehicle on the land on the relevant date as owner of the land, on the basis of a contractual right to occupy or to have possession of the land, or acting as agent of the landowner.
Who says they have the right? They may have the permission of the landowner to manage the carpark. That doesn't mean they have right act immorally or behave in a criminal and fraudulent fashion or take undue advantage of people. Besides, you may not agree to be in a contract with them, or agree to their terms and conditions. I don't!

A Parking Charge Notice (PCN) is payable with respect to the vehicle registration mark PI55OFF for the alleged breach of advertised terms and conditions within RIVERSIDE SHOPPING CENTRE, ERITH on 30/03/2018.
This says alleged breach because it is unproven. They may send their PCN to the registered keeper but they don't know who was driving the vehicle or even if the vehicle was the registered keeper's vehicle. It could have been a cloned vehicle using the carpark, so nothing is definite or proven, hence the word 'alleged'.

The signage, which is clearly displayed at the entrance to and throughout the car park, states that this is private land and the car park is managed by Smart Parking Ltd.
The signage is dubious, not in line of sight, and cleverly laid out to be misleading. So what if it is private land. It belongs to the shopping centre and we're just trying to do our shopping and using the appropriate carpark. If they don't like the vehicle being there they can follow the normal channels and get a court order to have it evicted. We'll just shop somewhere else.

By either not purchasing the appropriate parking time or by remaining at the car park for longer than permitted, in accordance with the terms and conditions set out in signage, the Parking Charge is now payable to Smart Parking Ltd (as the Creditor).
The general interpretation of the ordinary public would be that purchasing a ticket would require a cash transaction. Using the word purchase to obtain something that is free is alien to consumers and another play on words from these dodgy dealers. And who says that you agree to their advertised terms and conditions? You have not signed anything or given any such verbal agreement. You have simply parked your car in a carpark serving a retail facility, as one would expect to do. It is an assumption on their part that by doing so you agree to their terms and conditions. No! We do not! Therefore, we cannot consent to be bound by them.

A Parking Charge Notice of £100.00 is now due for payment and must be paid before the end of the 28 days from with the date of this notice. If the parking charge notice is paid before 25 Apr 2018 the amount of the parking charge notice will be reduced to £60.00. If you were not the driver of the vehicle and you wish to provide the drivers details, lodge a dispute, appeal or query this must be made online or in writing. Please follow the instructions overleaf.
There is no legal requirement to comply with any of this. You are free to simply ignore it! They will pass your details onto a debt collection agency, who will up the price and put their bit on top and send you more demanding and intimidating letters. This is for an unproven, that is, alleged breach of their terms and conditions, that they assume you agree with, but of course you may not, and you haven't signed anything to say that you do. You are therefore not necessarily bound by them. With the new General Data Protection Regulations coming into effect, there are questionmarks hanging over whether such a company is entitled to do this even as it is only allowed if there is a legal requirement. Companies such as Smart Parking rely on the Protection Of Freedom Act 2012, which says 'in certain circumstances' the registered keeper can be held accountable for parking charges, however, this is somewhat vague and we don't know exactly what it constitutes. These are grey areas when employed in the manner being used by companies such as Smart Parking Ltd, who appear to be somewhat abusing it.

Following the landmark Supreme Court ruling of Parking Eye v Beavis, it has now been established that a Parking Charge Notice issued on Private Land is enforceable. The Court rejected claims that such charges are extravagant, exorbitant or unconscionable and advised that such charges act a necessary deterrent for breach of contract. If you feel you have sufficient grounds to appeal this notice you will find full details of the appeals process overleaf.
Parking Eye vs Beavis established only that that particular case was enforceable. They have unjustifiably and fraudulently used the word 'landmark' to be misleading again. It's not a landmark, it's a one-off court case where Mr Beavis admitted to everything and was contesting the extortionate charge demanded for his over-stay. Even then, amongst the rather well-off Supreme Court judges that heard the case, the decision was not unanimous, with one judge ruling in faviour of Mr Beavis. It doesn't mean that these companies are justified in doing what they're doing or that every case would be heard, or heard the same. It's all a part of their intimidation tactics and scamming technique.


To Pay Or Not To Pay? That Is The Question!

Two Choices: If you receive a parking charge notice from Smart Parking or any other similar company, you have two choices. Either pay up or refuse to pay and make a stand. Many people pay the demand because they think they have no other option or because they want it to go away. However, you may decide you would prefer not to pay, either out of principle, or simply because you haven't the money to pay the extortionate amount demanded. If so, there are some useful bits of information you should know.

Invoice For Payment: Parking charge notices from private companies, such as Smart Parking, are not fines and, unlike PCN's from your local authority, that is penalty charge notices, they are not enforceable by the criminal courts. They are in fact simply a form of invoice and demand for payment for what they consider to be an 'alleged breach of advertised terms and conditions'. You may not, in fact, even agree with their terms and conditions, so that's one good reason for not paying for a start.

Speculative Attempt! The parking charge notices, or invoices, that such companies send to you are speculative attempts to extract money from you. They are hoping you will simply pay outright or communicate with them, dropping yourself in it by admitting the alleged breach of their terms and conditions and enter into a contract with them. However, you may still not agree with their terms and conditions and, if you don't, remember you have not signed anything or ticked any boxes to say that you do.

Mutually Beneficial: By law, all contracts have to be mutually beneficial. For a contract to be legally binding it should be mutually agreeable and have a wet-ink signature. These companies seem to be circumnavigating that and chancing their luck, as nothing is actually signed. Neither is it necessarily agreed to just because you park there.

Correspondence: If you don't want to pay them, check out this page and the correspondence, which you can use as a template or to help to model your own.

Who Was Driving? To take someone to court you have to know the name of the individual you are dealing with. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the registered keeping can refuse to provide the name of the person driving. In England and Wales the Protection Of Freedom Act 2012 says the registered keeper can be held liable if they fail to disclose who was driving (but only in certain circumstances).

No Comment! We would utterly contest this, as if criminals can be allowed to get away with saying "No Comment" when they have been arrested and committed a crime, then ordinary decent members of the public, just trying to go about their business, should certainly be allowed the same privilege when they're being had over by criminals.

Parking Cowboys info on keeper liability

Disparity! Also we should not have this kind of disparity in our so-called United Kingdom. The law should be the same and right for everyone, disenabling these extortion racket companies from exploiting people the way they do. In fact, the company Smart Parking, who are largely an Australian company, are actually registered in Scotland over here, and yet they interfering with people in England. Smart Parking, it seems, are a bit like the paedophiles that go to Philippines to interfere with little children, because they can get away with it there!

No Lost Cost! The company says, "Failure to respond to this notice may lead to civil legal action being taken to recover the parking charge notice charge." That is, may result in a civil court action to recover costs. However, in this particular instance there is no charge for the three hours FREE parking, and even if you have overstayed, they haven't actually lost anything unless others have not been able to park and use the retail facility due to a lack of carparking space. Unlikely! So, as their wording implies, the only cost incurred by them is the cost of sending you the PCN to try and extort money from you, and of course the cost of getting your details from DVLA. However, this action was their choice and a service you didn't request. Perhaps they should cover their own costs!


Endnotes

People are not being charged for 'offences' they have deliberately committed! They simply get caught inadvertently and unwittingly by the unscrupulous and devious protocol Smart Parking and other similar companies operate. It is a classic con designed to take advantage of unsuspecting and trusting members of the public.

With Consideration! Ordinary people just want to be able to go about their business and get on with their lives without being had over. We should be able to trust those in charge to provide and manage facilities accordingly and with consideration. Currently, and sadly, it seems we cannot! This underhanded deviousness designed to catch people out is inherrent in much today's business activities peddled by people who think its more important to make money and be rich than it is to be a decent human being.

Can Do Without! From a shopper's point of view, at best this carpark offers a seriously inconvenient and poor service. At worst, it is a devious unscrupulous ploy by an undesirable company to deliberately entrap the unsuspecting and trusting members of the public. Something we can all do without!

Far Superior! From a shopper's point of view, carparks that issue you a ticket on entry and allow you to pay for the time you have used when it's time to go are far superior. They maintain flexibility, allow for unforeseen delays and they do not rip you off. There is no ambiguity and no opportunity or licence given to unscrupulous companies to take unfair advantage. You pay fairly and squarely for the time you have used - just as it should be!

The following quote was taken from Smart Parking's website, aimed at promoting their company...
"We hope our website has given you a taste of what Smart Parking can do to make parking a stress-free experience for both you and your customers."

After some investigating, we would conclude that...
"Smart Parking does not currently provide customers with a stress-free experience. In fact, customers have been made to jump through hoops with those that fail to make the leap being caught in a devious and deliberate entrapment and then penalised severely. The Smart Parking experience certainly makes you smart and leaves you smarting!"


Summary

Become A Trend! Smart Parking is just one of a number of so-called carpark management companies that are penalising people for so-called breaches of their 'terms and conditions' relating to consumer carparks. The commonest 'offence' being inadvertently over-staying the maximum time allowed. These carpark management companies have become a trend and are setup to take more money from the unfortunate consumer to give to behind the scenes shareholders. It is just another mechanism for taking money from the poor to give to the rich.

No Notice! Many people are caught out because the carparks that they have been using for years have been converted covertly and without prior notice, or adequate notification for the consumers who use the retail facilities. The first time many people find out about the carpark's so-called terms and conditions is when a PCN comes through in the post. To avoid this notification should be clearly evident on the glass doors of the various establishments that people are visiting, but of course, it isn't!

Cleverly Positioned! Although Smart Parking and other similar companies maintain that there is adequate signage or "clear signage across the site", in my experience, in all the carparks I have examined that operate this type of scheme, this has not been seen to be the case. People do not see the signs because the signage is never in line of sight. Signage is usually cleverly positioned above head-height on posts or on side walls and unless people are aware and looking out for it, they won't see it.

Look Where You're Going! When human beings walk from point to point they look slightly down and in front of themselves, so as to avoid obstacles and tripping hazards. It is a case of look where you're going! Human beings aren't always that observant either. Much of the time we are preoccupied, minding our own business, chatting to the wife, or on the phone, thinking about our shopping and what we need to get, or even how we're going to afford it.

Not Expecting! What we are not expecting, is to get had over! People visit retail parks and outlets in good faith to spend their hard-earned money. They should not be considered fair game to be had over by companies operating what is no more than an unscrupulous, underhanded, predatory scam.

Par For The Course! This kind of carpark management has crept in in recent times and is another mechanism for the rich, who have money to play with, to rob and take advantage of the ordinary people. The motorist has been fair game for local authorities for many years and now private individuals are getting in on this immoral game too.

Fairest Way! As indicated above, the simplest and fairest way to manage carparks that need to generate revenue to cover their maintenance, is to allocate a ticket on entry which is then inserted into a machine to pay a fair price when it is time to exit. If there is a need to rotate the parking spaces and therefore limit people to a certain stay period, the price could rise more significantly for each hour over and above what is considered to be reasonable, without the need to threaten and intimidate people and rip them off by charging them £60.00 or more.