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Cowboy companies are extorting drivers

THE recent exposure of the invidious activities of payday loan companies is welcome and thoroughly justified.

An equally repellent money-grabbing scheme is the introduction of private car parking fines to a number of retail parks here.

One example of their ruse was the issuing of a "parking ticket" for the alleged mis-parking of a vehicle outside the designated parking bay. Anyone who uses these facilities knows that parking is regularly haphazard and the last in the queue can find themselves straddling a white line.

A parking charge of £60 was issued for this incursion, rising to £100 and then £160 within a month – an interest rate of more than 3,000%.

No criminal offence has been committed and the so-called "ticket" is issued as notice of a breach of contract.

Who in their right mind parks a car with the intention of entering into a binding contract that might be subject to court proceedings? Failure to pay this extortionate rate is met with threats of court action and the associated ramifications of asset-seizure and diminished credit ratings. Not so much Wonga as Kafka.

This is sharp practice by cowboy companies; private companies are creating their own legal restrictions on the actions of citizens and the Government (namely the DVLNI) colluded by passing personal information to these firms without any consultation with licence-holders.

STEPHEN DOLAN

Belfast

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