Belfast Telegraph

Consumer Council overturns £40,000 of private parking fines in a year in Northern Ireland

By Michael Sheils McNamee

Northern Ireland's consumer protection body has overturned £40,000 worth of fines issued by private parking companies in the past year.

The Consumer Council, the independent body tasked with helping consumers across a range of sectors in Northern Ireland, has said the challenges relate to 333 tickets in the past 12 months.

It comes as part of a warning to the public to be vigilant with their parking as things become busier in the run up to Christmas.

Shoppers may find themselves hit with private parking tickets by companies subcontracted by shopping centres, supermarkets, or other private companies to run their car parks.

Philippa McKeown-Brown, head of consumer empowerment and protection at the Consumer Council, said: “Receiving a Parking Charge Notice can be frustrating and costly, especially on the run up to Christmas, which is already an expensive time of year. It is also when car parks get busier and we spend longer shopping."

Among the advice given to consumers includes reading the signs correctly; parking within the lines; showing any permits or blue badges clearly; making sure the correct registration is entered on the pay-and-display machine; not using disabled or permit holder spaces without permission to do so; and always keeping tickets received.

Some confusion surrounds parking tickets issued on private land, and they are distinct from publicly-issued Fixed Penalty Notices issued. 

Companies do not have the official power to fine people, but the tickets issued are considered an invoice for breach of a parking contract.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom where clamping on private land is still legal.

The issue came into focus in February of this year when Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly was filmed cutting a clamp off of his car while parked in a private car park near a gym.

Anyone who believes they may have unfairly been issued with a parking fine is urged to contact the Consumer Council.

The body can be contacted through its website or on freephone number 0800 121 6022.

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