If you live in Northern Ireland and have parked in certain places, you have probably been hit with a parking charge from a company called Smart Parking. Some people are getting hit with fines of up to £160 in places. But what should you do about this?
I’m not a solicitor or anything close to being legally minded but I have put together the following information after I was hit with a charge. This following post should not be considered legal advice and if you are concerned then please consult an actual solicitor. This is an ongoing thing for me so I will update this post when I get more information to share.
Here is the story, I went over to Bangor for the Vintage Fair in August 2018 and decided to park at the Flagship Centre. I knew they had started charging for parking, something that I was happy to pay. But when we arrived, the machine wasn’t accepting money, the app I downloaded didn’t work, so I jumped back in the car and moved it over to the carpark behind Jenny Watts where it is pay and display. I paid and displayed, then went into town. I wasn’t even parked in the Flagship for 15 minutes (I’ve kids to get in and out of the car with a buggy, it can be time consuming). So imagine my horror when I got hit with a parking charge for £60 and my details had been happily handed over by the DVLA.
Ok, I understand that people abuse car parking but this is ridiculous and I’m not the only one. On my local mum’s page, there are plenty of people who have been hit with these charges. But more importantly, people aren’t aware that when they drive into these carparks that they are giving their consent for the DVLA to hand information out like this.
Contact the place that you parked
I tried to contact the Flagship but the phone just rings off and the website is just the logo. As for the Facebook page, it hasn’t had anything on it for a year. Plenty of people have contacted businesses in the hope that they can get their charge overturned but the staff at Abbey Centre are getting hit every week with charges despite “having permission” to park there.
At no point did I realise that by driving into the Flagship Centre that by entering the carpark, I was giving my consent this company to contact the DVLA for my details, and for the DVLA to pass my personal details on like this. If I had known, I sure as hell would not have set foot in there. I stood and read the big sign so I could attempt to pay for my parking and didn’t see anything there. If I had, I would have marched in and demanded my details removed from the system. This (in my opinion) is a breach of my confidential information.
Contact the Consumer Council
I’ve contacted them myself and I’m waiting on a reply. Plenty of people are contacting them to get these charges overturned and you can contact them yourself. *I’ll update this when I hear back from them*.
Contact your MLA
I have had enough with seeing the complaints about these charges (which apparently can’t be enforced over in Northern Ireland, but don’t quote me on that) plus we don’t have an Ombudsman for parking like they do in England. That’s why the Consumer Council is taking on these complaints. I’ve contacted some local MLAs for a statement about these charges. People are getting put off going to certain businesses because of these shady practices.
Avoid, Avoid, Avoid!
I will be avoiding these carparks in the future, they are shady and there are too many questions about the legal standpoint. I’ve no problem paying for parking. Give me a ticket machine and a barrier (like in Castle Court or the Ulster Hospital), no problem. Below is a list of places that use this car parking system *this list will be updated daily so please check back and let me know in the comments section if you know of any carparks that use this type of system. If you want to use these carparks, that’s your decision, I just want to give you as much info as I can to make an informed decision*
- Flagship Centre, Bangor, County Down
- Abbey Centre, Newtownabbey
- Toscana Park, Bangor