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Why it’s time to put a stop to ‘double charging’

The issue of fines, particularly for parking, has long been discussed on Which? Conversation. Our guest, Huw Merriman MP, explains his cross-party effort to stop double charging.

This is a guest post by Huw Merriman MP. All views expressed are Huw’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.

Today, I’m introducing a Bill to Parliament that seeks to end the practice where customers are fined, or charged again, for a transaction which they can prove has already been purchased, and therefore, the enforcing organisation has suffered no financial loss. This is double charging – a sharp practice that needs to end.  

Having supported constituents who have attempted, unsuccessfully, to appeal against these charges, I am left with the view that the law needs to change to give consumers more rights and to catch up with changes in technology which those who charge do not appear to have embraced.

‘Double charging’ examples

Examples include the driver who parks their car in a local authority car park and puts their annual season ticket on the dashboard; they close the door, and the ticket falls down and is not displayed. Despite being able to prove that they have a season-ticket registered to their car, they have not displayed the pass and it is this which delivers them a £60 fine. 

Another example from my area recently is a rail passenger who printed out their Trainline documentation but the ticket barrier could not read a QR code. Despite the documentation demonstrating proof of payment, it is technically not a ticket, and they got charged a penalty fair at the barrier – even though the ticket machine which could print the ticket is 10 metres on the other side of the barrier. 

I am grateful to Which? for their support in bringing about this Bill and for sharing their member’s examples. In none of these cases did the service provider suffer any loss. Instead, they have ended up making a profit off the back of those customers who have already paid. It’s an absolute rip-off and an obvious black-hole of consumer legislation which needs a fix.

It is the case that some organisations offer discretion but some do not. Many cases occur because the organisation is using outmoded technology.

It’s time things changed

Why is it that a local authority fines drivers for not displaying a ticket when an easier, and hassle-free alternative, is for a parking attendant to be given the technology to check the vehicle registration against the season ticket database? 

In our digital age, consumers are being offered efficient ways to purchase and these are not always being matched by an efficient way to prove purchase. My Bill would seek to ensure organisations caught up with this century’s technology.

This was a guest post by Huw Merriman MP. All views expressed were Huw’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.

Do you support Huw’s efforts to bring about change? Have you ever been ‘double charged’?

Let us know in the comments.

Comments

Huw is absolutely right. Double charging can, and should, be stopped by the perpetrators. If they won’t do it voluntarily then the Government should legislate.

Denis O'Connell says:
1 February 2022

I keep ALL machine receipts for a year after collection and use. Why? Because I do not trust ANY car park company one inch – and that is too far!! Stories abound of their callousness, greed and sheer effrontery in the way they treat car park users. They have ben allowed to get away with this for too long and I am very pleased an MP is doing something about it.

BBC News reports: “Private parking fines to be capped at £50”.

Not before time! It is worth clarifying, however, that these are not fines, nor penalties. Private land owners have no right in law to fine you.

The so-called “Parking charge notice” is only supposed to compensate the land owner for loss of income, or enjoyment of their land, and the cost of enforcement. So even £50 is outrageous for overstaying in a supermarket car park, particularly when you are still actively shopping in store or enjoying a meal in the cafe.

If someone is causing nuisance or trespassing on private land, then I could understand £50, but £100 is still more than the notional cost of the inconvenience and enforcement. In severe cases, it is possibly better dealt with by the police.

But where parking is being operated as a business (either by direct charge or free parking to encourage customers), then £20 per day is more than enough to compensate for any conceivable losses, except maybe in London. If the loss is demonstrably higher, then it should be up to the land owner to pursue the offender for damages through the courts, with evidence of the loss incurred.

Harry says:
18 February 2022

I have often wondered about double charging for a speeding offence and what the situation is in Law.

Imagine you are driving along a smart motorway and you are exceeding the speed limit, admittedly an offence. Your car is on cruise control so you maintain the same speed for the whole length of your time on the motorway. During that time on the Smart motorway you could potentially be caught on several speed cameras, so lets say you do get caught on 4 of them. Each of them will generate a prosecution notice. 4 x £100 fines and 4 x 3 points on your licence …so you have now accumulated 12 points and will lose your licence. Yet you only committed one offence, you only exceeded the speed limit once, all be it for an extended length along that stretch of motorway. So if you only offended once why should you be fined multiple times. The camera is a stand in for the police officer and catches you carrying out the offence. If you threw a brick through a Jewellery shop window in a smash and grab, and it was witnessed by 4 police constables in a passing vehicle, you wouldn’t be charged 4 times.

I should add this has not happened to me, it is just a thought exercise and I wonder if it did happen you could argue the point in court?

I doubt it, Harry.

Each section of a motorway that is subject to a speed restriction, i.e. between the end of one section of normal speed [70 mph for cars] and the next, is a distinct location. A car exceeding the reduced limit at any point or at various points within that section would be liable to one penalty notice, not multiple ones. Obviously, drivers should not engage cruise control at the normal motorway speed while within such a section.

Where reduced speed sections are particularly long, an average speed system is often employed with cameras at both ends so that even if a car is driven at reduced speed while within sighting of the entry camera but speeds up once it is out of range it could still attract a ticket if the average speed over the section exceeded the reduced speed limit. Speed reductions on motorways are usually associated with roadworks or road traffic collisions which require lane closures that lead to congestion thus inhibiting high speeds.