Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Sweet victory

A short while back I won an argument with a car parking firm who wanted £90 for alleged parking at a motorway service area. Here was their rather frightening Charge Notice dated 17 August:

As you can see, they had photographed Fiona entering and leaving the Medway Services on the north side of the M2 in Kent. The time difference was five and a half hours, and they had assumed that I'd been parked there throughout. In fact I'd been visiting my cousin nearby, parking exactly as in this shot, taken earlier in the year:

The small gold-coloured car to the right of Fiona is my cousin's car, and used to be my Dad's. She bought it from the Estate that I administered after Dad died in 2009. I always take great pleasure in the thought that Dad (in a sense) lives on in this way. His car is still low-mileage, and perfect for my cousin.

I sent a letter to CP Plus, appealing against the charge. I pointed out that, unusually, both sides of the Medway Services featured a section of road that linked the service area to the local road network. These were much-used local short cuts to and from the motorway. I had simply made use of the one on the north side. I had not parked, and in fact had not needed to stop at all. I had arrived from the London direction, taken the link road, spent all the time with my cousin, and then, later on, had re-entered the service area using the same link road as before, driving out onto the motorway towards Canterbury, and turning off at the first exit (for Maidstone, and eventually home).

I reckoned I might have a fight on my hands, getting them to accept this. It was very worrying. Internet research suggested that the affair could drag on for months. The early stages might not even see human intervention on their side, so that despite appealing I could get final demands and threats of court action. They might or might not back off. I revisited Medway Services, took many photographs, studied the displayed terms and conditions for parking, and got my cousin to write me a letter confirming that I had parked at her house. All in readiness for a big battle, perhaps even a day in court.

And then, a sweet victory. They sent me a very polite letter ageeing that no further action was needed:

I was delighted to get this, and very relieved. But also surprised. My appeal letter must have been more eloquent than I supposed! Well, it just shows that it pays to resist, and not simply pay up. Provided, of course, that your resistance is just and reasonable.

Needless to say, I am not going to use either of these local shortcuts again. I don't want a repeat of this hassle! But coming off the motorway at the 'correct' point, and driving to my cousin's from there, will add six miles to my overall journey every time. It was a very good and useful shortcut indeed. Never mind.


  1. Technically you received an 'invoice' it was not a 'penalty charge notice'.

    These are not enforceable in UK law and if you have any in future the best action is to actually ignore them.
    CP Plus is a company which rely on people just paying without any fight. If you ignore them they dont even bother with small claims court as it costs them more to recover the parking charge this way than it does to simply not bother.

    HTH xoxox

  2. Ninety pounds.. to park for two and half hours? I think they should provide a meal and custom curb service! WOW! We have toll road here.. and there alway reading the licence plate numbers wrong! Don't you just love :) the "electronic age!"

  3. I would like to know why they have allowed such a situation to exist with the access and short-cut. They must know the problems it causes but perhaps a threatened fine is enough of a deterrent for most folk and why would they complain if people coughed-up? Glad you stood your ground Lucy. I think you are making the right decision in not using that route again though. It may be a little inconvenient but you won't have the hassle any more. Maybe Samantha's comment is true but I am not sure I would take the chance. I'm the sort of person who would lose out knowing my luck!

    Shirley Anne x

  4. Well done. It's always a bit of a shock to get such letters, which can conjure up scary images of bailiffs calling round.
    A few weeks ago I heard from a debt collection agency, as I completely forgot to inform the water company when I moved out of my previous address, nearly 6 years ago.
    They were demanding £632, but I got them to reduce it to what I actually owed, which was £70, which I promptly paid.

  5. I admire you resolve henceforth to take the 6 mile diversion and avoid a repeat confrontation. I'm maybe a bit more silly (or just a s-stirrer) and would take the route through the service area every time, for the pure delight of exposing the shortcomings in their super-expensive number plate recognition system. Perhaps it's just as well that I live nowhere near the M2.


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