Shocked mum charged almost £800 for 20 minutes’ parking

Parking nightmare

Denise Legeay Humberstone was astonished when she discovered the outrageous sum that the council had charged her for spending just 20 minutes at a shopping centre car park.

Despite the fact the car park costs £1.80 for two hours, the council took a jaw-dropping £781.70.

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To add insult to injury, 52-year-old Humberstone had already paid for her parking at Camberley Mall in Surrey. However, according to The Eagle radio station, she received a text to say her parking account had been suspended, and then the council started taking huge sums from her account - £180 followed by £180 and then £191.70. The council sent through a demand for another £230, but Humberstone's bank blocked the transaction - suspecting fraud.

Surrey Heath Borough Council Prepay Parking says it will refund the money. It added that the transactions had been due to a technical problem with the system.

Parking woes

In the past few decades, the ways we pay for parking have changed dramatically. The days of feeding the meter have made way for pre-payments, paying by mobile and card, and numberplate recognition. The trouble is that these systems aren't foolproof.

As we reported back in May, using mobile payments is fraught with potential pitfalls. This includes people who have a card allocated to more than one car - and have a payment set up for the wrong car. There are also those who cannot get the automated telephone system to recognise the numberplate, because the voice recognition is not up to the task.

We have also seen people charged for parking when they were miles away - because numberplate recognition had mistaken another car for theirs.

Similarly, as Legeay Humberstone discovered, the computer system behind the entire system can run into difficulties. This can be a minor glitch which means, for example, the parking meters cannot accept cards for a period. Alternatively it can be the kind of major glitch that takes hundreds of pounds of people's money.

Having the change handy for the meter was always a pain in the neck - and was difficult and expensive for companies and councils to maintain and empty. However, you have to ask whether the systems we have now constitute a massive leap forward, given the potential for the technology to go awry.

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