‘HIDDEN’ FEES THAT CAN ADD 13% TO A TICKET The ‘park by phone’ rip- off that’s costing drivers £18m a year
DRIVERS using pay- by- phone apps and hotlines for parking are being charged more than £18million a year in ‘rip-off’ fees over and above the cash payment cost.
A ‘service fee’ for app users of up to 30p a time and 10p charges for text alerts can add more than 13 per cent to the cost of parking.
The charges by private firms are often buried in the small print when users sign up to the app and go unnoticed by drivers.
The AA believes 200,000 people a day pay for parking using their mobile. If an average 25p is added to the normal cost – which the AA says is a conservative estimate – that equates to an additional £50,000 a day, or more than £18million a year.
Last night, Edmund King, president of AA, said: ‘Motorists assume when they pay that it is for the parking and usually have no idea they are being hit by an extra charge. It is nothing short of a rip-off.’
The service charges are often set by councils and private operators in co- operation with pay- by- phone firms and vary in cost in different areas. In most cases councils receive nothing of the additional fees.
Ring Go, which serves more than 400 towns and cities nationwide, charges up to 30p as a ‘convenience fee’ for using its app for parking payment. It can charge 10p more as a ‘reminder charge’ when a session is nearing its end, and as a ‘summary charge’ to confirm a booking.
Ring Go’s Dutch- based parent company also owns Parkmobile, which operates in more than 70 locations and often charges a 20p ‘convenience fee’ on top, plus ‘confirmation’ and ‘reminder’ text messages at up to 30p each.
Another parking firm, Pay By-Phone, which controls parking in dozens of towns and cities and in up to 40 hospitals, imposes a ‘service charge’ of up to 20p for customers who pay via its app or on the phone.
It can also charge 10p for additional text messages. Pay By-Phone also owns Dash, which operates in the London boroughs of Enfield and Greenwich, as well as NCP car parks. In Greenwich, drivers paying by cash are charged £2.50 an hour but those who decide to pay by phone or on the app are charged an additional fee of 10p, plus a 10p SMS charge.
Ring Go said service fees are agreed with councils or private parking operators and that many areas have scrapped them, meaning there is no convenience fee in a quarter of the firm’s transactions.
Customers can opt out of receiving texts and three London councils have made phone parking cheaper than cash, the firm added.
Pay By-Phone said that the firm clearly displayed its charges, adding: ‘ Text reminders reduce fines issued.’
The Local Government Association said that councils reinvest parking profits back into transport infrastructure.
‘Motorists have no idea they are being hit’