The ‘park by phone’ rip-off that’s cost­ing driv­ers £18m a year

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - The Agent Boot File - By Toby Walne and Si­mon Mur­phy

DRIV­ERS us­ing pay-by-phone apps and hot­lines for park­ing are be­ing charged more than £18 mil­lion 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

‘Mo­torists have no idea they are be­ing hit’

the nor­mal cost – which the AA says is a con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mate – that equates to an ex­tra £50,000 a day, or more than £18 mil­lion 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.

RingGo is in place across Scot­land. In Ed­in­burgh, me­ters at 548 park­ing spots have the op­tion, while in Glas­gow there are 310 and in Dundee, 284. It is also on of­fer in more re­mote lo­ca­tions such as Broad­ford, Isle of Skye, and Pee­bles in the Scot­tish Bor­ders.

RingGo 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. The Dutch-based par­ent com­pany also owns Park­mo­bile, which of­ten charges a 20p ‘con­ve­nience fee’ on top, plus ‘con­fir­ma­tion’ and ‘re­minder’ text mes­sages at up to 30p each.

An­other park­ing firm, PayByPhone, 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 text mes­sages.

PayByPhone also owns Dash, which op­er­ates in the London bor­oughs of En­field and Green­wich. 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.

RingGo said fees are agreed with coun­cils or pri­vate park­ing op­er­a­tors and that many have scrapped them, mean­ing there is no 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.

PayByPhone 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.

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