Pensioner "worried to death" after being fined £100 in dispute over 13-minute car park stay

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An elderly woman says she has been "worried to death" after a battle with Euro Car Parks over a 13 minute stay.

Recently widowed Sarah Smith, 77, from Leyland, was hit with a £100 fine after visiting Wilfrid Street car park in Preston, then leaving shortly afterwards when she couldn't get the card machine to work, and nobody was answering the helpline number.

"It's worried me to death, it's made me ill", she said.

"I'm now dreaming about parking tickets.

Sarah Smith,77.Sarah Smith,77.
Sarah Smith,77.

"I've never owed anyone anything in my life, and I certainly don't want to start now."

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Mrs Smith, who has a range of health conditions including arthritis, had already circled the car park several times looking for a disabled space, and failed to find one available, before her trouble with payment, which happened in May.

She said: "You couldn't pay in cash, it had to be card.

"No way could I get the machine to work, I must have tried three or four times, and there were other people having problems too.

The car park in St Wilfrid Street, Preston. Image courtesty of Google.The car park in St Wilfrid Street, Preston. Image courtesty of Google.
The car park in St Wilfrid Street, Preston. Image courtesty of Google.

"Then I tried to phone, and no-one answered, so I thought 'blow it', I've only been here a few minutes, I'll park somewhere else."

Two weeks later, Mrs Smith received a fine through the post, which her daughter Della O'Malley has been helping her battle in the weeks and months since.

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Della, from Adlington, said: "I think it's disgusting. It's a genuine mistake.

"I have written to Euro Car Parks to appeal this, and they say on this occasion, it still has to be paid.

"They have told me there's five minutes grace, then it's a fine. But that's not even long enough if there's a queue at the machine.

"I've offered them doctor's letters on my mums health and how she can't walk very fast, but it doesn't seem to be any use. They have shown no sympathy to a genuine cause.

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"It's a lot of money for a pensioner, when it's not her fault."

Sarah added: "If I'd have done something wrong, then I'd have paid up, but I didn't.

"It's wrong and it's caused me a lot of worry, but if me speaking out helps someone else avoid all this, I'll feel a bit better."

Euro Car Parks have been approached for a comment.

What do the experts say?

According to the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), if there was no way to pay or the machine was broken, the ticket should be cancelled.

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They add: "It won’t be cancelled if there was another machine you could have used. You’ll need to send evidence that the machine or meter was broken to whoever gave you the ticket.

"Some car parks and bays have a sign saying not to park there if there's no way to pay. If where you parked had this sign, your appeal is likely to be rejected. You can usually get a discount for paying your ticket early, so you might want to do this instead of appealing."

Can't get to your car

The CAB recommend you should appeal your ticket if you couldn’t get back to your car because:

- it’s difficult for you to walk because you’re disabled

- you’re pregnant

- you have a very young baby

They say: "The Equality Act 2010 means you must be treated with understanding and can’t be discriminated against, so the ticket should be cancelled."

'Grace period'

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The CAB say "it’s worth appealing if you were only five or 10 minutes late.

They said: "You should be given a few minutes after your parking runs out – called a ‘grace period’.

"ATA members must give you an extra 10 minutes before giving you a Parking Charge Notice – as should the council before giving you a Penalty Charge Notice. You should also be given a reasonable amount of time to leave a car park if you decide not to park.

"A parking company might disagree with your appeal if they time your stay from the moment you entered the car park, rather than from when you parked. It’s still worth appealing because it’s free to informally appeal – and you have to do this before you can appeal to an independent tribunal or trade association."

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