Beales CEO says “no-one will be out of pocket as a result of a technical error” with car parking machine

Car Parking

Car Parking - Credit: Archant

Beales department store in St Neots has been forced to “apologise unreservedly” after hundreds of people were issued with parking fines due to a computer error.

In an effort to appease shoppers, some of whom have received multiple penalty notices for hundreds of pounds, the company’s chief executive officer, Tony Brown, told The Hunts Post: “I guarantee that no-one will be out of pocket as a result of this technical error”.

Mr Brown said the company was aware of the issues and was working to rectify the situation. The car park is operated by Britannia Parking and the problems are thought to be the result of a technical fault with a number plate recognition ticketing system which was installed a few weeks ago.

St Neots town councillor Barry Chapman says he has received complaints from people, some of whom had received four penalty notices in one day, and others who are certain they had paid correctly, but have no proof. Cllr Chapman described the situation as “appalling”.

“It has been estimated that about 200 people who used the car park received penalty notices on one day, on September 29, this was including myself. Unlike most people who, weeks later cannot find their ticket, I had retained mine. Others have told me they have also been able to find their tickets showing they had paid, but a large number have paid the penalties, even though they remember buying a ticket because they can’t prove it.” The Beales Facebook page posted this message last week: “In response to the recent messages posted about the car park in St Neots, we apologise unreservedly for any inconvenience caused. We have been made aware that there has been a technical issue with the discharging of Parking Charge Notices and can advise that Britannia Parking is currently conducting a quality review of all notices issued at the Beales car park in St Neots.

As a result all outstanding PCN’s will be suspended until the review has been completed on October 3.”

Mike Rawson, of Eaton Ford, contacted The Hunts Post to say his wife received a parking fine on September 12 informing her she should pay £60 within 28 days or the amount would increase to £100.

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“Luckily I had envisaged there might be problems with this new technology so we still had the valid ticket. To our disbelief, the following day we received yet another notice for the same period on September 12. They stated you could go online and submit your appeal and if you had the ticket, send them a copy.”

Mr Rawson did this only to be told the website did not recognise the ticket number and he was then asked to print a form and send details.

He rang customer services, but said he was unable to resolve the situation and now owes £100.

“Having spoken to friends and been on Facebook it would appear we are only one of a large number of people who have received a notice to pay.

Several people have reported it to the police believing it could be a scam as like us the site would not recognise the parking notice number. But how many people had thrown their ticket away and have no proof? My wife will not use the car park again as it is causing distress to many people who have legally parked.”

Other people have reported being fined £60 for being a few minutes late which one reader described as “excessive and unfair” and experiencing problems when contacting Britannia.

A spokesman for Britannia Parking said: “We operate the car park in St Neots on behalf of Beales.

“We recently experienced a technical system error which resulted in some parking charge notices (PCN) being incorrectly issued.

“We apologise for any inconvenience or upset caused. Those customers affected during this period have had their PCNs cancelled.

“Those who have already paid a PCN issued in this period will have their charge refunded through our central system.

“The issue with the car park’s system has now been resolved and it is operating correctly.

“As a member of the British Parking Association and the industry’s Approved Operators Scheme, we take our responsibilities to our customers very seriously and we will continue to monitor the car park in St Neots going forward.”