‘No change given’ – Councils still raking it in on rip-off parking fees

Drivers rage: ‘If your machines won’t give change, at least make the charges round figures’

Some local councils are still raking in tens of thousands of pound every year by continuing to use parking ticket machines and meters that don’t give change.

It’s an issue that annoys drivers up and down the country, despite there being viable alternatives available to car park operators, a national car leasing company says.

According to the Flexed.co.uk company, some motorists are accusing their local authorities of deliberately setting parking fees to awkward amounts per hour, making it all the more likely that they pull in more money than has actually been paid for.

“When you stand back and think about it, it’s a proper rip-off,” says Flexed.co.uk spokesman Mark Hall. “It’s maddening when they charge an odd figure like 60p for an hour’s parking, knowing full well that most drivers will probably only have a pound coin.”

“Those extra 40p charges soon add up.”

And they do – according to a report last year, local authorities raise up to £10 million annually by not giving change from parking machines. According to the Daily Mirror, Wiltshire Council came out top, overcharging to the tune of £723,000 in 2013.

Drivers finding themselves – literally – short-changed were outraged by councils who refuse to give more sensible options for parking.

  • Rita, 31, said: “I’m only popping into one shop. It’s 40p per hour and I’ve only got a pound coin. Daylight robbery.”

That was a theme that was repeated by many drivers spoken to by Flexed.co.uk as they searched for the right change to park their vehicles in a pay and display car park.

  • Amir, 23, told us: “It’s easy money for them, isn’t it? If your machines won’t give change, at least make the charges round figures.”
  • Martin, 58 told Flexed.co.uk: “I know for a fact that other councils have machines that don’t give change, but at least give you what you’ve paid for. You put in a quid and get a quid’s parking. Why can’t they do that here?”

Flexed.co.uk ‘s Mark Hall says: “Martin’s got a point. While some authorities are inflexible and only rent out that parking space for whole hours and pocket the rest of your fee, others that don’t give change have at least adapted their machines so you get what you’ve paid for.”

Unfortunately, Hall says, it’s pretty much a lottery whether you have to pay for a whole hour at a time; get what you’ve paid for; or hit the jackpot with a car park that gives change.

“It’s truly irritating for drivers and a real source of frustration. One of our staff has got to the point where he researches council car parks on the internet before he drives anywhere, and puts aside the right change, just in case. It’s crazy, you shouldn’t have to do that.”

The emergence of parking apps for smartphones may eventually end this problem for council areas that refuse to update their parking machine cash cows, but this comes with its own set of problems, Flexed.co.uk says.

“Number one of these is people who have yet to make the jump to new technology,” says Hall, “Elderly motorists in particular don’t have the confidence to use remote payments, leaving them stuck with greedy parking machines robbing them blind.”

The second problem with parking apps is the number of services available.

  • One driver told Flexed: “Parking apps ought to be really convenient, but they are a horror to use. Half the time they forget your card number, or you’re driving a different car, so you have to stand by the machine entering your details all over again. …And there are four different apps covering parking in my home town. I’ve actually got a folder on my phone specifically for them.”

With many people still uncomfortable about giving bank card details to a phone app service they barely trust, it’s clear that greedy pay and display ticket machines are here to stay for the time being.

“Many people think there’s a war on motorists conducted by governments and local councils,” says Hall. “And the fact that so many authorities are ripping off drivers like this makes them believe it to be true.”

“Motorists deserve a fair deal, even on 40p’s worth of parking.”