This newspaper report confirms that Barnet Hospital are to install a parking system from ParkingEye. Although The Prankster has not seen the actual contract, all other hospital contracts he has seen leave the hospital with the pay and display fees, while ParkingEye trouser the money from overstays and other charges.
As ParkingEye only get money from motorist errors, they have no incentive to design a fair system - this would only reduce their income. Instead, they install systems which are 'designed to fail', allowing them to coin in 'fines' from confused motorists. One such system was installed in Northumbria NHS. This system forced motorists to guess how long they had stayed for, and allowed invalid number plates to be keyed in. As ParkingEye's ANPR cameras detect vehicles on entry, they already know how long the vehicle has been parked for, and already know the valid number plates. There is therefore no reason to allow these errors. Mistakes by motorists allowed ParkingEye to rake in fines at the rate of £1 million a year at Northumbria NHS.
Eventually the volume of complaints caused by the system caused Northumbria NHS to give ParkingEye the boot.
At another hospital, confusing and misleading signs installed by ParkingEye are currently the subject of a DVLA investigation.
It is of course possible to install a system which is much fairer to motorists and easy to use. At Bristol Eye Hospital for instance, the ANPR system installed by Total Parking Solutions tells drivers exactly how much to pay, and does not allow wrong number plates to be entered. A freedom of information request revealed that the amount charged for overstays in a three month period was £0 - or around £250,000 less than ParkingEye were charging Northumbria NHS patients.
However, if ParkingEye were to install a fair system that told motorists how much to pay and did not allow incorrect number plate entries they would quickly go bankrupt because they would not make any revenue, if Bristol Eye Hospital is anything to go by.
Barnet Hospital will no doubt soon learn that installing a 'free' system from a parking company whose only way to make money is to penalise motorists is actually not free at all. The Prankster suggests they staff up their complaints department immediately, if experience at other hospitals is anything to go by.
If you get stung by the new system, the people to complain to are the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS). The contact details are currently email@example.com or 020 8216 4924. No doubt they will be opening a new parking complaints department in the next few days.
You should of course also appeal to ParkingEye and if they refuse your appeal, appeal to POPLA. All ParkingEye charges at the hospital are invalid because they do not obey the British Parking Association Code of Practice, which they are contractually obliged to do with the hospital. The BPA peg charges at a genuine pre-estimate of loss, which was confirmed in a recent court case to be around £15-£20 (ParkingEye v Beavis and Wardley*) and not the amounts ParkingEye charge. This is detailed in point 19.5 of the code of practice. All known appeals to POPLA on similar grounds since POPLA started have been upheld, and ParkingEye have given up bothering to defend cases.
The Parking Prankster
*Although ParkingEye won this case, the fact that their costs are an average of £15-£20 per ticket issued were not disputed. The case is currently being appealed and is expected to be heard early in 2015.