The Parking Prankster has been informed of a fraud operated inside Smart Parking. The scam apparently involved cancelling parking charges, but instead of refunding the charges to the motorist, 'refunding' them to their own pockets instead. Strathclyde police were called in to investigate, but Smart Parking decided not to press charges due to the embarrassment this would cause. During the relocation of the headquarters from Perth, everyone involved 'left' the business.
The Prankster contacted Paul Gillespie, Group Chief Executive Officer, to verify the story and he responded with the following press release.
The Prankster was concerned that motorists who should have had their appeals upheld were not receiving their refunds. However, it seems as if this is not the case and either the appeals never would have been upheld in the first place, or the motorists have since been contacted and refunded.
The Prankster was also informed that 80% of Smart Parking business is with ASDA, so it is likely that some ASDA customers would have been affected. The Prankster understands that ASDA have already been contacted and informed no ASDA customers were out of pocket.
The Prankster has been informed that Smart Parking charge ASDA nothing for their services, and instead take 50% of parking charges, with the other 50% going to ASDA.
According to 'The Grocer' ASDA generate a portion of the 'fines' it receives from misuse of disabled/parent child bays to Motability, totaling £68,400 last year. It is not known what they do with the 'fines' it receives for overstays.
The donation is likely to be less in the future. Smart Parking have poached Ben Jonson from ParkingEye, and are moving towards the ParkingEye model. This means they are getting rid of wardens on the ground and becoming more reliant on ANPR. Of course, ANPR cannot detect disabled bay and parent/child misuse so these amounts will dwindle.
Currently ASDA retain the right to cancel any charge but apparently Ben Jonson wants to do away with this because it is losing too much money. Although ASDA are resisting this, apparently Ben has played the strategic card and gone over their head straight to Walmart in an attempt to renegotiate the contract. If this is correct, ASDA customers can expect a far less sympathetic attitude to parking in the future. Perhaps ASDA should talk to Somerfield and B&Q to find what to expect next (clue - fewer customers).
Ben's role may well be to implement the ParkingEye model, ramp up PCNs, and inflate the value of the business for a possible sale. If so, he has already been successful with an increase in charges of over £1,000,000 in the last few months.
The Prankster will keep a close eye on ASDA in the coming months to see if they like this new regime.
The Parking Prankster