Sneaky Parking App charges DOUBLE driver’s bill – That’s money | Hot Mobile Press

Motorists are being hit with a new wave of pay-by-phone rip-off fees — with sneaky extras that in some cases double the cost of using a parking space. While many holidaymakers choose to spend their summer holidays in the UK rather than abroad, pay-by-phone providers are benefiting motorists an estimated £20million by charging these additional fees.

This is all made easier as many drivers struggling to find parking are forced to use a phone app. This is because traditional cash or card payment machines are no longer provided or left out of service.

Activists are calling for stricter regulation of the burgeoning pay-by-phone market and for parking users to be informed before paying of the fee that will be debited from their bank account, plus any additional costs they may incur for receiving SMS confirmations tell them their paid time is almost up.

Pay and dismay: Christopher Godfrey says he accepted an offer of £2.49 for parking only to find the cost had risen by 60 per cent after completion

The latest payment method is carried out by the YourParkingSpace app. It charges an additional £1.50 for drivers using a car park without pre-booking a space.

This is on top of a 49p service charge for using the app. Some customers report that they only realize they’ve paid an extra charge after pressing a button on their phone.

Other pay-by-phone parking apps also charge additional money for using their service — with the fees taking different forms.

For example, RingGo may include a ‘fee’ of 12p on top of the normal parking rate.

It also charges up to 20p for a ‘charge total’ SMS confirming you’ve paid – and a further 20p ‘reminder fee’ sent ten minutes before your parking session ends, asking you to overstay your stay extend your cell phone.

Competitor PayByPhone also charges up to 20p for an SMS ‘receipt’ and 20p for an SMS ‘reminder’. JustPark has a ‘transaction fee’ of 49p for parking for under two hours – 99p if longer.

The apps wriggle out of a clear explanation of sneaky fees in their terms and conditions by varying the fees they charge at different parking lots.

Christopher Godfrey is among the millions of drivers who have fallen for the small print app tricks. A few days ago he agreed to pay £2.49 to park his blue Volkswagen Polo in a Morrisons supermarket in Norwich for 3½ hours while he watched the Tom Cruise film Top Gun: Maverick watched cinema.

Christopher says: “Parking was free for the first two hours, but if you wanted to stay longer you had to log into the YourParkingSpace app to find out what you had to pay for.”

He adds: “The fee was clearly stated as £2.49. But as soon as I pressed the payment button in the app, I received a message thanking me for my £3.99 payment. I felt cheated because at no point was I warned of the additional £1.50 charge. Additional fees almost doubled the cost of parking.”

Christopher confronted YourParkingSpace. It confirmed the charges were correct as he had not booked the room in advance. But it said it would refund the £1.50 “on an exceptional basis”.

He says it didn’t explain why the details of the non-prebooking fee weren’t provided prior to payment.

He added, “I’ve asked Apple Pay, my card issuer, and Trading Standards to look into this.”

Automobile and consumer groups believe tough new regulations need to be put in place to eliminate the underhanded ways in which motorists are hit with extra charges in parking lots.

Luke Bosdet is a spokesman for the AA automobile organization. He says: “When pay-by-phone apps were first introduced, there was an expectation that parking fees would go down rather than go up.

“The reason for this was the savings made by car park operators and municipalities, who no longer had to wait and collect money at pay machines. But fees didn’t fall. You are risen.’

He adds: “We now need a clear and consistent fee structure in the pay-by-phone industry so that no car park user is misled or confused as to the fees they pay.

“It’s not true that a motorist could end up paying much more than expected for a parking space or being charged for simply getting a receipt.”

The AA calculates that 200,000 people pay for parking with a phone app every day. It’s conservatively estimated that each pays an additional 25p on average, which adds up to £50,000 a day, or more than £18m a year. Consumer advocate Martyn James says the number of complaints about parking apps and additional fees has doubled in the past year – but is still relatively low because of the way the fees are charged.

He explains: “They use a horrific manipulative trick known as micro-charging. The extra charge they charge is not enough for most people to complain.’

James says the apps “take advantage” of drivers, and he believes parking fees should be clearly posted and not hidden in the fine print of a mobile app.

The additional fees vary widely as they are often set after an agreement has been reached between a local authority or private operator and the pay-by-phone company.

Last week, The Mail on Sunday contacted all the major parking app providers so they could defend their charges.

YourParkingSpace has more than a million drivers who have signed up to rent parking spaces in public and private parking lots, as well as off-street locations such as driveways.

Referring to cases like Christopher Godfrey’s, it said: “Users who book in advance may get a better price as advance bookings help space owners to guarantee rent. Our service fee helps cover the costs associated with booking a driver. The driver does not have to pay any additional costs after booking.’

JustPark was the only other company willing to comment. It states: “We charge the same flat fees for pre-booking a parking space or paying by app at the car park to provide clarity and avoid confusion. Fees are clearly displayed in the app at the time of purchase.’

With 18 million registered drivers in the UK, Dutch company RingGo is one of the most popular parking apps – and also preferred by many local authorities.

The Mail on Sunday found that customers in Leatherhead, Surrey, are being charged a “fee fee” by RingGo of 12p plus 10p for a “summary text message” detailing their fee.

There’s also a 10p end-of-parking reminder text, although this can be canceled by changing the app settings.

But in London’s bustling Westminster, RingGo charges 20p for summaries or reminder texts — though it doesn’t charge an additional fee for convenience. PayByPhone is another major app operator owned by Volkswagen Financial Services, an offshoot of the German auto giant.

PayByPhone is headquartered in Canada and serves “nearly 1,300 cities”.

On its website, ‘optional SMS’ rates start at free in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and go up to 20p in Ealing, west London.

These rates apply to both receipt and reminder texts.

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