Lowestoft supermarket parking fine mistake leaves customer angry
A LOWESTOFT supermarket has come under fire after a customer was mistakenly issued with a �70 fine – for staying in its car park for more than nine hours.
Sales manager Nick Martin, 38, was shocked when he received a strongly-worded letter, demanding that he pay the fine for leaving his Vauxhall Astra at Asda's car park longer than the maximum three hours.
But it later emerged the fine had been generated by mistake – because the car had actually been driven in and out of the car park twice on the same day.
The store at Horn Hill has recently introduced automatic 'number recognition' camera which records what time vehicles enter and leave its car park. If a vehicle remains in the car park for more than three hours, its owner is liable to pay a �70 fine.
However, the state-of-the-art system recorded Mr Martin's Astra entering the car park at 10.53am and leaving at 8.06pm. What it failed to detect was that the car, driven by his partner's son Lewis Hambly, had left the store once after the morning visit and returned again in the evening – leaving again just a few minutes later.
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The first that Mr Martin knew of the problem was when a letter from the Perth-based parking enforcement company Town and City arrived at his home in Gisleham – demanding he pay the �70.
Even though Asda has now admitted its mistake and cancelled the ticket, Mr Martin remains unhappy at the way he was notified of the fine and is urging other customers to be aware of the system.
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'Lewis went into the store for 10 minutes first thing in the morning and then again at about 8pm,' he said. 'We were completely baffled to get a letter saying the car had been in the car park between 10.53am and 8pm. It had us all scratching our heads at first.
'I was gobsmacked by what has happened. It turned out that the camera did not recognise the time when the car left Asda the first time'
Mr Martin said he was offended by the 'tone' of the letter from Town and City Parking, which did give him the option of paying with 14 days at a reduced fine of �40. He also said he had received no official apology from Asda.
Mr Martin, who now shops at Morrisons, said even though the ticket was cancelled on the same day he received it, he is warning other motorists to be on the lookout for similar unjustified fines. He said: 'There could be vulnerable people who get a similar ticket and don't understand that there has been a glitch in the system.'
When contacted by The Journal, an Asda spokesman declined to comment on Mr Martin's case.
He said: 'We have introduced a new vehicle recognition system that tracks vehicles entering and leaving our car park. This system is to benefit our genuine customers not hinder them.'