New Forest couple win parking fine battle with Tesco
A COUPLE has won a three-week fight with a private parking enforcement firm after being wrongly fined for parking in a disabled bay at a New Milton supermarket.
Pensioners Roy (75) and Daphne Thompson (74), of Ashley Road, received a £70 penalty charge notice from Horizon Parking, having used its car park at Tesco superstore on Caird Avenue on 4th November.
However, contacting Mr Thompson on Wednesday to confirm the penalty had been withdrawn, Horizon apologised and cited “human error”.
Although welcoming the cancellation, Mrs Thompson highlighted the stress and strain the ordeal imposed on the couple.
Having vowed never to shop at the store again after being regular customers for five years, they are among a raft of others who have criticised the parking enforcement in recent months.
Tesco previously insisted it has used Horizon since 2018, although a three-hour maximum stay was introduced only a year ago.
Imposing Mr Thompson’s £70 fee, Horizon’s letter stated this was for “parking in a disabled bay without clearly displaying a valid disabled badge”.
But the couple maintained he had, as usual, placed his blue badge on the dashboard.
A photograph of their MG car, included on the letter, shows its windscreen heavily obscured by sunlight.
“With the light on it, you can just about see the corner of my husband’s blue badge and that’s obviously why they’ve fined us,” Mrs Thompson told the A&T.
“I emailed the Tesco chief executive and he said they had employed Horizon Parking to specifically focus on those parking in the parent and child bays, and disabled bays.
“I just feel disgusted by Tesco, and I told him, ‘Do you really think this is the way forward?’”
Mr Thompson said he now felt wary about how he displays his blue badge, which he received in July.
He has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), suffers atrial fibrillation after a serious heart attack and has had three stents fitted. He also previously had a mini stroke.
“I’m disappointed with Tesco,” Mr Thompson told the A&T.
“You don’t expect it from a big company like that, to aggravate their shoppers, particularly those who are disabled.
“I can understand them sorting out where the parent and kids’ bays are, but to pick on the disabled bays is a bit low.”
The couple reluctantly sent a cheque for £40 as Horizon stated this reduced sum could be paid within 14 days.
“I told the Tesco CEO, ‘£40 might not seem like much to you, but to people like me and my husband on a state pension, that’s a meal on the table’,” Mrs Thompson continued.
“As I said to him, if we’d just parked in a regular bay, we wouldn’t have had such a horrendous bill to pay.
“But my husband has breathing difficulties. He walks 10 metres and gets out of breath. You wouldn’t know it to look at him, but you can’t judge a book by its cover.”
She added: “I just feel all the people with valid disabled badges parking at Tesco are now being targeted.”
The car park’s signs also warn of a £70 penalty for parking in an electric vehicle bay without charging a vehicle, and parking outside a marked bay.
Facebook users again called for a store boycott after Mrs Thompson shared the couple’s story.
Responding to the criticism, a Tesco spokesperson told the A&T: “Our disabled and parent and child car parking spaces are monitored by our parking contractor Horizon to ensure that they are available for those customers that need them.
“If any customer believes they have received a ticket in error then we would encourage them to use the appeals process that Horizon has in place.”
Horizon’s email to Mr Thompson said: “Please accept our apologies for the error in this matter.
“All our parking charge notices are checked but unfortunately there is, on occasion, human error.
“Please be assured that we will identify any training issues that require follow up as a result of this.”
Mrs Thompson urged those who feel they have been wrongly fined to appeal.
“It’s been quite stressful,” she said.
“As you get older things lay harder on you than they did before. It does have an impact on anxiety and stress levels.”
The A&T has contacted Horizon for comment.