A WOMAN who took on a private parking company that threatened her with a hefty fine after she parked in a supermarket car park has had her charge overturned.
Shirley Kobiela, 49, was enjoying a day trip with her partner Richard to the Secret Herb Garden at the foot of the Pentland Hills when they decided to take in the sights of Penicuik.
As regular customers of discounted supermarket Lidl, the couple, from Kilsyth, parked their blue Citroen in the store’s car park on Saturday September 15. Just 77 minutes after they arrived the continued their journey.
But a week later Shirley was shocked to receive a penalty charge notice from private parking company Athena ANPR for £90.
She said: “We got in there at about quarter to three and there was no prominent signage. We left at two minutes after 4pm. Lidl customers apparently have 90 minutes and I was only there for 77 but because I wasn’t registered at that store.”
Outraged at the charge, Shirley emailed Lidl complaining about the system, forwarding on her bank statements to prove that she was a regular shopper.
She said: “I told them that they had clearly made a mistake fining someone from using their car park.”
She was told by the staff that it was no longer in their hands and that she would have to take up her complaint with Athena ANPR.
Shirley said: “I didn’t use Lidl that day but if I had and paid cash I wouldn’t have the receipt a week later to prove I’d shopped there.
“I sent them my bank statements to show that in the last 8 to 10 weeks I had spent nearly £800.”
Shirley was told that the Penicuik store was one of only two in Scotland – along with Dundee City – that had adopted a system that requires customers to scan their receipts and enter their registration numbers at an in-store terminal to receive the full 90 minutes of free parking. Otherwise customers were limited to 10 minutes.
Shirley said: “Of two Lidls in the whole of Scotland how are you supposed to know you have to register? Can you imagine a single mother going in for milk or bread or an old person going around in that time. “
Shirley contacted Athena ANPR to contest the charge but was told that any reply could take up to 30 days – which meant that the reduced charge of £45 if paid before October would have to be paid in full.
She said: “I felt let down and conned and ripped off as usual. I felt like I had paid for the luxury of parking in a Lidl car park many times over.”
But after her campaign, Shirley, who runs an organic fruit farm near Cumbernauld, is pleased that the parking company has backed down.
She said: “For me it has panned out well but what about all the others who have been left holding the fine?
“Someone’s got to stand up for the person who takes more than ten minutes to do their shopping.”
A spokeswoman for Lidl said: “We were very sorry to hear of this matter. Lidl has car park management systems in place at a number of stores across Scotland, where car parks are subject to misuse. These are in place to manage the availability of parking spaces, to ensure that customers take priority.
“As a responsible business, we go to great lengths to inform the public of the restrictions, by providing extensive signage highlighting all of the necessary details, including the validation process. These are featured in locations throughout the car park, at the trolley bay and at various points in the store.
“In the extremely unfortunate event that a customer receives a parking charge at one of our stores, we encourage them to contact Athena ANPR directly, who will endeavour to swiftly resolve the matter for the customer. Should a customer have any special requirements, where possible Athena will also seek to find a longer term solution.”