Data breach fears have been raised after thousands of residents received parking permit renewal notices for a local authority more than 400 miles away from Edinburgh.
Drivers were left bewildered when opening their e-mails on Wednesday to discover a message stating their vehicle is no longer covered by an active permit.
The e-mail also contained a link for residents to follow in order to renew their permit for another 12 months. But upon opening the website they found the renewal was for the Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames in London – a 412-mile drive from the Capital – leading to data breach fears.
Retired publisher Bill Sinclair, 83, from Stockbridge was puzzled when he read his e-mails to discover his permit was due a renewal.
He added: “I was shocked to see the e-mail because I had only renewed my permit in June.
“However my memory is not as good as it used to be so I thought I’d check it out to make sure. I eventually got through to the council who told me it was a mistake and to ignore the e-mail.
“I understand that these things happen but it is how you handle them that’s important. I think there should have been a message on the website but I’m glad the problem was sorted fairly quickly.”
The blunder was made by NSL, a firm which has been providing parking services for Edinburgh since 2006. The company also runs the service for the Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames authority.
A follow-up e-mail was sent out to those recipients three hours later advising them to “disregard” the previous communication and no action was necessary.
A spokesperson for NSL said: “As part of planned improvements being made to the permit application yesterday, the system generated an e-mail in error to permit holders asking them to renew online. Once we became aware of this, a subsequent e-mail was sent to the permit holders, advising them to disregard the previous communication, and apologising for any inconvenience. We can assure all concerned that at no point has there been any breach of personal data to those affected by this e-mail, and we again apologise to all concerned for any inconvenience this communication has caused.”
Permit holders were told the city council plans to move to an online permit system in the future with details to be released shortly.
A council spokesperson said: “We are aware that an e-mail was issued in error by our parking contractor NSL to a number of parking permit holders yesterday. This was followed up by a corrective e-mail and we have been assured by NSL that this was a technical error and was at no risk to customers.”