Citizens Advice Scotland reports rise in 'unfair' private parking charges
Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has launched a campaign to highlight the bad practice of some private car park operators after a 50% rise in complaints.
Customers are being charged up to £200 for exceeding their time slot by as little as half an hour.
A CAS report has criticised poor practice including unclear signage and misleading parking tickets.
CAS is concerned about the effect on elderly and disabled Scots.
CAS describe the level of complaints in 2012/2013 as "unprecedented", with over 3,653 parking enquires - an increase of 50% on the previous year.
There is currently no specific legislation or regulations regarding parking on private land in Scotland. Nor is there a system of appeal, unlike in England and Wales.
The CAS report highlights the use of "misleading" private parking tickets using terminology such as "Parking Charge Notice", which many people confuse with statutory "Penalty Charge Notices", issued by police or local authorities.
Both are abbreviated to PCN, but only Penalty Charge Notices are fines with legal standing.
The report also criticises poor car park signage, which leaves customers unsure of how long they can park and how much they will be charged, and failing to take into account reasonable mitigating circumstances.
Scottish local authorities have regulations set upon the amount they can charge for parking infractions - usually a £60 penalty, reduced to £30 if paid on time.
The CAS report found that private parking charges range from £40 to £200 with many around £100, which could be considered "excessive".
It also noted the fact that disabled drivers have been penalised for small infractions or supposedly failing to display their disabled badge, when in fact they had done so.
CAS chief executive Margaret Lynch said that some private parking companies do behave fairly and according to industry guidelines, but criticised those that "don't use proper signage, charge inflated fees and then fail to respond properly to people who appeal."
She said: "To the parking companies we say clean up your industry and offer a fair deal to your customers. To the Scottish government we say introduce regulations so that Scottish drivers have the same protections as those in England and Wales.
"And to drivers themselves we say make sure you know your rights and that you stand up for them. We will help you do that, and between us we can end this problem and create a fairer system."
A spokesman for Scottish government agency Transport Scotland said: "There are clearly concerns about some private parking companies and how they manage off-street parking, including the level of fines applied in some cases.
"Disputes over private parking in Scotland can be resolved in the small claims court and we would remind all companies that they have a responsibility to operate within the law.
"While legislation already exists to protect road users from over-zealous private car park owners, we look forward to engaging with Citizens Advice Scotland to discuss their report and the important issues raised by it."