Budget store Lidl has defended its policy over new parking restrictions which has resulted in a number of local shoppers being fined.
The store uses a number plate recognition system, which picks up cars entering and exiting the car park in an attempt to crack down on people not shopping at the store from using the car park.
Lidl says customers can park for 90 minutes with an additional 30 minutes grace in the carpark in Limavady, located off Connell Street, which “allows adequate time for shopping to be done in store”.
“We have received complaints from our own customers who were unable to find spaces in the past due to non-customers leaving cars in the carpark for long periods,” said a spokesperson for the store.
However, some shoppers have described it as
One resident from the town received a notification charge for being 14 minutes over the allowed time last October. She said she has been a loyal Lidl shopper, but after being slapped with a £45 notification charge, she has taken her custom elsewhere. She said she has since received a number of letters from a debt recovery service requesting she pay the fine which, at one point, climbed to £180.
“I always park in Lidl to do my shopping, but I haven’t shopped there sincethe notification came through,” said the woman. “I don’t feel there was enough warning given and the signs are not visible enough. I did not see them because, had they been obvious, I wouldn’t have missed them; I know I wouldn’t. I know people say ‘you’re in the wrong, pay the money’, but there was no pre-warning. I just think it’s an underhand way of getting money out of people,” said the woman. “People should be aware of this because I was caught out.”
Another shopper said she was shocked when she received her fine for £45. She said she was just a few minutes over the time period, but has decided to pay it.
Limavady solicitor Peter Jack from RG Connell & Son said: “Thanks to a recent House of Lords case it is apparently still legal for these collection companies to act in this way. Many people have been caught. They feel, and justifiably so, that they’ve been asked to pay huge amounts of money, which is completely disproportionate to the alleged offence of being a few minutes past their tariff time. I believe the only way forward is for government in Westminster and Belfast to outlaw this appalling practice, which seeks to raise a fortune through people’s misfortune.”
The Lidl spokesperson added: “Our parking system registers car registration plates on the time of entry and automatically sends a fine to anyone parked over a two-hour period. This two-hour parking limit is very clearly signposted in our carpark. Many customers have complimented the system since installation as they have been able to park more easily at our store.”