Thursday, 18 August 2011

H&F Parking smartcards turn dumb: residents fined

Have you been fined as a result of trying to use H&F parking smartcards? One reader certainly has and they wrote to me recently with an account of using this system, which has resulted in her visitor being issued with a parking fine - twice - despite the H&F resident concerned having enough money on the card and having been told by the telephone operators running the scheme that the fine had been issued in error, meaning they had to appeal.

The SMART Visitor Permit, we're told by H&F's website, provides a convenient cash less method of paying for parking for residents' visitors which is cheaper than the regular pay and display tariff. It also allows residents' visitors to park throughout the length of the controlled parking hours, regardless of any maximum stay for pay and display parking.

The permit acts like an oyster card whereby you top up your account balance (with a minimum top up of 5 hours at a time) and then use it as and when you need it. When you use the SMART Visitor Permit, parking time is charged by the minute and deducted from your available credit, so you only pay for the time you need. The SMART Visitor Permit will automatically stop charging when parking restrictions finish at the end of the day. You can manage your account online, where you can top up your account, check your account balance, look up past parking transactions and change your registered details.

That's the theory anyway - here's how it works in practice, according to this blogreader:
I have only used my visitor Smart (Stupid) Card three times as far as I remember and twice although correctly displayed the visitor has got a ticket. The first time I spoke to a parking attendant who said 'it wasn't me' - and suggested the attendant's scanner wasn't working. I rang the helpline... 020 7371 5678... and spoke to a very helpful person (an Aussie who actually said No Worries!) who looked at the computer and verified that the card had been activated at the right time and had sufficient money on it. 

She then said I must put my appeal in writing to, which I did. This was on July 27th. She assured me they would look at the computer too and all would be well. I haven't had the courtesy of an acknowledgement or reply of any kind and have no idea if they are pursuing my visitor for payment of the charge (A carpet fitter to whom it represents a week's wages, more or less.)

This afternoon when my son came to pick up the grandchildren at 4.20 I once more rang the activation line 0203 003 2525 and was assured by the robot that I had hours to spare and that the card would deactivate at 5pm when the charge period ends. My call register logs this call at 4.22, so when they left at 5.30 or so we were alarmed to see a ticket on the windscreen.

This time I cut out the middle man and went straight to with the following email:
Dear Sir/Madam 
I am furious that for the second time within a month a visitor of mine has been issued with a penalty charge notice - HZ3639118A - while displaying my activated visitor permit No [number removed but given in email]. 
I made the activating call at 16.22pm as confirmed by my call register and was informed that I had 2hrs and 49 minutes on the permit and that it would deactivated at 5pm 
Please consult your own computer to verify this.  
What is the point of having this technology if it doesn't work and causes aggravation in this way? You must do something to rectify the situation. Presumably I can't be the only person this is happening to, and you may be inundated with complaints, which perhaps is the reason I haven't had the courtesy of a reply to my email of 27th July when the former incident occurred. I have only used this card three times and twice it has failed to work satisfactorily... unlike the original process of taking my money which worked just fine. Naturally.  
I now have raised blood pressure, a worried son and two upset grandchildren. Please sort this out.
I now don't know whether to trust the system again. Has it never worked, but the first time my family were lucky and no parking person came by? Is it my card? It seems to work absolutely fine when it comes to eating up my prepaid funds. I've calmed down now (Marks and Spencer's Dine in for a tenner helped) but after a long day childminding instead of earning, seeing my son hassled after his own long work day (he's out at 06.30 am) and my grandchildren bewildered and upset by us being upset I was in no mood to be understanding. 

The SMART Visitor Permit was introduced on a trial basis into Controlled Parking Zones A, X and Y in December 2007. The scheme was extended to Zones B, C, CC, D and E in November 2008, to Zone G in December 2009, to Zone J in January 2010, Zone I in June 2010, Zone M in July 2010, and Zone L in August 2010. The SMART Visitor Permit will be introduced to further parking zones in the coming months. 

Let's hope they sort themselves out soon - have you had similar experiences?

1600 UPDATE FRIDAY - Well, wouldn't you know! As soon as this appeared on the blog, the unfortunate reader concerned received the below letter. So that's them sorted ... but is the system working now?


  1. The problem you have in Hammersmith and Fulham is an apparent culture amongst traffic wardens of ticketing first and asking questions later. There is no penalty for them slapping on a ticket wrongly and so they will ticket, ticket, ticket and leave the responsibility to the driver to prove that the were really in the right.

    When it comes to parking tickets it really is guilty until proven innocent. Could that be because they make soooooo much money for the local authority.

  2. "Decided to cancel" the tickets "after careful consideration"? What a joke... so they might "not" have decided to even though those "PCN's" shouldnt have been given anyway because the money was already paid in advance! Does it mean the parking attendan'ts scanner wasnt working? Hope someone asks him/her to get it checked.

    They did say sorry for the inconvenience but I wonder if they would have if it hadn't been on here. How many people have just paid up and not bothered to complain?

  3. That's very much my point. I wonder if there's a policy, official or otherwise, to ticket everything in sight. Out of, say, 100 unfair tickets I'm sure there will be a few that don't complain and just pay up even though they were not illegally parked. A little bit of extra cash for Hammersmith and Fulham, job done.

  4. I've been using these cards for some 4 years now, probably a couple of times a month on average. I've received 2 or 3 tickets over that time. All were cancelled using the online appeal system, so it has been a fairly hassle free experience. The convenience of using the card far outweighs the disadvantages.