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Friday, September 07, 2012

It's been a day of good news and bad news. The good news is that I went back to the doctor for another blood test, and had a fantastic result. A man in the waiting room said he liked my shoes, and asked me where I got them.

I won't actually get the result of the blood test for another week, so I still don't know if I'm dying, but it's a vote of confidence for my new footwear. Although the man in question was a pensioner.

On the downside, I was mugged this morning for a hundred pounds. In broad daylight. At a sheltered housing complex. Yes, if you're looking for someone to put the moron back into oxymoron, then you need look no further than the good people at Ethical Parking Management, a clamping company based in Worthing. I think the 'Un' fell off the front of their sign.

Brighton & Hove Council, in their infinite wisdom, have employed Ethical Parking Management to run the car park at the sheltered housing where Lisa's Mum lives. It's only just down the road, and within walking distance - in fact Lisa walked there this afternoon with a three-year-old and a baby - but we're entitled to park there whilst on the official business of seeing my mother-in-law, by using a visitor's parking permit.

So I parked there this morning, on my way to work, displayed a visitor's parking permit, and then walked to the nearby shops to get Lisa's Mum some shopping. When I returned half an hour later, I'd been clamped. The penalty notice stated "Misuse of visitor permit. Walked of site down Edward Street". There was an 'f' missing, but I supplied a few of my own when I read it.

It seems that if I'd taken the lift up to the 5th floor, said hello to my mother-in-law, and then done her shopping, I'd have been fine. But because I knew what she wanted, and went to the shops first before returning to her flat, that makes me a law-breaker.

I called the number given, which wasn't free, explained the situation to the lady, and pointed out that I'd done nothing wrong. She offered no sympathy whatsoever, and demanded £100. The back of my 'Unauthorised Vehicle Clamp Release Invoice' states:

"Ethical Parking Management provides a fair and honest service to users and owners of private car parks. You may raise an appeal or complain if you feel that your vehicle has been incorrectly immobilised."

However, it then says this in bold type:

"No appeal or complaint can be considered until the full release fee has been received."

So it doesn't matter how much they're in the wrong, they want £100 before they'll speak to you. It goes on:

"You must provide a stamped self addressed envelope for us to reply."

So they won't pay the price of a stamp. Even if it's their mistake.

I was due at Lewes Hospital, and they had my car held hostage, so I paid over the phone, under duress, and on the edge of tears. At which point they told me it could be two hours before the clamper got there from Worthing.

I've had better mornings than having to sit in my car and phone work to tell them I won't be in for two hours because I've been clamped at the sheltered housing. Ninety minutes later, a bloke turned up by the name of Richard Mussell. My fear of the libel laws precludes me from making any comment about the man, but suffice it to say that this description is uncannily accurate.

There are, in fact, a lot of comments online about Ethical Parking Management, and the inappropriateness of their name. As it happens, Ethical is only their most recent incarnation. As this Brighton-based blog points out, they go by a number of different monikers, and seem to change their company name every year or so. Why Brighton & Hove Council see fit to employ them, I have no idea.

By the time I'd been released, Lisa's Mum had already phoned the council to complain, and I'll be writing my appeal letter to EPM tonight. And including a stamped addressed envelope. I'll never get back my time and the cost of the phone calls, but if that hundred quid isn't back in my account pretty darn quick, there'll be trouble.


A Passer-By said...

How awful!   There are some interesting videoclips on YouTube under "How to remove a wheel clamp"!

A Passer-By said...

By the way, where should we send donations so that your family don't starve?!

an experienced visitor said...

I'd appeal to the council in person (go to the director of the department) and if you get nowhere promise them your next contact will be the press and Watchdog.  Employing a company with those credentials the Council needs to take responsibility (somebody didn't do their research when employing them with our council tax money).  And a company that changes name so quickly? Watchdog would love it.

Poirot said...

:(  let Dominic Littlewood know.

Ann_usmar said...

My Dad who lives there has been clamped and I too have been clamped 3 times! One guy who came to release me admitted that he had been stabbed previously by a disgruntled customer! This company have proved themselves to be most unethical time and time again.
Unfortunately they rarely repay the clamping fee - its worth contacting the warden, Tony at flats and you could consider contacting the residents association there too. They were kind enough to write on my fathers behalf. Good luck :-)