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Has the Verrus pay by phone system been really designed for motorcycle parking?

August 17, 2009

We have been looking at the Verrus website to find out whether their pay by phone parking system, which Westminster City Council have so proudly adopted for cars and motorcycles, has actually been designed to work for bikes, as it has been for cars. At the time of writing, we have not been able to find any information related to motorcycles on the Verrus website, so we can only assume that Councillor Chalkley’s decision to tax motorcyclists for parking in Westminster does not reflect what the Verrus pay by phone system was developed for in the first place.

This doesn’t actually come as a surprise, as Verrus seem to advertise their pay by phone system as one that has the benefit of paying from your car by staying safe and comfortable while paying. So, what if you’re on a bike? Why are bikers not offered the benefit of staying safe and comfortable while paying, like it is the case for car drivers, especially when it rains, snows or is freezing cold? Is this not called discrimination of a group of road users against another?

We have come across another page on the Verrus website, on which it is stated that the pay by phone system works alongside, or can be integrated with, pay-and-display and pay-by-space meters. Ah, so Verrus don’t seem to advise their clients to use their pay by phone system as the only method to pay for parking. And what have Westminster done, eh? They have removed all parking meters from their streets, which is precisely what their parking system supplier (Verrus) don’t seem to recommend. Although Westminster seem to have left a few Pay & Display machines around (which only seem to accept credit/debit cards and no cash), these cannot be used as an alternative method of payment for bikers, as they issue a ticket that can’t be left on a bike for obvious reasons (wind, rain, theft etc). And even if these Pay & Display machines were an alternative payment option for motorcyclists, can bikers be expected to run around the borough, miles away from their bikes, to use one of the few machines and pay the car parking fare, while of course a parking warden would jump on the opportunity to issue them with a PCN? We believe that all UK councils would tend to agree with us, except Westminster, who expect their customers to either call the pay by phone system every thirty minutes when it’s down, or rush to one of the very few one-stop shops to buy a parking card, which is not practical for motorcycles. In fact, given that Westminster City Council have been ignoring thousands of motorcyclists, who have expressed their opposition to parking charges for motorbikes and scooters during the past twelve months, why would have they taken into consideration any advice given by Verrus, their own parking payment system supplier?

Now, let’s have a look at the Frequently Asked Questions page on the Verrus website, and more precisely, question number 25.

Question: “My phone battery has run out? I can’t pay for or top up my parking?”

Answer: In the event that your battery runs out before you manage to pay for or extend your parking session, you can try calling from a nearby landline and manually entering your 10 digit mobile phone/account number, otherwise you must pay by coins in a meter or coins or by card in a Pay and Display machine where available”.

Right, so what alternative and viable methods of payment are actually available in Westminster for motorcyclists, in the event of a mobile phone unexpectedly becoming out of order? To us there are none, because, a) all parking meters have been removed from the streets of Westminster, b) Pay & Display machines are not practical for bikes, as the ticket they issue as proof of payment cannot be displayed on a bike, as explained above, and c) should we rush to the nearest landline or one-stop shop to pay for our parking, the probability that a CEO will turn up in the meantime and issue a parking ticket to our motorcycle is very high, based on past experience (needless to also highlight the hassle involved).

The contents of the Verrus website quoted above should be compared with a statement made by Robin Bevan, CEO of Verrus UK, when he talks about his contract with Westminster City Council: “the launch of our service in Westminster represents a landmark for Verrus – the first time that any pay by phone service has been introduced in the UK as the only form of payment. This has exciting implications for parking in the future“. Very exciting indeed, especially when a CEO of an international organisation doesn’t appear to be fully aware of what is written on his own company’s website!

All the above demonstrates that, in our opinion, the Verrus pay by phone system has not been designed and developed for motorcyclists. How long will it take Chalkley to understand this? To our knowledge, no borough council in the UK, that has adopted the Verrus pay by phone system (there are not that many by the way, click here), charges for motorcycle parking except, of course, Westminster!

But wait, we have some more stuff to talk about! In a Times article, Robin Bevan (CEO of Verrus UK) said “our [Verrus] system is encrypted and is as secure as any card transaction“. In the light of Mr Bevan’s statement, we wonder why we are asked to specify the CVV number from the back of our card in the SMS sent from our mobile phone to pay for our parking in Westminster. Does the inclusion of this confidential piece of information in the text message make the transaction secure? What guarantee have we got that no one will interfere with the SMS and use the details of the debit/credit card illegally? What if the SMS is sent to the wrong number by mistake? What if one loses their mobile phone (or has it stolen) and the CVV number is displayed in an SMS sent out? Where does this stand in the light of the Data Protection Act? Answers on a post card!

We now leave you with a few more quotes that we have found on http://nutsville.com/?p=923, which will give you a good idea of what a few senior political and business individuals in the UK think about the pay by phone technology for parking:

The London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee said on 12th February 2009: “It should be noted that not all motorists have access to either a mobile phone or credit card. As such London Councils recommends that mobile phone payments for parking should be provided as an additional method of payment rather than as a replacement.”

Age Concern Barnet said: “The facility is important and the benefits can be helpful, but a lot of elderly people do not have mobiles to use.”

Derek Lancaster, UK sales director for Parkmobile, which manages the Wandsworth Pay By Phone service, said: “While I’d hesitate to use the term illegal, Westminster’s decision to deprive people of the choice to pay for parking with cash is questionable. It may be only a matter of time before a legal challenge is mounted against this policy.”  This seems to be spot on by the way, the No To Bike Parking Tax campaign is about to take Westminster City Council to court.

To conclude this post, we believe that it might be a good idea for Mr Bevan to arrange a meeting with Councillor Chalkley to ask him to stop using the Verrus pay by phone system for motorbike and scooter parking, which is causing so much bad publicity for his organisation. This might help Verrus to get more contracts in the UK, which to date, seem to be awarded to its main competitor, RingGo.

 

Please join and support the legal fight to get the bike parking tax in Westminster scrapped before it spreads all over the UK and the European Union. For further details, visit  http://www.notobikeparkingtax.com/

Soutenez et participez au proces dont le but est de forcer la mairie de Westminster a supprimer la taxe de stationnement des deux-roues avant que le concept ne se propage a travers le Royaume-Uni et l’Union Europeenne. Pour plus d’informations, consultez http://www.notobikeparkingtax.com/

 

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Si vous avez une experience a partager et que vous souhaiteriez voir publiee sur UKFRANCE.org, n’hesitez pas a nous contacter en cliquant ici.

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