Thursday, 28 August 2014

Parking Quiz - unclear signage

Martin Cutts, a research director at the Plain Language Commission, has devised a parking quiz to test understanding of the signage at Queen's Hospital Burton.

At this hospital ParkingEye run the car parks and only make money if transgressions occur. It is therefore in their interest to devise complicated and unintelligible signage to maximise the amount of confusion caused to motorists, and therefore maximise their income. It seems they have succeeded, as can be measured by the large number of complaints fielded by the hospital. Motorist have to guess how long they stayed and are penalised if they get this or their registration wrong. ParkingEye already know both these facts, and can easily fix this; however, then they would get no income.

ParkingEye get the money from overstays, while the hospital get the regular pay and display income. Ironically the hospital parking income has also increased. It is not clear whether this is due to drivers overpaying because they are scared of getting penalised, or whether this is due to increased compliance, or both.

At the end of the article the quiz asks you to work out various car park charges. The Prankster would like to point out that any reasoned answer you give is correct. The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999 points out that if a contract is forced on a consumer and contains ambiguous wording, then the contract must be interpreted to the benefit of the consumer. Simply put - if you thought it meant something, then it did! This is despite what ParkingEye or the hospital thought the signage meant.

The hospital parking regime is currently being run in defiance of government guidelines. This makes it clear:
 They will have to act against rogue contractors and not sign contracts ‘on any basis that incentivises fines’.
Helen Ashley is currently the Chief Executive of the hospital, so the buck stops with her. So far she has resisted multiple attempts to change the scheme to one fair the the hospital, patients and operator, and has only made cosmetic changes.

Happy Parking

The Parking


  1. If you pay for all day but your treatment is cancelled the minute you walk into the clinic because the doctor has gone sick at the last minute can you claim a refund? Is that on the sign?

  2. I imagine that none of the P&D machines give change, so yet another source unfair income for the hospital.

  3. Martin makes it quite clear how DVLA are evading their responsibilities in his write up, and pulls no punches about obvious lies that go on day in and day out.

    It is unfortunately in the nature of these government departments that they forget that their primary purpose is not to service the bureaucracy but to serve the people for whom the edifice was originally created. Of course this all gets confused by the needs of funding, but it is depressing how all these departments end up treating the public as the nuisance rather than the people who are to be helped.

    I've never been a fan of the American style anti-Government thinking - good Government is entirely necessary - but to see hospitals, the DVLA and local government get so caught up in budgets that they forget why they even exist in the first place is deeply depressing (the ultimate example of this was Stoke where they forgot they were supposed to be making patients better, or more topically Rotherham where apparently they ended up being more supportive of the abusers than the troublesome abused). It is even more so when you have the Government spouting on about localism and empowerment, but in reality they are just creating systems to allow their cronies in business to scam more money out of the powerless public.

    Without a complete reset of the mindset of government bureaucracies to get them thinking about the public being the main target of their work (and not some Thatcherite trickle-down, look after the business and somehow magically we will all be rich and happy) then these nonsenses will continue.

    We were probably better off with clamping - hospitals would have been too embarrassed to support clamping of its own patients.

  4. If you're going to hospital for an appointment, you're probably stressed anyway. You really don't need more stress trying to work out what to pay for parking.

  5. Then you have to raise the question of patient confidentiality when an ANPR system is used and no ticket is placed on the windscreen. The first indication of the "offence" is when the registered keeper receives a notice through the post. The driver might not be the RK, and the former may not want the latter to know that they have attended hospital.

  6. The guidelines:
    Hospitals should ensure charges are ‘reasonable for the area’ and rates are clearly displayed, along with details of penalties.
    Penalties. A clear understanding of the civil law then, or not.

    Free or reduced parking should be offered to the relatives of the ‘gravely ill’, the disabled, patients needing regular appointments and staff working antisocial shifts.
    Should be offered? Why not MUST be offered?

    Fines should only be imposed ‘where reasonable’ and should be waived when a patient has had to stay for reasons beyond their control, such as late-running treatment.
    Fines? Yeah, try that in a court. The minister doesn't know his civil from his criminal law.

    Hospitals should consider phasing out CCTV-based parking systems that allow operators to levy penalties on people who overstay by even a few seconds. Instead they should shift to pay-on-exit.
    Should consider? Should be "MUST take action to replace".

    Hospitals are to be made responsible for the actions of private parking operators and are urged to ‘act against rogue contractors’.
    You mean they aren't already? Another clear understanding of the legal system then? Seems like someone in his position wouldn't make so many cock-ups in a 3 paragraph Guideline document. He needs to do some homework or take a less demanding job before his face becomes permanently red.

    1. The new guidelines are toothless.

      There will be visiting patients who will be attending hospital, receiving, probably the most important news they'll ever get.

      I can just about live with the sneakiness used by these companies when people visit Aldi, the Co-op or Fistral Beach. After all, the fight can be quite good fun !

      To use these techniques on patients, and there families, is despicable. Whoever commissioned these services need to be held to account.