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I got more than £600 in parking fines from using Zipcar Flex

Rebecca Smithers
Photograph: Maurice Savage/Alamy

I’m contacting you about Zipcar, the car-sharing company. Its Flex service lets you share cars by picking up and dropping them off in allocated zones (for which users are charged by the minute). After using the service for about four months I received an email for a parking fine, backdated three months.

This was the first, but not the last. Since then I’ve received six more, all up to a maximum £130, totalling more than £600.

Zipcar customer services told me that in the help area of its website it states that each borough has different parking regulations and that, even though the app marks an area as blue (meaning you are allowed to park there), this is not actually the case. I was simply sent an extract from its contract stating that I was liable for the fine.

On top of this, it charges an extra £15 each time as a processing fee. This is crazy as the fines come through months late and at the maximum amount. I have since stopped using the service because, in my view, it is not worth it, is misleading and offers poor customer service.

DF, London

Zipcar Flex aims to provide a cheap and convenient way for consumers to use cars in the capital. Zipcar insists that different parking rules in London boroughs are made clear to users both through the app and its help centre – with links to the various council websites – and that it does not state that members can park anywhere they like.

It says: “Transparency and convenience are very important to us ... with that, we ensure that clear Zipcar Flex parking rules are provided to all our members when booking a vehicle, and can be found throughout their trip via the app and the online help centre. One of these rules is that when ending a Flex trip, the car needs to be within the Zipzone and parked legally in accordance with the specific rules to each borough, such as parking in a residents’ bay. In this customer’s case, the charges were correctly attributed; however, as a gesture of goodwill, we worked to help reduce the penalty charge notice charges and waived the administrative fee.”

As a result, your final bill is about £80 – considerably lesss than the £600 demanded.

However, we agree this is all very complicated and, interestingly, it followed up with you and asked if there was any way the app could be improved. We gather it is working on a resolution in which the app will use GPS information to show the parking rules as a pop-up so users can see the acceptable parking signs in their location.

We also noted many complaints about unexpected parking charge notices and poor customer service on internet talkboards.

We welcome letters but cannot answer individually. Email us at consumer.champions@theguardian.com or write to Consumer Champions, Money, the Guardian, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Please include a daytime phone number. Submission and publication of all letters is subject to terms and conditions