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Parking disc sometimes required: Long term parkers at supermarkets may face fines

Parking disc sometimes required : Long term parkers at supermarkets may face fines

More and more supermarkets are monitoring the use of their parking lots. There are fines for those who forget to put a parking disc in the window or who overstay the allowed parking time. Signage is key.

Customers who park at many Bonn supermarkets are required to use a parking disc. Some examples are the Aldi, Lidl and Rewe supermarkets in Duisdorf. They use private firms to control the parking situation, issuing tickets where necessary. One of those firms, “Fair Parken” has recently raised the parking penalty to 25 euros. Many feel this is a rip-off but supermarkets say they are left without an alternative. Which is why the parking ticket business is booming.

It’s Thursday midday and a man wearing a “Fair Parken” T-shirt is in the parking lot of a shopping center, taking pictures of cars which violate the parking regulations. "They always come infrequently, sometimes alone, sometimes in threes, sometimes several times a day," says a saleswoman who is out taking a smoking break. The parking lot monitors are “thorough” - anyone who has not placed a parking disc in the window, or who has exceeded the maximum time of two hours, must pay a fine of 24.90 euros. But the parking monitor is also helpful: When asked what to do if you do not have a parking disc, he pulls one out of his pants pocket. "You can keep this," he says in a friendly manner.

From a legal standpoint there is no problem

The business model of companies like “Fair Parken” is simple. They forge an agreement with the property owners, allowing them to impose fines - and guarantee in return that there are no problems with illegal parking. From a legal standpoint, this is acceptable because on private property, an owner can do what they want. A supermarket can let its customers park for free, or it can choose to exercise parking fees and maximum parking times.

Parking crunch has increased

Because the demand for parking has increased due to the ever growing number of vehicles, the parking lot monitor business has become successful. In 2017, “Fair Parken” had eight parking monitors located in Bonn, now there are 25. In all of Germany, they have around 650. A company spokeswoman said the growth can be attributed to the increasing pressure on existing parking areas.

This branch has really developed in the past years, as can be seen in the number of requests to register private parking lot monitors with the proper federal authorities. In 2010, there were around 53,000 inquiries, in 2016, 600,000 and in the past year around 850,000 inquiries.

"Fair Parking" claims to be active only in locations "that suffer significantly from illegal parking". The firm says it always tries to be accommodating, as do the supermarkets. No one wants to take the risk of alienating customers. But there is criticism about the fine being raised from 20 to 25 euros.

Susanne Bauer-Jautz of the Bonn consumer center, says she has been receiving more and more complaints about the parking tickets. The issue is usually the signage. "It must be clear before entering the car park that fines can be levied," she says. Otherwise, the parking penalties are not legitimate.

(Orig. text: Nicolas Ottersbach / Translation: ck)