CLACTON MP Giles Watling has backed proposals for new laws to clamp down on “scam” parking companies.

Mr Watling is supporting a bill calling for a code of practice to detail how private car parks should be operated.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Friday, he raised concerns over fines that were handed out at the Ravensdale car park, off North Road in Great Clacton.

Motorists were left outraged after being fined £60 by Smart Parking, which operated the site, even though it was advertised as free parking for three hours.

Small print stated a registration number must be entered to validate the free parking, which was branded as “misleading” by users.

“Smart Parking advertised free parking in a very pronounced way on a very big sign,” said Mr Watling.

“Far less prominent was the request to enter a plate number and to take a ticket.

“That was required even though the parking in that car park in Ravensdale was supposedly free.

“The widespread view was that a large ‘free parking’ sign meant just that, so people just parked their cars and went about their business, only to have a hefty fine levied on them because they had missed the deliberately small print.

“In my view, that is an outrageous scam.”

Mr Watling said more than 400 unfair parking tickets had been issued by Smart Parking and about 250 of those are being pursued by Debt Recovery Plus.

Tendring councillor Richard Everett took up the fight on behalf of motorists who had been caught out before the changes and a number of fines have now been cancelled.

Mr Watling added: “Rogue practice, as demonstrated by companies like Smart Parking, needs to be stopped.

“It is unfair and leaves those that incur these fines distressed and all too often, in financial hardship.”

The Government outlined its support for the bill ahead of the debate, and detailed how it wants to stop rogue firms from issuing fines and accessing driver data – effectively forcing them out of the industry.

Smart Parking previously said it is a member of the British Parking Association and follows its guidelines strictly.

“When parking on private land, we would remind motorists to always read the terms and conditions of use before deciding to park,” it added.