Parking problem in Worcester drains money from drivers’ bank accounts | Automotive

An estimated 1,500 drivers have been left out – some to the tune of hundreds of pounds – after their contactless cards were repeatedly charged by a council’s parking payment machines.

Some Worcester motorists said they were overdrawn and unable to pay their bills after a software glitch caused them to pay multiple times last week.

Giselle Naylor has contacted the Guardian after discovering her debit card had been charged 19 times after she used it to pay a £2.70 parking fee while out shopping in town. “At least two of my friends have had the same experience,” she said.

“We’re lucky because losing £50 won’t cause us serious hardship – but for some people it’s the cost of a week’s worth of food. This reveals a serious flaw in contactless payments, where a one-time payment turns into a financial hemorrhage.

This week, Worcester City Council was forced to admit unauthorized payments were still being charged, three days after saying the issue had been resolved. Some local residents ended up blocking their bank cards to prevent new direct debits from emptying their accounts.

The council, which estimates 1,500 people were overcharged, blamed the problem on a software upgrade by its parking contractor Flowbird and promised that refunds to those affected would be processed by Friday. He said any associated bank charges would also be reimbursed.

In a statement, it said: “In mid-September, the council identified that card payments related to parking sessions had not been taken from individuals’ bank accounts since around August 29.

“Council duly notified its contractor Flowbird to investigate the matter. On September 26, Flowbird began sending late payment files relating to individual parking sessions for the period to the merchant service provider.

The council said it started receiving reports the day after of duplicate payments being taken out of people’s accounts. “We then instructed Flowbird to place a block on any further payment files sent and were informed that the last payment file was sent for processing on September 29.”

Angry motorists have slammed the council for failing to respond to their complaints and are demanding compensation for the financial hardship caused by the mistakes.

A commuter said he couldn’t pay for his pending holiday after his card was charged 122 times in three days. Andy Gynn said he was thrown into an unauthorized overdraft when £610 was withdrawn from his account. “I can’t access any of my accounts which is more than an inconvenience,” he told BBC Hereford & Worcester.

Payment card options are now disabled in city council-run car parks, with drivers being asked to bring cash or use the RingGo smartphone app.

Worcester Council said it had issued Flowbird a breach of contract notice and would review arrangements with the company.

In a statement received after publication, a spokesperson for Flowbird Smart City UK said: “Unfortunately a software bug was introduced in a recent software update which caused some payments to be duplicated. We are aware of the issue, which is due to a software glitch and not the fault of Worcester City Council.

“We have temporarily suspended card payments and are working with the relevant teams to resolve the issue quickly and to process automatic refunds as soon as possible for anyone who was incorrectly charged.

“We can assure everyone that incorrect charges, including bank charges incurred as a result, will be fully refunded and credit card payments will be back up and running as soon as possible.”

This article was amended on October 6, 2022 to add a statement from Flowbird Smart City UK which was provided after publication.