Page last updated at 08:52 GMT, Saturday, 30 January 2010

Supermarket parking limits 'breach' disability laws

Supermarket car park
Supermarkets have started to limit the amount of time customers can park

The UK's big supermarkets are breaking disability laws by having strict time limits in about two-thirds of their car parks, charities have told the BBC.

Private firms run some of the parking areas for Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons and customers face penalty charges for overstaying.

But under the Disability Discrimination Act, businesses need to make extra allowances for disabled people.

The supermarkets say they will review their policies on disabled parking.

Supermarkets are increasingly using private parking firms and automatic number plate recognition systems to limit customer parking, often to two hours.

'Acknowledge problem'

The restrictions are to discourage drivers from abusing the free parking spaces.

BBC Breakfast contacted 200 large supermarkets from the four main chains.

Of the 124 that imposed parking time limits, about two-thirds said they did not give disabled people any extra time to shop, which is a breach of the law.

Britain's motorists are being stealth taxed by another dubious practice
Neil Herron
Motorist campaigner

Neil Coyle, from the charity Disability Alliance, said: "Supermarkets need to acknowledge there is a problem, and secondly, very quickly they need to ensure their car parking procedures conform with the law.

"You or I can stamp our feet and say how outrageous it is but at the end of the day there is a law that protects disabled people from this happening."

He said the supermarkets needed to end the "unfair charges" or "they can wait until someone takes a legal case and potentially face a considerable compensation case".

Motorist campaigner Neil Herron said supermarkets should get rid of the "draconian" and "legally questionable" private enforcement process and handle car parking in house.

"If someone is abusing the system, clamp them, charge them a £2.50 clamp release fee, handled by their own staff.

"Britain's motorists are being stealth taxed by another dubious practice," he said.

The BBC's Keith Doyle said all four supermarket chains have said they will review their policies on disabled parking.

"If you do need extra time, the advice is to go to customer services in the supermarkets - they have all told us they will make allowances, they will review their policies - so give customer services your registration number and hopefully you won't get a ticket," he said.

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