Published: 05:00, 29 April 2022
| Updated: 15:51, 29 April 2022
A driver says it is a "disgrace" he was fined £90 for charging his electric car in an empty supermarket car park.
Pest controller James Piddock left his Renault Zöe powering its battery at Lidl in London Road, Ditton while he was visiting his girlfriend nearby for a Sunday dinner.
It was plugged into the pay-per-use Pod Point charger at around 6.20pm on March 27 while the store was shut.
Less than two hours later, Mr Piddock, of Orpington retrieved it and paid the £9.50 fee.
But a few days later he received a fine of £90 for exceeding the 90-minute limit at the car park by 23 minutes.
Mr Piddock said: "It doesn’t say on the machine that you can only park there for 90 minutes.
"There are notices in the car park but they are 6-8ft up in the air and not with the biggest of writing.
"Most cars take longer than an hour and a half to charge up; certainly my Renault Zöe did.
"Even when I got back it still wasn’t fully charged. When I left, it was on around 30% and when I got back it had 98%."
Mr Piddock has only owned the car for a little while but has never encountered problems with charging it until now.
He said: "The same company own the machines at my local Tesco and that has got a big sticker on it saying a max stay is three hours.
"The Tesco one is actually free, so when I’ve paid market rate for this charge and then I get a fine on top of that it just seems unfair to me.
"You’d think either the charger is free and there is a limited amount of time - so you’re not hogging it - or you pay for using it."
'You’d think either the charger is free and there is a limited amount of time - so you’re not hogging it - or you pay for using it'
Mr Piddock appealed to Pod Point and Lidl in a bid to have the fine waived but has had no luck.
He said: "With Pod Point I felt like I was just shouting into the wind as the company was speaking through an automated system and you just don’t get through to anybody."
In a statement, Pod Point told KentOnline: "Lidl’s charge points are operated by Pod Point and are part of our public charging network.
"However the terms and conditions of the car park are set and enforced by the charge point host and owner of the asset.
"We do advise drivers to observe the terms and conditions of the car park and to check the physical car park signage and / or Pod Point app for parking restrictions and operating hour policies.
"The Pod Point app prompts users to check the conditions of the car park and our in-app messaging has recently been updated to make things clearer for electric vehicle drivers using the Lidl charge points.
"We would also kindly advise Mr Piddock to consider the possible needs of other EV drivers to avoid inadvertently preventing others from charging when they need to."
Lidl have since responded to our request for a comment and said: "“The vast majority of car parks across our stores offer free parking for up to 90 minutes and the majority of our EVC charging points feature rapid chargers which can offer up to 80% charge in just 45 minutes.
"As is normal practice across the industry, car park usage is subject to terms and conditions for all those using the car park. We have very clear signage displayed prominently across our car parks, and an additional prompt is given within the Pod Point app.
“At Lidl GB we are proud to have invested over £25m in the rollout of electric vehicle charging points since 2017 and have committed to having rapid charging points in place at 300 stores by the end of 2022. We are also proud to offer our customers the best value pay-as-you go rapid charging of any supermarket currently at just 26p p/kWh.”
Mr Piddock paid the fine early, meaning it reduced to £45, but feels changes should be put in place to prevent future issues.
He said: "I’ve kissed goodbye to the money but I just thought other people need to know about this, otherwise they will be coining out of this and I think it is just unfair.
"I think this is a disgrace and I want other people to know about it so they don't get stitched up."