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Customers hit with £90 fines for parking at Lidl in West Street, Sittingbourne

Customers found themselves picking up more than just a few bargains when they visited a discount supermarket.

Motorists took to Facebook to express their anger at being hit with a £90 charge after they shopped Lidl in West Street, Sittingbourne, despite the fact they provided their car details to get free parking.

The system, operated by Athena ANPR on the shop’s behalf, means customers have to provide the cashier with their registration number when they pay for their shopping to avoid charges if they stay longer than 90 minutes.

The Lidl car park
The Lidl car park

Among the ‘victims’ was Anthony Hammond, of Regency Court, Sittingbourne.

He was issued with a ticket after he, his wife Rachel and their two children called in to “geta few bits” at about 4pm on July 14.

"You go to places like that to bring your shopping bill down, but I might as well have gone to Asda or Sainsbury’s” - shopper Anthony Hammond

As he had only just bought the black Renault Clio he didn’t find out about the charge until July 27 when the previous owner of the car contacted him to say the forms had been sent to him.

The 43-year-old said: “When we paid at the checkout they asked for our registration number so we could have free parking but then we still receive the bill.

“I’m a bit peeved to be honest. I think we only spent about £20 to £25 in there.

"You go to places like that to bring your shopping bill down but I might as well have gone to Asda or Sainsbury’s.”

Carolyn King and her husband Stephen, 56, received a charge after they popped in on July 21.

Like Mr Hammond they had just bought their blue Volvo s60 so only found out about it when the previous owner got in touch to say an invoice had been sent to them. In this instance, they weren’t asked for their registration number when they paid.

Mrs King, 55, of Donemowe Drive, Kemsley, said: “My husband thinks he paid by cash and we can’t find the receipt. When we paid they didn’t ask for the registration number.

“I’ve written to the company but I’m still waiting to hear from them.

"I’m not paying it, it’s ridiculous. Why don’t they just putting a parking meter in there?”

A sign showing the controversial parking charges
A sign showing the controversial parking charges

A spokesman for Lidl said: “Our Sittingbourne store car park is heavily sign posted, to help avoid any confusion.

“However, we still encourage any genuine Lidl customers who have received a parking charge notice to get in touch with us directly via our customer services hotline number on 0800 9777766 and we will look into their case for them.”

Richard Hilton, spokesman for Athena ANPR said: “This system is in place to ensure that these spaces are available for Lidl customers.

“To validate the free parking period, customers are asked for their registration at the till. Notices are placed on each till asking people to give their registration numbers.

“Notification of this system is provided by 19 signs in the car park. There is also a 10 metre wide banner visible from the entrance and 8,000 leaflets have been distributed.

“If someone has received a charge and wishes to appeal it then we are happy to accommodate that.

“If a charge is received by a customer incorrectly and this can be verified then we will gladly rescind it.”

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