B&B owners in Whitby are being warned they face prosecution or prison under trading standards laws for cashing in on council parking permits.
This week North Yorkshire County Council was forced to write to accommodation providers and agencies after it came to light that the scratch cards that are issued to holidaymakers are being tampered with.
The Gazette understands that it was a local resident who reported the practice.
The scratch card system enables guests to leave their vehicles on the West Cliff as part of the new parking measures. Scratch cards have a face value of 50 pence but thisamount as printed on the cards is being blanked out and several pounds being charged for them instead.
As the cards are headed by Scarborough Borough Council it implies that the authority is hiking the price.
It also emerged that day trippers and non-guests are being mis-sold the scratch cards as a means of covering the cost of parking when they are actually liable to get a penalty notice instead.
According to the council the practice is breaching the criteria as set out under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 legislation.
The document being issued warns businesses: “The Trading Standards Service has become aware that some holiday accommodation providers and agencies are re-selling Whitby holiday accommodation permits (scratch cards) in ways which are considered unfair under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
“Breaches of regulations 5 and 6 of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 are criminal offences and on conviction attract an unlimited fine in the Magistrates’ Court and an unlimited fine and/or up to two years’ imprisonment in the Crown Court.”
While under the parking system rules, accommodation providers are allowed to add an ‘admin charge’ for administration of the scheme or charges such as postage purchases have to be made aware at the time and anyone other than holiday accommodation guests are excluded from using the cards.
The county council added: “The scratch cards are available solely for use by people staying in holiday accommodation within the zoned areas. Anyone else using a card is at risk of receiving a penalty charge notice. Selling cards to day trippers and others who are not guests in holiday accommodation without making the risk of a penalty charge clear to them is a ‘misleading action’”
If convicted of breaches under the various regulations of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, punishment at the magistrate’s court is an unlimited fine, and /or up to two years imprisonment at the Crown Court.
West Cliff Cllr Joe Plant who sits on both the county and borough councils said: “There is no reason why they should be doing what they are doing. We have been asked to be open and transparent but doing this to customers is just as bad.
“The majority are absolutely fine and some don’t even charge but cover the costs themselves.
“But I am very disappointed that after all the hard work we put in we find a minority damaging the reputation and spoiling it.”