Holidaymakers using “meet and greet” airport parking firms have been warned to check the small print after reports to West Sussex Trading Standards Service.
The team has received complaints from customers who have suffered thefts from their cars, damage to their vehicles and excess mileage put on the odometer while their car has been in the care of some companies.
Officers from West Sussex County Council’s Trading Standards service have this week given the following advice to make sure people don’t fall foul of unscrupulous companies and end their holidays on a sour note.
• Check the company websites and make sure you know who you are dealing with. Legally, companies need to provide their name and address details on websites. If contact address details are missing, be extra cautious and consider booking with a different provider.
• If the cost of the booking is more than £100, consider paying with a credit card as this will give you extra protection should things go wrong.
• Most reputable companies will complete paperwork highlighting any damage to the vehicle at the time you drop it off. Trading Standards advise customers to take pictures of all four sides of their vehicle when they drop it off to help avoid any disputes regarding damage to your vehicle when you return from holiday.
• The majority of meet and greet companies will have parking facilities which are relatively close to the airport. Make a note of the mileage reading on your car when you drop it off, that way you will know whether or not it has been driven further than you expected.
• Lastly, do not leave any valuables or money in your vehicle whilst you are on your travels.
Lionel Barnard, West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services with responsibility for trading standards said: “It’s important to say that the majority of people suffer a stress free experience when dealing with official and regulated meet and greet firms.
“There are so many things to arrange when you are going on holiday that it is easy to look at car parking online and concentrate on price or availability rather than reading the small print.
“If you look closely some companies offering ‘meet and greet’ services do not have full contact details on their websites so you have no way of making contact if you have a complaint.
“In some cases claims of secure parking can actually mean a field or a street near to the airport.
“Our advice is to use the official airport car parking facilities or use a ‘meet and greet’ service provided by our ‘Buy With Confidence’ trading standards approved business.”
The meet and greet service involves meeting a company representative at an airport and then handing over the keys.
The firms take the car away and bring it back on the traveller’s return to the airport.
West Sussex Trading Standards operate the Buy With Confidence scheme (BWC), a trade approval scheme, where all members are vetted and approved by the service. In relation to meet and greet companies, BWC means that their parking compounds have been checked and are all secure.
Visit the BWC website to find out which meet and greet operators are part of BWC. www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk
The Gatwick Airport website also lists who the Approved Off Airport operators are for Gatwick. The meet and greet companies listed on the Gatwick Airport website will all be members of BWC and their parking compounds will also all have the Park Mark award.
If you have concerns, need advice or want to make a complaint about a Meet and Greet company, consumers are urged to report the matter to Trading Standards by contacting the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 08454 04 05 06 or at www.adviceguide.org.uk