There must be a better way to pay for parking


Recent research by the AA found that cashless parking machines that accept payment by calling or texting an automated service are extremely unpopular among drivers, with two thirds refusing to use them.

In the survey, seven out of 10 motorists said they were more likely to keep searching for a space than park in one where a mobile payment is mandatory. This is particularly true for the elderly, but they alone cannot make up the 70% who avoid pay by phone.


In fact, in the UK, what is presented as a simple mobile payment for parking can actually be the process to register a credit card. And it’s a complete faff.

The current process of paying by phone can take several minutes as drivers are required to call a number, select options, enter credit card details and then wait for confirmation. The chances are you’ll be there for a good 10 minutes if you want to register a new vehicle.

A spokesman for the Local Government Association, representing more than 370 councils in England and Wales, said: ‘Councils offer a variety of ways to pay for parking, and paying by phone can be a quick and convenient way to do so.’

But in an age where ApplePay, carrier billing, SMS billing, contactless and other nifty payment methods are so prevalent, why do we still need to get our credit cards out?

There must be a better way…

If mobile payment systems are implemented correctly, the benefits for paying by mobile are clear: it saves you going back to the car if you’d like to stay longer, there’s no need to carry cash and it’s simply a quicker payment.

Ultimately, it’s not about eliminating cash payments all together; it’s about giving those paying for parking more choice and letting them pay in the way that’s most convenient for them.

SMS is the most ubiquitous form of communication: it’s easy to use and it makes sense. Older people may not be interested in downloading the latest apps but they do understand texting. By simply texting a parking zone and spot number to a five digit number displayed at the car park, payment could be made and charged to the mobile phone bill - it’s as simple as that.

Alternatively, a carrier billing payment option could be used within an app, sitting alongside other payment methods to enable customers to pay for their tickets with just a couple of taps on their mobile device. The process does not require credit card details to be typed in, as customers will be charged to their mobile phone bill.

The public have long looked at parking companies in a negative light, seeing them as desperate to hand out tickets and fines; the main challenge ahead will be around building and protecting consumer trust.

Engagement strategies are key to this: it can be as simple as sending a member of the public an SMS alert reminding them their parking is about to expire that can help overcome the problems that have created this perception. They could even provide an option to extend their time by replying to the SMS.

It’s true, pay by phone is convenient but parking companies need to get the process right to get mobile payments covered.

Hannah Giles is head of marketing at billing firm Fonix


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