Date Posted: May 27, 2011
Date Printed: May 27, 2011
When you’re a student on a budget, every dollar counts, which is why it’s especially important to regularly review bank statements and make sure that all charges are legitimate. UFV student Ashley Butcher knows the value of this, as a recent review of her credit card statement showed that she appeared to have been overbilled for parking on campus – a discovery that led to conflicting and unsettling explanations from Mastercard.
Butcher became concerned when her Mastercard bill listed two charges for parking on a Saturday, when she does not attend classes. When she contacted Mastercard requesting a refund, she was informed by a representative “that they see this a lot with parking meters and what might have happened is that the card has a memory bank and that if you’ve ever used your credit card in the machine… [your information is in the] memory bank so your card can be charged by accident.”
Butcher said that she was uncomfortable with the idea of her information being stored in a machine, expressing concerns that the machines could end up a target for thieves. Dan Sarrasin – Manager of UFV’s Safety, Security, and Parking – however, assured that the machines at UFV do not retain any student information, not only “because there’s too much of a risk with doing that” but because it would violate Canada’s Freedom of Information Privacy Act. Impark Operations Manager Dave Lebans explained that “the meters process transactions online and in real time.”
Butcher reported that a classmate who experienced the same problem had received a different explanation for the billing from a Mastercard representative, “that they batch out the machines once a month and that all the times that she used her card in the last month were charged on that one day.” However, Butcher expressed dissatisfaction with the response because, as she explained: “I… have a parking pass which is good for the whole semester… so there’s completely no reason in the past two, three months that I would have had to use the card.”
Sarrasin confirmed that Impark had looked into the issue and received the same explanation from Mastercard, namely that “sometimes what’ll happen is that… it doesn’t get billed for that particular month, [the charge will] show up later on.”
He asserted that the confusion students have experienced with billing is the fault of Mastercard rather than Impark, which acts as a separate vendor than Impark. “If the credit card company refunded [a student], that’s the credit card accepting the responsibility, that’s not really a parking issue, that’s a credit card issue… if Impark was in the wrong, it would have been reimbursed [by Impark].” As of press time, Mastercard could not be reached for comment on the issue.
Butcher raised additional parking concerns, however – namely that upon conversing with her classmates about her issue, she began coming into contact with several other cases in which students who had purchased parking passes for the semester were receiving tickets.
Sarrasin emphasized that Impark representatives follow a set process when issuing violations that reduces the possibility of error. He explained that representatives first begin with a printout that lists all the spots in the lot that are currently unpaid, then go to those spots and “check on the mirror… for a hanger if it’s a staff member or an athlete or somebody who’s got a special pass; if they’ve noticed that there’s no hanger then the next thing that they’ll do… [is] punch in the license plate number to verify whether or not they have an e-permit and that they’re registered in the system. So if they’re not registered in the system then… they may receive a violation.” He added that when issuing tickets, reps must also take pictures of the cars’ license plates for reference.
Lebans explained that students who have epasses may still receive tickets for several reasons, most commonly because they are parking in areas where their pass is not valid. “The majority of the disputes we handle are from students who park on the city streets (Mckenzie, Gillis, College) and believe their epass is valid. Epermits are only valid on UFV lot 1925 and 1926 student lots. They are not valid in the Arena overflow lot, Mckenzie Rd, Gillis or College. This is communicated on the signage and when at sign up.”
He continued, “The other issue that causes students to be ticketed is when a student signs up and unknowingly enters the wrong license plate number. This can be changed by calling 604-420-6446 extension 10. Human error also accounts for a very small amount of violations, [but] it is limited as the equipment used is quite accurate.”
Sarrasin encouraged any students with concerns about UFV parking to approach him about them, and noted that UFV has also posted a page of frequently asked questions regarding parking on their website. The site also has listed a number that students can call with complaints. Sarrasin emphasized that he welcomes all legitimate student recommendations related to parking, noting: good ideas will be implemented.”