With the introduction of automated parking devices in Kolkata by Kolkata Municipal Corporation, new methods of fleecing car owners were immediately in practice too. Though the automated hand-held parking devices were meant to reduce the malpractices in car parking, in reality, the more authentic-looking parking devices are actually helping the parking agents with greater elan. Team WHEELS recently surveyed a few car parking zones in the city and reports on the new trend of parking fraud.
As you are getting ready to roll out your car from the parking lot, suddenly a man in a blue shirt pops out of nowhere and asks for “Rs 40, sir” as parking fees. You try telling him that you were there for just over an hour and should be charged only Rs 20 as per the KMC rate of Rs 10 per hour; but he is adamant, holding out a tiny digitally-printed parking receipt from the automated parking device issued by the KMC. There is no way to prove him wrong, as it seems to be pretty official.
You have just been innovatively cheated by the parking agent! Welcome to the latest tryst with technology – digitally-printed parking receipts.
Earlier, under the old system, since the parking attendant would manually note down the time to calculate the duration of the parking and could put an arbitrary charge, there could have been an altercation for the higher fees. But now, under the new system, it is difficult to raise a dispute since the system looks automated.
The new digital parking system
Under the current system in KMC jurisdiction, the moment a car is parked, a parking receipt with the vehicle number and current time is generated from the hand-held digital device by the parking agent and placed under the wiper on the windscreen. Again, at the time of leaving, a fresh parking bill is generated from the digital device which automatically calculates the real time duration and levies the official KMC parking fee (refer KMC Parking Fee chart).
How does the digital parking device work?
In that hand-held digital device that the parking attendant operates, there is a processor chip which functions on real time according to the following steps:
Step 1: Select ‘VEHICLE TYPE’: ‘1’ for ‘FOUR-WHEELER’ / ‘2’ for ‘TWO WHEELER’ / ‘3’ for BUS / LORRY etc.
Step 2: Insert the last 4 digits of the ‘VEHICLE NUMBER’ (registration number) of the parked vehicle.
Step 3: A parking ‘RECEIPT’ with a serial number is generated by the device with an auto-generated ‘IN DATE’ and ‘IN TIME’. It is then handed over to the motorist or put under the wiper of the parked vehicle as a record of the entry-time. This ‘RECEIPT’ is a record of the entry time to the parking – denoting the vehicle registration number.
Step 4: Once the car is ready to move out of the parking area, the ‘VEHICLE NUMBER’ is put to search it in the device memory. On finding the same, a ‘BILL / OUTPASS’ is automatically generated displaying an ‘OUT TIME’, ‘DURATION’ and the exact ‘PARKING FEE’ to be paid.
Step 5: The ‘BILL / OUTPASS’ is produced to the motorist to claim the parking fee.
Manipulation of the digital device
Unfortunately, within a short while of the introduction of digital parking system, some unscrupulous parking agents have already developed and mastered a few tricks to tweak the digital device and generate fake parking receipts to cheat the parked motorists. To safeguard against this, the car owners need to update themselves on the latest methods of digital manipulation.
1. Changing the ‘Vehicle Type’ to ‘Heavy Vehicles’
Deceit: While selecting the ‘Vehicle Type’ at the time of the entry, the parking agent intentionally selects the ‘Heavy Vehicle’ type, which has a higher rate of parking. As a result, the device automatically prints out the parking fee applicable for ‘Heavy Vehicle’ which is double the rate for cars or ‘4 wheelers’ as per KMC rates.
Check: If you are suspicious, check the ‘Vehicle Type’ printed on the parking slip to find out whether a ‘Heavy Vehicle’ has been typed in by the parking agent.
Solution: Get the ‘Vehicle Type’ changed to ‘Car’ or ‘4 Wheeler’ type to assess the actual parking fee.
2. Showing the Vehicle Number as Parking Amount
Deceit: The only field open to manual typing in the digital parking device is the ‘Vehicle Number.’ To defraud the motorists, any arbitrary alphabet or digit can be manually typed in at the space of the ‘Vehicle Number’ which is produced as the parking amount. This is the most common forgery with the help of the digital device.
Check: If the amount printed on the parking slip appears at the space meant for ‘Vehicle Number’ – it has been forged. For instance, ‘V. No’: denoting ‘Vehicle Number’ has been typed as ‘RS40’. Here, ‘RS40’ has been manually typed in as the a car registration number but poses as the fake parking amount.
The same may also be crosschecked by the letters ‘RS’ and not ‘Rs’ (denoting Rupees) – preceding the fictitious amount. For instance, the fake amount would be ‘RS 20’ instead of ‘Rs 20’ or so. This way it may be crosschecked, as the device is designed to type the ‘Vehicle Number’ in capital letters only, and not in lower case.
Solution: Ask the parking agent to produce a proper ‘bill / outpass’ with your 4-digit vehicle number at the alloted space with valid IN and OUT time.
3. Producing the wrong portion of parking slip
Deceit: In most of the fraudulent cases, the parking agent tries to verbally extract the parking fee without producing any printed record. On demand, he would print out the first portion of the parking slip which is the entry time record – with the word ‘RECEIPT’ printed at the top and showing an amount on it.
Check: The ‘RECEIPT’ is the ‘IN TIME’ or entry time record printed out when a car comes to park. It is a small square piece of paper. The ‘Receipt’ is actually the ‘IN TIME’ record and not the final ‘BILL / OUTPASS’, carrying the final parking amount. Since the final ‘BILL / OUTPASS’ showing the actual parking amount cannot be manipulated by a parking agent as it is automatically calculated according to the ‘IN TIME’ and ‘OUT TIME’ depending on the ‘CAR TYPE’, the first portion – a ‘RECEIPT’ is printed out to defraud a motorist, manually putting a vague figure at the ‘VEHICLE NUMBER’ space.
Solution: If you doubt the parking amount, do not accept the ‘RECEIPT’. Ask for the ‘BILL / OUTPASS’ showing a proper parking amount.
4. Wrong IN TIME entry
Deceit: In many cases, the time recorded for an earlier parked car is issued through the final ‘BILL / OUTPASS’. Since this would have an earlier ‘IN TIME’ entry it would automatically calculate a higher parking fee.
Check: Minutely crosscheck your ‘VEHICLE NUMBER’ printed on the ‘BILL / OUTPASS’.
Solution: If your car number and ‘IN TIME’ entry doesn’t match, deny the same and ask for the correct one.
Where to complain
As directed by Supriyo Ghosh, Manager – Parking Department, Kolkata Municipal Corporation, there are two methods to redress a complaint against any malpractice by a parking agent or parking cooperative under which he operates.
1) If you have any doubt about the demanded parking fee, the same may be brought to the notice of the nearest traffic sergeant on duty or the local traffic guard. A traffic police officer has the authority to redress your complaint on spot.
2) If a collector of a Parking Cooperative demands more money, a car owner may lodge a complaint online under the ‘Grievance Redressal’ on the KMC website www.kmcgov.in or in writing along with an evidence to the following KMC authority: Dy. Municipal Commissioner (Parking) / Chief Manager – Car Parking Department
5, S.N. Banerjee Road, Kolkata 700003, Telephone: 2286-1125 (D) / 2286-1000 (Extn: 2829)
In the event of a valid complaint made against a Parking Cooperative (mentioned on the Parking Receipt / Bill / Outpass) for collection of parking fees at a higher rate or for any violation of the terms and conditions, KMC shall have the right to enquire into the complaint and on being satisfied about the nature of the complaint, KMC shall impose a fine / penalty on the licensee as may be determined from time to time.
Contact: KMC Car Parking Department
Chief Manager : (033) 22861125 (D) / 2286-1000 (Extn: 2829)
Manager : (033) 22520430 / 2286-1000 (Extn: 2232)
Assistant Manager : (033) 22861000 (Extn: 2240)
Online – Grievance Redressal : www.kmcgov.in
Published in Kolkata on WHEELS: February 2019