A bogus parking company that promised to look after holidaymakers’ cars in a secure lot actually left unlocked vehicles in a field.
The £1.4m operation, run by owner Asad Bashir Malik, involved customers’ vehicles being left unlocked with their windows open with keys on the windscreen, and some had even been issued parking tickets.
Fake reviews misled customers
The problems were uncovered after trading standards were told that more than 1,000 vehicles were being parked in a field in Crawley, West Sussex.
An investigation by West Sussex County Council revealed fake reviews on the company website London Parking Gatwick Ltd as part of the attempt to mislead customers.
Thousands of customers were deceived in the two-year scam after the company promised customers a “secure compound” on the website.
Guilty of misleading customers
Malik, of Crawley, and his company were found guilty at Brighton Crown Court of misleading customers.
He was jailed for 14 months on 9 April and disqualified from being a director for four years, but Proceeds of Crime Act proceedings are still pending.
He was caught in July 2016 after the trading standards officers visited the two fields, Bonnetts Lane and Keepers Knight.
Richard Sargeant, Trading Standards team manager, said: “Malik and his company deceived thousands of customers between 2014 and 2016, causing damage to their cars and making false claims on its website.
“This was a complex investigation for our team and I am very pleased with the outcome.
“I would urge anyone using a Gatwick meet and greet business to only use a Trading Standards-approved company.”
Problems with parking companies
Last year, a mother discovered that a different airport parking firm drove her car 500 miles while she was on holiday after she was sent a fine.
Zoe Parr, 42, was furious when she noticed her car had been used while she was on honeymoon in Mexico – and was even taken on a shopping trip to Asda, where she received a find for overstaying in the supermarket car park while her vehicle was supposed to be safe and sound with Manchester Airport Parking Services Ltd.
Another incident happened last year at Bristol Airport. People returning from holidays found themselves stuck without cars for hours, and it later emerged that the cars had been left in a variety of non-secure locations across Bristol.
Some were stranded at the airport for up to 24 hours to get their cars returned, and others needed to find their own way home, before returning to collect their car the next day.