Better Business Bureau gives Atlanta parking enforcement “F” rating

Better Business Bureau gives Atlanta parking enforcement “F” rating
Atl Plus, the company that enforces parking for the city of Atlanta, has been given an “F” rating by the Better Business Bureau of Metro Atlanta after the bureau identified a pattern of consumer complaints. (WSB-TV)

ATLANTA — ATL Plus, the company that was supposed to end overly aggressive parking enforcement in the City of Atlanta, has generated a wave of complaints that its practices are just as bad — if not worse — than predecessor ParkAtlanta.

The Better Business Bureau of Metro Atlanta took more than 40 complaints into consideration before giving the firm a rare “F” rating.

Those complaints include the company processing payments but not giving credit for them, leaving tickets on vehicles before meters expired and unresponsive customer service that contributed to fines doubling.

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Mike Boynton, a senior vice president for the BBB, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that a very small percentage of the hundreds of thousands of businesses the nonprofits it rates in a 47-county Metro area receive “F” ratings.

“The allegations are disconcerting, and the City is taking a very serious look into the matter,” said Michael Smith, a spokesman for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

ATL Plus, run by Chicago-based SP Plus Parking, provides parking enforcement, meter maintenance, collection and citation processing services for the city.

The Atlanta City Council approved a five-year contract with SP Plus in late 2016. Its terms guarantee that the city receives a minimum of $7 million each year from the $13.5 million in estimated fine revenue.

At the time, former Mayor Kasim Reed said the deal “signals a new chapter in a customer-based approach for efficiency for our residents and guests.”

Reed promised the move would eliminate the frustration often associated with finding and paying for parking in a busy urban city. ParkAtlanta’s enforcement practices provoked similar complaints to those made against ATL Plus.

Dozens of complaints filed against ATL Plus with the BBB claim that the company often makes it difficult to pay fines until after they double, issues duplicate citations and refuses to respond to phone calls and emails.

One complaint called ATL Plus a “shady company that preys upon citizens of Atlanta.”

Another said the company is “clearly engaging in fraudulent activity … and trying to extract money through fraudulent means.”

M. Bud Willis, 55, told the AJC that five weeks ago he paid a parking fee through an online app before heading into Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Midtown to have dinner with his wife. The couple left with time still on the meter and yet an ATL Plus employee was standing by his truck issuing him a citation.

He said he showed the parking attendant that the license plate number he had entered into the app was off by one number.

“She said, ‘I still have to write you a ticket because it’s not correct,” Willis said. “It was a typo.”

Christopher Casey, 31, told the AJC that a couple of years ago he was issued a $25 ticket for parking to close to a cross walk. He said that after about a week his wife, Lauren, tried to pay the ticket daily, but couldn’t locate it on the ATL Plus website until a day or two after the fine doubled.

Casey said the couple called and emailed ATL Plus multiple times but received no response. They eventually paid the fine to avoid the hassle.

A spokesperson listed for SP Plus in Chicago did not return a voice message from the AJC. A message left on the main number for ATL Plus in Atlanta also wasn’t returned.

Boynton said ATL Plus declined to respond to questions from the BBB about why the company represented its address as that of the city’s Municipal Court, and if it was affiliated with agencies or companies other than the city.

Boynton said ATL Plus received the “F” rating in September.

If you’ve had a problem with ATL Plus, please contact stephen.deere@ajc.com.