“Mob handed” bailiffs clamped a 77-year-old’s car and demanded she fork out hundreds of pounds over claims she failed to pay a parking ticket.
Eva Guttentag, of Milton Road, Barnet, felt threatened when two burly men arrived at her front door in April, insisting she pay £408 on the spot.
The widow, who lives alone, received a parking fine in October 2013 after Barnet Borough Council failed to issue her parking permit on time.
She contested it immediately and after the challenge was rejected, she paid the £55 fee – sending it in by special delivery at a cost of £6 – and assumed it would be the last she heard on the matter.
So she was horrified when bailiffs turned up in April to collect the debt, and shelled out the £408 “for a quiet life”.
But after she asked parking fine expert Derek Dishman – also known as Mr Mustard – for help, Barnet Borough Council apologised and promised to issue a full refund.
However despite repeated requests, more than three months later, she had not received a single penny of what she was owed.
It was not until the Times Series made contact with parking firm NSL that it promised to issue a full refund within five to seven days and put the mistake down to “human error”.
Mrs Guttentag said: “It was very unjust and I felt very cheated. I had just bought a new car and when I opened the door and saw it had been clamped, I was very upset.
“I paid it because I wanted them to go away. I was a little scared. The whole thing was a very threatening experience for me. It was also very embarrassing.
“It wasn’t a very nice thing to do. They refused to listen to me when I told them I had paid. I didn’t know what to do.”
After Mr Mustard contacted NSL, they also offered to issue 40 free residents' permits to Mrs Guttentag by way of apology.
But the retired bookkeeper, whose daughter lives in Spain, has been left feeling disappointed by the actions of Barnet Council.
She added: “The moment they discovered they were wrong they should have paid it back. It’s a disgrace.”
Mr Mustard, who supported Eva through her ordeal, said: “The mob-handed bailiffs refused to listen when she told them she had already paid the fine.
“They were wrong in not following it up. Why don’t the council have a vulnerable persons policy? Something like this cannot be allowed to happen again.
“It would be hard to find anything not wrong with this situation.”
A statement from NSL said: “We are very sorry that human error at NSL resulted in the full enforcement process taking place in this case.
“We have now processed a full refund, which the customer will receive within the next five to seven days.
“We prioritised a full review of this case, which has taken place, resulting in the officer concerned to be disciplined accordingly, and placed on a development plan to avoid any future errors of this kind.”