West Sussex Trading Standards is leading a criminal investigation after a ‘meet and greet’ car park near Gatwick Airport went bust.
Returning holidaymakers had been left frantically searching for their cars after Gatwick First Parking Ltd ceased trading.
The firm normally kept their cars at two secure compounds.
But it was discovered customers’ cars were also being parked in various unsecured locations, such as supermarket car parks and road lay-bys, across West Sussex and Surrey.
West Sussex Trading Standards, supported by Sussex Police, located all the vehicles and have been reuniting them with their owners.
Officers are continuing to gather evidence as part of a criminal investigation.
West Sussex Trading Standards Team Manager Richard Sargeant said: “This has been a difficult and stressful time for those Gatwick passengers involved.
“We are still trying to locate the director of Gatwick First Parking to assist our enquiries.
“Fortunately, we have been able to contact some vehicle owners still away on holiday to warn them and give them advice for when they return.”
Gatwick First Parking was not an approved off-airport parking operator, and ran independently of Gatwick Airport.
West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Stronger, Safer Communities, Debbie Kennard, said: “Our advice to protect consumers is to always use a Gatwick Airport approved trader when booking a ‘meet and greet’ parking service.
“Approved parking operators are reputable businesses and afford you far greater security while you are away.
“You can find them by using our Buy With Confidence approved traders directory online by visiting www.buywithconfidence.co.uk.”
If you encounter anything suspicious related to airport parking, tell us via Trading Standards online www.westsussex.gov.uk/tsreport or by calling Citizens Advice on 03454 040506.