Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Link parking lose Lakeshore case. Permit was displayed

Link Parking v H C5GF86CX. Bristol 20/3/2017

Mr H parked at his own residence and displayed a permit. He appeal, but the appeal was ignored. He also responded to the letter before claim, but was ignored.

Link Parking decided to take him to court anyway.

The Hearing

The judge ruled that they had broken their own procedures in not engaging with Mr H.

The case rested on whether or not placing the permit in the rear windscreen was a violation of the parking terms. The judge ruled it wasn't.

Prankster Note

There are a large number of Lakeshore residents who have been the victim of Martin Gardener's unscrupulous and underhand tactics.

Although Link Parking were not specifically mention in yesterday's debate in parliament, it is clear that MPs are worried about the practices of companies such as Link Parking and their owner Martin Gardener.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

ES Parking Enforcement lose in Bury. Court protocol not followed

ES Parking Enforcement v Mr X. 22/3/17 Bury.

Defendant Court Report

When I got to court it was not busy as Bury court closes on Friday and moves to Bolton.
There were 6 cases listed for 2 judges.

The case before me was also against ES Parking Enforcement through Gladstones and I chatted to him. He went in first and came out less than 5 minutes later. I don’t think he won.

When I went in I was surprised it was in the full court with the judge in isolation on the bench.

DJ Osborne asked me if I was the Defendant and I said yes. He already knew the solicitor as I think she’d just won the previous case to me for ES Parking.

He asked her to open and she said the case rested on the fact that I was presumed to be the driver and that I had failed to pay and display a valid parking ticket in the windscreen despite clear and prominent signage. As I had chosen not to to name the driver I was still liable as by using my car it implied permission was given to accept all the terms of the contract. She asked to judge to award in their favour.

The judge then asked me clarify the main reasons I disputed the claim saying I didn’t need to read my statement as he’d read it. I began by saying that I was not the driver and did not know who the driver was. I had provided proof that I was elsewhere at the time.

The signage was inadequate in any case.

The claim form was deficient in the particulars of claim and I could not defend it.

I had not received a letter before claim and that my request for information was not only ignored but treated as an appeal.

The judge then asked questions about why I thought the signage was deficient.

I explained that much of the signage had gone up after the date of the incident and referred him to clear dated photos which showed that the signs they claimed were there on the date from their Google aerial view were only put up 14 days after.

The judge said although the photos clearly showed this it did not alter the fact that in the photo on the NTK there was a large and prominent sign saying "Have you paid and displayed" which the driver, whoever that may have been could not have failed to have seen.

However the signs with the terms and conditions were, he agreed, put up so high as to be difficult to read and the payment figure was not prominent. So they did not comply.

He moved onto the claim form which brought up some interesting points.

He said that it was not uncommon for online claims from Northampton to give such little information.

 In the particulars of claim and that letters I had been sent such as the notice to keeper detailed the claim and as I had it as an exhibit I could reasonable be expected to know what the claimant was claiming for.

He said he was concerned about the lack of response to my request for information and noted I had included proof of posting in the bundle. He said this was not unusual for these companies to ignore them. (He did not comment on why they had sent a letter of rejected appeal instead)

He then asked me to confirm that I had not received a LBC and mentioned that I was not under any kind of oath in this court. He was quite concerned that I had not received a LBC and as Gladstones had provided no proof that it had been sent he had no reason to disbelieve me that I had not received one.

He said then that this did not comply but would rather now move onto why I thought I was not liable as the RK. I referred him to the exhibits proving my whereabouts and that I could not have been the driver.

He asked the solicitor if she had them and she agreed and said again that as I had chosen not to to name the driver I was still liable as by using my car it implied permission was given to accept all the terms of the contract.

The judge asked me about how many people used the car and why anyone else would use it.
How many were on the insurance and how many others were likely to drive it

The claimants solicitor again said that although I had provided evidence that I was not the driver at the time they relied on the fact that I was liable as the RK. As I had chosen not to name the driver.
The judge looked at me and I repeated that I was not the driver and really did not know who it was.

I then referred the judge and solicitor to my exhibits of the Popla 15 Keeper Liability and the Excel v Lamoureux case and he said that although the Lamoureux case wasn’t binding he saw no reason to dispute it’s valid judgement and agreed with it.

I was then asked if I’d like to say anything else.

I asked why, if there were so many photos taken of the car, was a ticket not affixed and a photo taken of this for evidence. The judge said that he wondered why as well and it was not unusual for these companies to do this so as to go after the keeper and this company in particular was well known for this. From this I took that he had come across ES previously.

He commented that I had a very comprehensive and well laid out bundle and all the information was easily accessible.

In summing up he said there was no point arguing any other possibly valid points as he was confident the claim was defective as it had not followed the correct protocol, but he didn’t elaborate on that, and the case was dismissed.

Prankster Notes

Putting together a well laid out and indexed bundle is always a good plan. Gladstones are well known for their incompetent and slipshod approach to cases, and it is not advised to sink to their level. In this claim it appears Gladstones lost the case for their client by not following the correct protocol.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Parliament discuss unfair parking practices

Yesterday the sorry state of affairs of the parking industry was discussed in Parliament.

Edited highlights follow.

Although it was made clear that most car park operators operate in a fair manner, predatory practices were discussed and the rogues and charlatans of the industry, including big players such as ParkingEye and Excel Parking, were singled out for their sneaky and underhand tactics.

Kevin Foster: Most, but not all, operate good-quality car parks at a reasonable price and use methods of enforcement that are perfectly fair and reasonable. However, some need to be tackled

...what stuck out about those two car parks [managed by Premier Park and Premier Parking Solutions] was that the number of complaints I was receiving about them far exceeded the number of complaints I was receiving about the entirety of Torbay Council’s parking enforcement

Issues raised with me included everything from unclear signs to bad lighting. There was a day when a particular letter or number was not working on the keypad, which meant that everyone with that particular letter or number in their registration found themselves getting a letter a few weeks later

Many of them cover the suspicion that automated number plate recognition systems are used as an opportunity, first, to fine people after they have left and, secondly, to make the process easy. For example, someone who drives in, waits to see if there is a space, drives out and ends up getting a fine would not get that fine if there were manual enforcement, because someone enforcing tickets would see that that person was waiting. Likewise, barrier systems do not let a car in the car park unless there is a space. This system is a kind of invisible barrier that can become a nasty trap that the driver finds out about later.

We got rid of the cowboy clampers in the last Parliament. The suspicion is that the cowboy clampers have now become the cowboy finers and cowboy invoicers

Adrian Bailey fell foul of the well-known Cormwall operators tactics of photographing at such an angle that the valid ticket is not visible.

 I was quite astonished because my ticket was on the dashboard, but then I realised what had happened. I have a Honda Civic and the dashboard is split-level: the ticket had slid under the ledge at the front and was not visible from the front. Well, I took the ticket and very indignantly went to the attendant, who said, “Oh, you can appeal.” So I did.

Within four hours, I was appealing online. I got a response and some photos, which basically dismissed everything I said. There were two photos—one taken from the front of the car, in which the ticket was not visible, and the other from the passenger-side window, in which where the ticket was could be seen with difficulty. Had that photo been taken from the driver’s side, the ticket would have been perfectly visible and readable.

Again, it points to a culture and philosophy that is designed to catch people out and make the most money out of perfectly human mistakes, despite the fact that an individual on every other criteria will have demonstrated that they not only accept the principle of paying, but have done their personal best to conform to the conditions that preside over the process.

Smart Parking operate a scam where they accept invalid registrations, as reported by Kirsten Oswald.

Kirsten Oswald: My constituent, Steve Mostyn, parked in the Clarkston car park. He paid his 50p and was a bit surprised to receive a penalty charge. It appeared that he had keyed in a digit wrongly; the number he had keyed in did not actually appear in the DVLA database—that registration number did not exist—but the company still fined him

Steve Double explain how ParkingEye and Smart parking are ruining the tourins trade in Newquay.

As has been said, that situation damages the reputation of Newquay and many other holiday areas where such parking firms operate. I believe we need to take action. Many of the hard-working businesses in places such as Newquay are owned by families who go out of their way to welcome tourists. They go the extra mile to look after them well, which is why tourists keep coming back to those places. Those parking firms damage the reputation of those areas and other people’s businesses. They do not damage themselves, because they hide behind anonymous PO boxes. They are faceless organisations that do not face the public.

I am therefore more than happy to name ParkingEye and Smart Parking as the firms operating in Newquay in that way. They deserve to be named because of their refusal to respond to me as the local Member of Parliament

Graham Jones explains that cowboy operators rip off the public, damaging holiday resorts and town centres. He explained how Excel trapped motorists by hiding the change to car park terms behind trees.

For too long, cowboy private car parking companies have operated with impunity. Many have reasonable practices, but a considerable number operate in a way that is not conducive to holiday resorts, as several hon. Members have said, or to town centres, as the hon. Member for East Renfrewshire (Kirsten Oswald) mentioned, and that is certainly not in the best interests of motorists or the community in general. Without any substantial legislation or regulation, those companies have been free—to be fair—to rip off car park users and charge bogus fees. In my view and that of the British public, it is time to act. The reality for far too many motorists up and down the country is that people are duped into false charges and harassed by firms that, as has been mentioned, somehow manage to get hold of personal information, whether through the DVLA or other sources.
Eastgate is a big retail park in Accrington. Back in 2012 much anger and frustration was caused for hundreds—I mean hundreds—of people when its private car park operator, Excel, misled them about its parking charges. I recall having to deal with that as the local MP for week after week. Excel changed the three-hour parking limit to 90 minutes without any clear warnings. The firm announced its new policy on signs hidden behind trees on the edge of the car park. It then issued hundreds of fines to shoppers, with demands for immediate payment or even higher fines once they had understandably failed to spot the notices. Some disabled people were also caught out by the changes, and they threatened court action with the help of the National Motorists Action Group, which was very helpful—I would recommend the group to anyone fighting pernicious private parking companies which operate such voracious policies.

He also explained how cowboy operator ParkingEye use poorly constructed machines to extract fees from the elderly who find them hard to use. 

Another cowboy private company has already been alluded to by Members, and a more recent issue is that of the new buttons on the machines in some car parks. I have had several complaints about a company operating such machines. For example, an elder constituent told me that he had been fined and he had lost his appeal. He is fortunate that he has an appeals process, although he did not win it. He is 81, I think, and he had to bend double to see the buttons. The screens and buttons are at a low height and, on a sunny day, he was unable to bend down sufficiently to enter the information accurately. He tried and, most of the time, succeeded, but on the occasion in question he put the wrong digit in. He explained that he had paid for his time in the car park—he had the ticket—but the company was not interested. He was forced to pay the fine.

He also explained how ParkingEye could make extra money when their machines were not working

One lady could not buy a ticket from the machine at that car park because it was broken. She still ended up with a fine, even though she left a note on her windscreen to say that the machine was broken.
He also explained how the operators try and con motorists into thinking they have statutory backing

Passing off is a massive issue. People turn up at car parks run by private companies to see a yellow and black zig-zag all the way around a cellophane or plastic envelope stuck to their windscreen that is simply passing off as a statutory notice. It is not a statutory notice, and it is not a fine—it is a charge. There is no clear distinction. The Minister ought to look at that, because those little yellow and black bags that appear on people’s cars intimidate them and do not give them the necessary legal information.

Sarah Wollaston explained how Premier Parking Solutions use machines which do not work properly to rake in extra charges.

There are highly unreasonable practices going on. We have heard many Members give examples. In my area, Premier Parking Solutions, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay referred, has a particular problem with its machines, which is affecting many individuals, particularly when number plate recognition is used in combination with a requirement to enter the vehicle’s number plate manually. In many cases, the machines do not record the first number of that registration plate
The issue of the fees the DVLA charge was discussed. The DVLA had previously informed parliament that it provided data to parking companies at a loss, charging £2.50 for a process which costs £2.80.

She also explained how the appeals process is bogus and does not work properly.

The other problem we have is the disincentive to appeal, because those who appeal have to pay a higher charge if their appeal fails—and fail it will. I have a series of clear cases from individuals who can demonstrate—I suggest to the Minister it is beyond any reasonable doubt—that they have legally parked, fully paid the correct amount and left within the required time, but who are still being hit. If they carry through the appeal process, they find they get nowhere. If they then refuse to pay, they are hit with a series of harassing letters and ultimately receive letters from debt recovery agents, which has an impact on their credit rating. That practice is wholly unacceptable, and intervention from Members of Parliament does not make any difference, either.

Drew Hendry points out that industry self-regulation is not working, and that the level of charges is too high.

The current system has been built on the flawed premise of industry self-regulation, enabled by the provision of data from the DVLA. We are sharing DVLA data with companies whose practices, as we have heard from hon. Members today, are simply outrageous. I agree that it is right to call out companies such as Smart Parking, which has been mentioned several times and operates in my constituency too.

People are being charged excessive fines, and the tactics used to collect the debts are intimidation and threat, albeit through the written word. That is still intimidation and it is still unacceptable.

There are also machines that are difficult to use for reasons of height, and so forth. Perhaps when it is dark, or because it is necessary to bend down or conditions are not good, people press a zero instead of an “O” or vice versa. The hon. Gentleman talked about what reasonable behaviour would be, and it is certainly not reasonable behaviour to impose unreasonable fines without a real appeal process.

It is not just a question of the unreasonable behaviour and bullying—because that it what it is. The fines are also disproportionately large compared with what might be imposed through a public sector car park, for example. As my hon. Friend the Member for East Renfrewshire, among others, said, that damages the reputation of our towns and cities, and areas that people visit for enjoyment.

Daniel Zeichner points out that the appeals process is falling apart.

The voluntary regulation system for the private parking sector is falling apart, so I am bound to ask the Minister what he and his colleagues are doing about that

Mr Rees Mogg commented on the DVLA.

These codes of practice are marvellous, but the problem that has been established in this debate is that they are not followed, and the DVLA is complicit in that.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Andrew Jones, finally admitted that the DVLA had been deceiving Parliament all along, and that the service did not operate at a loss. Previously the DLA had informed Parliament that the cost was £2.0 per access, and they charged £2.50.

There have been a few questions about costs. I can confirm that this is priced on a cost recovery model, so it is neither subsidised nor run at a profit.

He also commented:

That independent appeals service must be free to the motorist. The outcome of the appeal is binding on the parking company but not on the motorist, who can continue to dispute the charge. 

This of course is false. The IPC operate an appeals service which charges motorists £15 and the result is binding on them.

In addition, the Government Internal Audit Agency carries out detailed audit visits on the DVLA’s behalf and undertakes more in-depth checking of individual cases to provide further assurance that requests have been submitted for genuine reasons and there is reliable evidence to back up the request. 

This of course is misleading. The audit visits happen about once every 2 years, and check 50-100 charges for photographs and wording. No attempt is made to check contracts, signage, suitability of parking machines or any other of the predatory practices used. It is therefore a rubber stamping exercise and nothing more. The only time abuses have been found out is by the investigations of independent bodies.

He then reiterated the status quo.

Many Members have mentioned constituents’ complaints regarding bad practice and motorists who feel they have been unfairly treated by parking operators. There are several routes for redress should an operator fall short of the standards expected. The first is the company’s initial appeal process, which it is required to offer under its code of practice. There is also the independent appeals service, which is free to motorists. I have already mentioned the need for an operator to demonstrate compliance with the code of practice in order to retain its membership of an accredited trade association. If there are breaches of the code of practice, the trade association is there to investigate and ensure that action is taken. Without membership, there is no access to DVLA data.

As everyone but Mr Jones is aware, this system flatly does not work, is widely abused by the parking companies and is falling apart.

As Kevin Foster put it

The concern of many is that the industry is able not only to mark its own homework but to choose the marker.

There was one ray of hope from Andrew Jones.

The concern lies in the code of practice and its enforcement. That is where the next actions will be, and I will take those actions forward from today’s debate.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

UKPC lose residential case

UKPC v Ms R C4HW0G3N at County Court Gloucester and Cheltenham on 8th March 2017.

Ms R parked in her residence, but forgot to display her permit. She considered that she had the right to park at her own home, but UKPC disagreed.

Guest Court report from Ms R

At court UKPC sent an SCS Law rep who was a pleasant enough lady and I represented myself.
District Judge Iacopi began with UKPC's authority to bring the claim against me. She examined the contract submitted by UKPC which had no date and referred to it as a 'Warden Patrol Parking Contract'. The Judge found no evidence within the contract of a chain of authority between UKPC and the landowner.

 The SCS Law rep referred the Judge to UKPC V Peenith (C9QZ6915) and stated signage erected at the site was proof of a contract. The Judge said of this case  'that's not binding on me'.

The SCS rep stated UKPC had been operating for 6 years at the site so must have a contract, The Judge replied there was no evidence in the claimant's bundle of any authority.

The SCS rep also referred to the lease which stated estate regulations could be varied (parking) but the judge pointed out there was no information as to what the estate regulations were and whether they include parking.

The judge summed up this case stating on the basis of the evidence provided she did not believe there was a chain of authority therefore UKPC had no standing to bring the claim. The judge pointed out that the claimant had failed to get  past the first hurdle (authority) and would have failed the second hurdle (lease).

After a year of stress caused by UKPC the claim was dismissed after 20 minutes and I was awarded costs due to taking time off work.

Prankster Note

Parking companies who try and make their money by 'fining' residents to park in their own places have no place in modern parking management.

The only purpose of paper permits is to generate income for parking companies - they do not provide a proper regulatory system.

A proper system would allow residents to electronically register as many cars as they want to use their space, and also to provide retrospective cancellation of charges if the parker is genuine.

The judge was quite within her rights to be skeptical about the chain of authority. In the Prankste's experience, parking companies who have a contract will produce it in court. Those who have not, or who have problems, try and bluff the judge.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Patrick Troy found guilty of filming up women's skirts

Patrick Troy mysteriously resigned as CEO of the British Parking Association (BPA) in February. This report from the Telegraph sheds more light on the situation.

On Monday Patrick Troy was found guilty of filming up women's skirts, which he supposed he did for sexual gratification.

He was fined £85, or £15 below the limit of a parking charge issued by the BPA.

Prankster Notes

Although Patrick has lost his job, he may be able to get work at the Indecent Photography Club.

The Prankster notes this is not the only report of sexual deviancy in the Parking Industry. One of the original directors of one of the biggest parking companys also left under a sudden cloud. An account by an employee provided to The Prankster states he was in the running for a sexual harassment case on account of his lewd behaviour towards women. The information is that a late call for a female to go to his office would result in her finding herself in the embarrassing situation of facing the director, sans pants, possibly pleasuring himself. The information has apparently been backed up by a number of ladies**.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

** The Prankster would be happy to put victims of this person in touch with each other.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Court report - new lay representative trashes VCS. Cannot read signs in dark

C7DP3H5T – VCS v Mr. O’C, 14/03/2017

Claimant represented by Miss Rehman (Elms Legal)
Defendant represented by Ian Lamoureux

Guest report

This was a case picked up from the MSE forum. Mr O’C had parked behind a bar in Sheffield late one night, and didn’t spot an unlit VCS sign requiring a permit, placed on the opposite side of the entrance, and not obviously indicating which parking area it referred to. A further issue was the fact that the NtD they put on the screen, had a different registration number on it.

Bargepole prepared the Defence and Witness Statement, which was filed along with photographic evidence. Mr O’C seemed unclear and nervous about arguing his case in court, so Bargepole contacted Ian Lamoureux who had been assisted by SRM and Bargepole to win two cases against Excel in November and February, despite them trying to sneak in a last-minute print out of his Pepipoo thread which mysteriously fell into their lap. Ian had indicated that he wanted to help with other cases, and as he lives in Yorkshire, this seemed an ideal opportunity for him to step up.

As it turned out, the Judge had read the Defence and WS before the parties went in, and had concluded on BOP that the unilluminated signs in the dark could not be reasonably deemed to have been read by the Defendant, and therefore no contract was formed. Ian hardly had to say a word, it was all done and dusted inside 10 minutes. Only £5 costs awarded though, I think Mr O’C forgot to bring proof of earnings.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

UKPC lose claim. Employee entitled to park at his work

UKPC v Mr I, C0HW4PSE before Deputy District Judge Duncan, Clerkenwell14/03/2017

Guest report

Claimant represented by Courtenay Barklem (a qualified Solicitor)
Defendant represented by Bargepole
Claim for £770 (4 x PCNs, creatively inflated from £100)

Mr I had been employed at Car Giant Limited for just under a year. Upon joining, he was issued with a 4-digit PIN code for the barrier to the staff car park, and told by his employer to park there during working hours. The car park was not available to the general public, and only accessible with the PIN code.

At some point during his employment, UKPC were engaged to ‘manage’ the car parking, and there was talk of permits being required, but he was never issued with one, and continued to access the car park using the PIN code as before, with no problems.

Towards the end of his period of employment, he had an unrelated dispute with the employer, resulting in him leaving the company. At that point, he received 4 x PCNs for parking in the staff car park without a valid permit. This resulted in extensive and protracted correspondence with SCS Law, and in order to provide the evidence to defend the claim, he made various trips back to the location to obtain photographs, all of which showed signage in that car park which said ‘Car Giant Limited. Authorised Parking Only’. It was his position that, by virtue of having a valid and operational PIN code, he was an authorised user.

He also lodged a counterclaim, detailing the hours and mileage spent in collating the evidence, and this was appended to his Defence.

We were called in first, thankfully as it was a very busy list, and Mr Barklem outlined the Claimant’s case. He said that any dispute between Mr I and his former employer was not relevant to this case, and should have been the subject of an action before an Employment Tribunal. He also referred to an email from CGL’s Security Manager, which said that all employees were given a copy of the handbook, including the parking policy, upon joining. His case was that the notices were clearly displayed, in at least one instance directly in front of where Mr I had parked, and the contractual terms should apply.

The Defence case was that the issue of the PIN code was a term of his employment contract, and the Claimant’s notices could not vary or override that. He had parked without a permit, and with no issues, nearly every day for 9 months, and it was only during the last 5 weeks of his employment that they started ticketing. He had never been issued with a permit, or with a handbook containing the parking policy. This was sent to him after he left, when SCS Law became involved.

The Judge heard all the arguments, and sent us out to consider the verdict.

He said that the Defendant appeared to be a credible witness, and he accepted the Defendant’s statements that he had never been issued with a permit, or copy of the company parking policy. He noted that although the Claimant’s witness statement said that these documents were issued to all new employees as a matter of routine procedure, there was no evidence that Mr I had received them.

He considered the fact that Mr I had parked without a permit, without incident, for 9 months to be significant, and as there was no witness appearing for the Claimant, there was no explanation for that. For the purposes of the contract, Mr I was an ‘authorised user’, and the Claimant had failed to make a case to the contrary.

The claim was therefore dismissed. The counterclaim was also dismissed, as these matters fell under the heading of costs, for which Mr I was awarded £102.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster