Thursday, 11 July 2013

Is POPLA independent - 2

The Parking Prankster notes that one of the criteria for schedule 4 of the Protection of Freedom Act 2012 is the availability of an independent appeals body to adjudicate on parking decisions.

Currently the adjudication body made available to motorists is POPLA. The Prankster has already questioned POPLA's impartiality in this post here, where he points out that POPLA deliberately hide the most common reasons for successful appeals (as seen by internet searches).

In this post, The Prankster presents further evidence that POPLA is biased against the motorist and is therefore not truly impartial. Furthermore, the bias is deeply ingrained within the very culture and processes of POPLA, and the Lead Adjudicator deliberately and knowingly is attempting to cover this up.

Here is his statement from his first annual report.

It all looks clear and above board when you read it. The appellant has 28 days to appeal. The Operator has 28 days to reply. That seems fair, doesn't it? Equal times for both parties.

The problem is that the 28 days for the appellant is religiously enforced. The 28 days for the operator is more in the nature of a guideline. And when The Pranksters says 'guideline' he actually means 'submit evidence whenever you like, oh people who fund us; we have no internal checks or procedures to enforce any deadlines; we won't bother to enforce any deadline even if the appellant complains. As we are running 4 months late you can have as much time as you like to submit your evidence. We will bend over backwards for you; stick your evidence in any crack you find convenient and we will process it for you. Don't forget to ask the BPA Ltd to send us the £137 it takes us to process your appeal.'

The Religious Aspect

The POPLA code you are given by the Operator has a secret date code embedded; digits 4-6 give the day of the year (001-365) and the next digit gives the year (currently 3 for 2013). If the day you submit your appeal is greater than 28 days after this secret date then POPLA will reject your appeal out of hand, without even investigating. This happens even if the reason for your late appeal is clearly stated; it appears the POPLA administrators do not bother to read the actual appeal.

This is playing into the hands of the Operators who are resorting to subterfuge when issuing POPLA codes. At least one operator is hiding POPLA codes in their correspondence without explaining what they are, while others are backdating them when issuing them, so that either the full 28 days are not available for appeal or the appeal is already out of time.

Thus, the statement 'the appellant has 28 days to appeal' is not a true reflection of the situation.

POPLA will accept appeals after 28 days, but you have to really fight for this to happen. This is not satisfactory. The rejection letter should not cursorily dismiss the appeal but should provide instructions as to how to proceed if the Operator has not been playing fair.

We're bending over. Please file your evidence

The Prankster has received 3 evidence packs from Operators which were over the 28 day limit. In addition, in each case the Operator falsely stated the evidence pack was delivered earlier than it was and also signed the statement. Since the evidence packs were delivered by email to the Prankster (because POPLA ignored Data Protection requirements and handed The Prankster's email address to Operator), the Prankster considers that the Operator should know exactly when the evidence pack was delivered. The Prankster is considering whether knowing signing for a false date is fraudulent behaviour which should be reported to Trading Standards or the police.

In each case The Prankster brought this to POPLA's attention. However, his protests were disregarded and the Operator's evidence was allowed. Here are some of the responses he received.

Here are the responses from the POPLA administration team

As you can see they completely ignored all The Prankster's request's for information and action

Here is the assessor's sole response on this issue. (In this particular case the evidence was received within the 28 day limit, but the date was incorrectly signed).
It is noted that the Appellant states that although the Operator’s evidence pack is dated 22 March 2013, it was only sent to him by email on 25 March 2013. However there is no dispute that he received the evidence in good time for this hearing.
The assessor failed to comment at all in the other cases. (In fairness to the assessor,The Prankster did ask the assessor to only consider a narrow view appeal reasons. The Prankster views it to be a function of the administration team to refuse to allow late operator evidence, and they did not comply with, or even acknowledge his requests.)

Here is the reply on behalf of the Lead Adjudicator to The Prankster's complaint.
Your general comments have been passed to the Lead Adjudicator, who has noted them.
The Prankster considers POPLA's processes for handling late operator evidence as much use as chocolate underwear in Death Valley.

Wait, there's more

The motorist 28 day deadline begins whenever the operator feels like it. Even if they act immediately to post out the POPLA code, it may be several days by the time the motorist receives it. The operator 28 day deadline does not begin when the motorist submits to POPLA, but several days later when POPLA processes the submission. The notice to the operator is sent by email, which means the operator gets the full 28 days and more since the appeal is submitted.

This is clearly not a level playing field.

A typical motorist appeal will be one or two pages. A typical operator evidence pack is 20-40 pages. The adjudication is scheduled to take place 7 days after the operator deadline. It cannot be right that a company with all the multitude of resources it can call on has 28 days to consider and process the motorist's 2 page case, while the poor motorist only has 7 days to consider their 40 page reply. Two of those days will be a weekend, which means if the motorist needs professional help they have an extremely limited time.

The Prankster considers a 14 day mininimum right to reply should be allowed after either party has submitted evidence. Since POPLA is currently running 4 month late, this should not be too difficult to organise.

Suggested new POPLA processes

The Prankster does not believe it would be difficult for POPLA to regain an impartial stance over this issue. He suggests the following improvements.

  1. When the Operator issues a POPLA code to a motorist, they should also publish the expiry date, which should be 28 days from when the issuing code will arrive at the motorists attention. That way the motorist has a clear indication when the code expires and knows if the Operator is trying to fudge the dates.
  2. There should be a standard wording, specified by POPLA, for the issuing of the code and the instructions for appealing thereafter. That way, operators cannot hide POPLA codes in their documents.
  3. Rejection letters for out of time appeals should explain how to proceed in situations where the Operator is not giving the appellant the full 28 days to appeal by backdating the POPLA code or by hiding the POPLA code.
  4. The Operator 28 day deadline should be enforced. Appeals should be upheld if the evidence is not received both by the appellant and POPLA within the deadline. The standard 'your appeal has been received' letter from POPLA to the appellant to POPLA should contain the date by which the appellant must receive the Operators evidence pack, so that the appellant  knows if the Operator has failed to reply in time.
  5. Timescales should be adjusted so that both parties have at least 14 days to respond to new evidence being submitted.
  6. The Lead Adjudicator should commit to new standards of truthfulness;  he should stop making false statements about the service

POPLA Appeals

The Prankster considers all current POPLA appeals should contain the following text.

In order to satisfy keeper liability, the Operator must provide me access to an independent appeal body. I do not consider POPLA to be independent for the following reasons

  1. The web site hides away a significant category of appeal criteria, namely that the Operator is in breach of the BPA Ltd code of practice. As a significant number of appeals are won on these grounds I consider that by not explicitly drawing this to the attention of motorists, the independence of POPLA is seriously compromised. 
  2. POPLA enforce the 28 day deadlines differently for motorists and for operators. The motorist 28 day deadline is rigorously enforced. The operator 28 day deadline is not enforced at all. This is clearly a bias to the operator and evidence that POPLA is not impartial. 

As the Operator has not satisfied keeper liability, and has offered no proof as to who the driver is, I request my appeal be upheld.

Do you have information regarding POPLA?

This is a continuing series of articles. If you have further evidence of POPLA's failure to show impartiality, please contact The Parking Prankster either at his email address prankster [at] or via twitter @ParkingPrank.

The prankster is especially looking for the following:
  • evidence of appeals that were turned down because they were submitted 'after 28 days', yet the time between the operator issuing the POPLA code and the appeal submission was less than 28 days
  • evidence of appeals where the operator evidence was submitted after 28 days, but the evidence was still considered


  1. I appealed to popla 67 days ago. I found out from them yesterday that the operator (APCOA) hasn't submitted any evidence yet - 39 days over the length of the deadline they give to appellants. Popla just tell me that they'll let me know when a decision is reached. This seems perverse to me.

  2. day 194 - popla code issued
    day 218 - appeal submitted
    day 259 - notification from popla that company didnt receive appeal due to "technical error", operator would submit evidence by 266
    day 267 - rang popla, told I should email company myself to chase evidence!?

  3. When the parking company sent their evidence they claimed that there were no payment facilities on the site and quoted Beavis. Naively I hadn't expected them to send factually incorrect evidence so emailed POPLA photographs of the machines and the signs showing that there is a tariff. POPLA said they won't accept this as it wasn't submitted with my original appeal. They have evidence that the parking operator has submitted false information and won't act on it. Doesn't strike me as independent.Bizarrely the operator's evidence included several photographs of blue badge signs; quite why I've no idea.

    1. This should be escalated both to ispa and the lead assessor of POPLA

  4. I appealed to POPLA recently regarding inadequate signage at a car park, the evidence provided against me by the private car park company was laughable. They got my name wrong and provided photographs of signage from when the car park was under construction and not representative of the conditions on the alleged offence date. Even though I was quick to point all this out to POPLA, the response I got from them indicating my appeal had failed appeared to completely ignore any of my own provided evidence, it was as if I hadn't made any representation at all. Biggest mistake I made was to appeal through POPLA, wishing I had just ignored the PCNs like most others do and wont make the same mistake if unlucky enough to fall into the same trap again.