Here are some statistics.
Year Court claims by private parking companies
This FoI request has the full details.
The British Parking Association Ltd justified the introduction of POFA 2012 financially by stating that it would reduce the burden on the courts.
In actual fact, the number of claims has rocketed by almost 20 times.
The situation is likely to get worse next year. ParkingEye, who issued the bulk of the claims, only started issuing in earnest in May, and have been steadily increasing the amount of claims issued. In 2014 we may therefore see the number of claims rise to around 20,000
Despite the number of claims issued, cases rarely proceed to court. Of the 8,000+ cases filed by ParkingEye only 20 or so have made it to court. ParkingEye drop a lot of cases under instructions from the landowner and will regularly settle cases for between £20 and £100, depending on how good a negotiator you are. One reason is because they have difficulty justifying their £50 solicitor fee, which is not actually incurred. Another reason is that they lose money in court, even if they win the case. They pay LPC Law around £200-£300 to represent them, and legal fees are not normally recoverable in the small claims court. As their claims are for around £85 to £100 parking charge, they therefore lose at least £100-£200 per case. In cases where the judge has adjourned because ParkingEye did not bring their contract to court, they will obviously lose even more.
Once ParkingEye have filed a court claim, costs will not normally increase until 7 days before the actual hearing. It makes sense therefore not to panic and pay any claim immediately, but to contest the the case, investigate the options and meanwhile negotiate with ParkingEye to pay a lower amount than the amount claimed. In some cases it may also be appropriate to use the already existing dispute mechanism in the parking industry, which is to use the parking company appeal process followed by POPLA. This will be cheaper for all parties than going to court so it is also worth asking the court if they order both parties to use this facility.
A large number of ParkingEye car parks have issues with missing mandatory entrance signage and other signage problems, so it is always worth checking this. You can take photos and videos to back up your case. The courts will allow video evidence if primed in advance. Here is one video showing the McDonalds Bridgend car park. About 4 seconds in you can see that ParkingEye have cleverly hidden their entrance signage behind a bush. This means that motorists have little chance of spotting it while still allowing ParkingEye to claim that entrance signs exist.
ParkingEye have never been able to justify their charges to POPLA, losing every known case, so this angle is also worth investigating. ParkingEye have also had problems with the paperwork showing that the landowner allows them to operate. There may also be case specific issues; for instance, ParkingEye has a different opinion on the Equalities Act 2010 than many people, so if a disabled person or breastfeeding mother is involved, this may also be relevant.
The Parking Prankster