Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Prankster wins bake-off against Smart Parking

The Parking Prankster was 2 nil down against Smart Parking and was as sick as a parrot. He was pinning all his hopes on the third and deciding leg, but POPLA kept him waiting 151 days for the answer. Here is the final POPLA decision.

The Prankster double dipped his favourite car park in Bristol - Asda, Bedminster. Some days later he got an NtK from his friends at Smart Parking. The Prankster duly appealed.

Smart Parking, or perhaps Town and City Parking, replied, turning down The Prankster's appeal and issuing a POPLA code.

The Prankster dashed off an appeal to POPLA on May 16th.
The operator signage was does not mention their name. I was not parked between the times stated Further details to follow (stet)
Six weeks later The Prankster remembered he had not sent the further details. Luckily POPLA were running late. He took a quick look at the Smart Parking evidence pack and noticed they had forgotten to send in a copy of their NtK. Ever helpful, The Prankster wrote to them to point this out.

Dear Smart Parking,
I have been reviewing your evidence pack, as our appeal is no doubt due shortly.
I noticed that you forgot to send in a true copy of the original PCN. The Lead Adjudicator stated in the May Newsletter of POPLA that this was a required piece of evidence. I have therefore sent in a copy to POPLA on your behalf to prevent the case being thrown out (attached pcn.jpg).
Unfortunately it is not quite a true copy because I used the tear off strip to appeal to you, so if you have a better copy please send it in to the POPLA administration team using the usual email address.
Smart Parking replied that they had won plenty of POPLA cases without ever sending in a copy of the PCN, despite what the Lead Adjudicator said in his May newsletter:
Evidence Just like every court, tribunal, ombudsman and arbitration service, in order to consider appeals effectively, POPLA requires certain basic information to be provided in every case.
 This is what we require:
  • A copy of any notice issued under Schedule 4 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 must be produced.
  • The original parking charge notice (or a true copy of it)
·         The appellant’s representations to the operator
·         The operator’s rejection of those representations
 Since Schedule 4 has specific provision as to the content of notices, a copy must be produced to ensure that it complies with the statutory requirements. We appreciate that it may not be possible for some operators to produce a ‘carbon’ copy of a parking charge notice which is issued at the scene. Some ticketing systems will create a full printout but not everyone will have such software. The submitted details do not have to be in any prescribed format but must be clear and must contain everything that is on the original, including all details about payment and the discount. If the back of the parking charge notice is a standard pre-printed page, then a copy of this can be enclosed but it must be done for every parking charge notice sent.
The Prankster also sent in his representation to POPLA.

Please acknowledge receipt of the following representations regarding this appeal
1) The signage in the car park is in the name Town and City Parking Ltd, as can be seen from the enclosed photograph (tanc-ltd-20130410_130539), taken on 10 April 2013. Although someone has coloured in the Ltd with black felt pen, it can still clearly be seen when the photograph is blown up to high magnification (tanc-ltd-20130410_130539-himag).

2) The ticket was issued by Smart Parking Ltd. 
3) The appellant, as raised in his appeal letter to Smart Parking and his POPLA appeal, therefore doubts that Smart Parking Ltd have permission from the landowner to raise parking charges. He requires them to show they have the necessary written authorisation as stated in the BPA code of practice 7.1 and 7.2

7.1 If you do not own the land on which you are carryingout parking management, you must have the written authorisation of the landowner (or their appointed agent) before you can start operating on the land in question. The authorisation must give you the authority to carry out all the aspects of the management and enforcement of the site that you are responsible for. In particular, it must say that the landowner requires you to keep to the Code of Practice, and that you have the authority to pursue outstanding parking charges, through the courts if necessary.
7.2. The written authorisation should include certain information.
See the Operators’ Handbook for more details.
4. The operator has not included a copy of the PCN in their evidence pack. The appellant does not want this to cause the operator evidence pack to be thrown out, and therefore provides a copy on the operator's behalf (pcn.jpg). This copy is missing the tear off strip which the appellant sent in to the operator. The appellant does not consider this important for this case
The Prankster then waited.

...and waited.

...and waited.

Eventually he got fed up and on September 12th raised a complaint with London Councils that the case was taking too long. On October 1st London Councils fobbed him off with a feeble excuse that the case was adjourned on August 19th for the operator to consider The Prankster's new representations. The Prankster wondered why the case was still adjourned and raised further queries. Eventually the truth came out; The Prankster's representations, being over 10M in size, had bounced at the operators mail server and never arrived. The case then went to the bottom of a pile and never emerged.

Now the case was restarted, The Prankster got a letter from Smart Parking explaining that all kinds of people, including Companies House, the DVLA and the BPA Ltd had authorised them to scribble over their signs with black felt tip, so that must be all right. The Prankster did not agree with this logic, but in any case noticed that in their hurry to reply Smart Parking had completely forgotten about the other point raised, namely that they did not have a contract to operate at the site. The Prankster was especially keen to see this contract and had tried very hard previously to get a peek.

He therefore wrote to POPLA asking them to delay the case again.


I confirm that I have now received by post the operators reply to my evidence.

I note that they do not respond at all to my requirement that they provide written evidence that they have the authority to issue parking charges on the land. As I have pointed out that they are not the landowner, they need to provide evidence that they have the authority to issue parking charge notices. They have not produced written evidence from the landowner or written permission, or in fact addressed this issue at all.

In the past, POPLA has always upheld the motorists appeal when this issue has been raised; for instance, here is a sample transcript:

"The Appellant also states that the Operator has no proprietary interest in the land and therefore has no authority to issue parking charge notices...Having carefully considered all the evidence before me, I must find as a fact that, on this particular occasion, the Operator has not shown that they have authority to issue parking charge notices. As the Appellant submits that the Operator does not have authority, the burden of proof shifts to the Operator to prove otherwise. The Operator has not discharged the burden."

In view of the fact that the operator may have for some reason accidentally failed to submit this evidence, then in fairness to them I would like to give my permission to adjourn this case one more time and for POPLA to contact the operator and give the operator 7 more days to come up with the necessary evidence that they have the authority to issue parking charge notices.

POPLA decided to ignore The Prankster, not for the first time, and today judgement was finally issued.

The Prankster is semi-mystified by this as he did no alluding to VCS v HMRC. Possibly under the stress of having to work extra quickly, adjudicators are cutting and pasting a bit too randomly these days. The Prankster understands that if POPLA fail to hit their targets by December, then the BPA Ltd have renegotiated the contract (not that it was ever signed) with :London Councils so that they can cut POPLA off and retender.

The last time the Prankster checked, the number of cases decided within the target time was exactly 0%. The number of cases required to be decided within the target time to meet their goals was 100%. Clearly POPLA are now under serious pressure to survive. We can all expect a few more erratic decisions between now and December.

The Prankster recommends that POPLA put on their website the following instructions.

Motorists, don't forget to add to your appeal: The Parking Charge was not a true pre-estimate of loss and the operator has not provided a cost breakdown.

That way they can whip through appeals really quickly with a few template paragraphs,

Meanwhile, The Prankster is considering whether to complain against the decision, even though he won it,or whether to let sleeping dogs lie.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

1 comment:

  1. Complain - if they're cutting and pasting incorrectly, then what reassurance does the public have that they're not making mistakes elsewhere in the process.