ParkingEye today lost another case in court. The reason was the same as their most recent loss; they had no authority to bring the case in their own right.
From analysing ParkingEye over the last year, The Prankster believes the following to be an accurate portrayal of ParkingEye's strategy. However, this is only a guess, so must be taken with a pinch of salt.
ParkingEye worked out soon after POPLA came into existence that POPLA was a losing game. They consistently lost all reported cases where pre-estimate of loss and landowner contracts were called into question. They attempted to force through the use of witness statements instead of contracts, but that backfired spectacularly, with the recent revelations that photocopied witness statements are being used.
They therefore started to actively resist giving out POPLA codes and it is reported that they are the subject of most complaints with POPLA, either because they did not give out a POPLA code or because the code did not work.
Meanwhile a bright spark inside ParkingEye worked out that going to court could be an incredibly lucrative strategy instead. They filed a few test cases in early 2013, 50 here, 30 there. The strategy worked. Large numbers of people were scared with the threat of court and paid up. Even better, they added on a £50 solicitor charge which was not actually incurred by themselves, therefore doubling their reported profit. Going to court suddenly became the most lucrative route for them.
ParkingEye therefore ramped up their court actions, filing hundreds of cases a week - most weeks between 300 and 1000. They moved to use the bulk processing centre, cutting filing costs from £25 to £15. More money piled in from frightened motorists.
Not all motorists paid up.
ParkingEye's filing strategy was deviousness personified. First, their Letter Before Claim was not compliant with practice directions. This meant the motorist was not warned of the dangers of not following practice directions (ironic, huh!) leaving themselves open to a claim for increased costs from ParkingEye.
This also meant that alternative dispute resolution (ADR) was not carried out, which was fine because ParkingEye wanted to avoid POPLA at any cost.
This also meant that the motorist did not have a chance to enter a dialogue with ParkingEye, finding out about the case and agreeing with ParkingEye which points could and could not be agreed on.
Large numbers of motorists did not even apparently get a Letter Before Claim. Although ParkingEye swear these were sent out, they have never provided proof of posting when asked.
ParkingEye then filed a short and sweet claim, only a few paragraphs long. This was backed up by copies of 'all' correspondence. Tellingly, this did not include the Letter Before Claim. Perhaps this was because either such letter was never sent, or if it was, ParkingEye did not want the judge to see it.
This did not give the motorist much to go on, and the clock was already ticking; in the small claims court, the defendant only has 17 days to acknowledge the claim and 31 days to file the defence. At this point there is not really enough time to enter into a dialogue with ParkingEye to find out necessary information.
Once the motorist files a defence, ParkingEye bang in a huge reply to defence, exploring every point in full detail. Normally that would be the end of filing until the hearing, and ParkingEye warn motorists that if they want to file any more defence points they will need to seek permission of the court and perhaps pay a fee.
This therefore gives them a huge advantage. The defence never really gets a chance to know what ParkingEye's claim is until they are theoretically barred from adding more defence without paying. Luckily the small claims court is fairly lax and usually a defendant can add new defence in such circumstances.
As the filing deadline approaches ParkingEye file a witness statement by their claims handler, Jonathan Langham. This is meant to be a statement of fact, but often contains inaccuracies, unsubstantiated allegations, untruths, half truths and misinterpretations. ParkingEye's own website contains details of a case they lost because they filed pictures of signs in a different car park. Crucially the filing also often contains new evidence and new legal arguments - exactly the thing ParkingEye warn motorists not to do.
All communications use bullying language, stating they 'strongly believe' this and 'strongly believe' that. Of course, this is all hogwash; their claims that they 'strongly believe' defendants will be responsible for huge costs are not borne out by the results on their own web site, where the most common cost awarded is £200.
When the hearing takes place ParkingEye never send in their witness, Jonathan Langham. This prevents him from being questioned and the inaccuracies in his witness statement exposed. Instead, they pay a hired-gun lawyer from LPC Law around £300 to represent them in court.
This cost is not normally reclaimable from the defendant, so even a maths duffer can work out that if their most common award is £200, they are going to lose at least £100. In fact they will lose more, because they have also paid court filing and hearing costs too.
So why do they do it? Well, a lawyer versus an untrained defendant is never a fair contest. By stacking the deck in their favour all through the process, ParkingEye almost guarantee themselves a win...shooting fish in a barrel.
These wins are loss leaders. They can publish them on their website; this frightens more people into paying up. They can also use them to pressure courts. By saying 'we have all these wins', it pressures small claim cases into following the herd and awarding further wins. They can use them to pressure POPLA. By saying 'we have all these wins' they can pressure POPLA into also following the courts.
ParkingEye are therefore trying to buy success...and for a while it was working.
However, they did not reckon on the power of the internet. ParkingEye never expected defendants to pool together and share resources. Gradually, their lies were exposed. When they would say in one case 'we allow appeals even after 28 days', the defendant could reply with 10 cases where they did not. When Jonathan Langham stated 'our signs are ample and visible' defendants could point out he had probably never been to the car park in question, and in 5 other cases where his witness statement also said this ParkingEye had sent in incorrect maps and photographs, so his statement could not be trusted. When ParkingEye stated 'the DfT and OfT approve our charges', defendants could make freedom of information requests to discover this was not the case.When ParkingEye used witness statements instead of their contract, defendants could compare copies and discover they were photocopied.
Most importantly, behind the scenes, a small team of unsung heroes started to help with defences, collate information together, and ferret out the lies, one by one.
Now when ParkingEye turn up to court, they are likely not to meet just a trembling motorist, but also an unpaid lay defendant, highly experienced in the ways of ParkingEye. Although they do not have legal experience, they have far more knowledge of parking and ParkingEye than the LPC Law advocate who only reads his brief an hour before court. This somewhat levels the playing field.
Today was one such case.
Bargepole, one of the unsung heroes, turned up in court with the motorist, acting as lay representative. Although things did not go his way to start with, using his experience he was able to turn the case around and emerge victorious.
Where will he turn up next?
ParkingEye's days of shooting fish in a barrel are over. The fish are now armed with bargepoles!
The Parking Prankster