Saturday, 30 November 2013

Vehicle Control Services bet company against disabled motorist...and lose. Wheels fall off...

[The Prankster previously reported the name of the Operator was Vehicle Control Systems. it is of course, Vehicle Control Services Limited]

Way back when (September 2013) The Parking Prankster was contacted by a concerned daughter because her elderly, severely disabled mother had received a charge for parking in a disabled bay. The lady had a valid blue badge, and was a passenger at the time (in her own car) but when she got back to the car she found it was on the floor and the inevitable ticket on the windscreen.

The daughter had appealed to VCS but was getting fobbed off, so the Prankster advised her to send another letter.

Dear VCS,
Further to my ongoing appeal with you, I wish to add the following points.
I am being aided in my appeal by The Parking Prankster. If you turn down my appeal, I will appeal to POPLA, where I will win. This will cost you £27 and the British Parking Association Ltd around £100. In order to reduce your costs, please therefore cancel this charge.
I do not believe you have the correct written authorisation from the landowner to issue parking charges and pursue to court. This is a breach of the BPA Ltd code of practice.
I do not believe your charges are a genuine pre-estimate of loss. This is a breach of the BPA Ltd code of practice.
You are pursuing charges when you know a blue badge holder is involved. This is a breach of the BPA Ltd code of practice.
You have increased your charges while an appeal is ongoing. This is a breach of the BPA Ltd code of practice.
Please provide me with all documentation necessary to support your claim, which should include any contract with the landowner, a full break down of your pre-estimate of loss and an explanation why you are pursuing a known blue badge holder. I require a proper reply to all points raised. A template reply will indicate you have not considered my case which is a breach of the BPA Ltd code of conduct. If I am not satisfied with your reply, I will ask the BPA Ltd to investigate any breaches of their code of conduct I consider have occurred.
Please also provide me with contact details for the landowner so that I can take these matters up separately with them.
Of course, VCS completely overruled all appeal points, although they were at least different to ParkingEye in that instead of sending a template reply they did have the courtesy to send a letter relevant to the appeal.
  • They tried to weasel out of the increase in charge, claiming this was due to an administration error, and that the charge was still £60.
  • They tried to say that blue badge concessions did not apply because they were pursuing the driver for the charge, not the passenger
  • They refused to provide a contract or details of pre-estimate of loss
They did provide a POPLA code, obviously blissfully unaware that The Prankster had been bitten by a radioactive spider, so The Prankster helped with an appeal. Now that he had pictures of signage, he also included the point that the signage did not specify that a blue badge needed to be displayed, only that the space was for blue badge holders.

All then went quiet for a while until one Saturday 3 days before the hearing when the VCS evidence pack arrived. The pack contained a detailed breakdown of VCS's pre-estimate of loss. So detailed, in fact, that it was hardly believable - The Prankster will return to this later. 

The pack also contained irrelevant pictures of signs which the motorist would have had to leave the car park, drive through two sets of traffic lights and re-enter a different part of the car park, to see.

The Prankster considered that it was an abuse of process to send in the evidence pack so late - the operators have to get their pack to the motorist within 28 days, leaving 7 days for the motorist to reply.
The Prankster therefore asked the motorist to write and phone POPLA asking for a two week adjournment so they had time to reply to the detailed pre-estimate of loss document.

POPLA ignored the motorist's request, adjudicating anyway; this was possibly because they felt they could rule anyway without needing further input from the motorist and so an adjournment was unnecessary.

Here is the relevant part of the appeal decision.

The appellant made representations stating her case. She raised a number of points and one of them was that the amount charged was not a genuine pre-estimate of loss.
The parking charge appears to be a sum for liquidated damages, in other words, compensation agreed in advance. Accordingly the charge must be a genuine pre-estimate of loss any breach may cause. The Appellant has requested that the Operator submit a full breakdown of their charges to show their pre-estimate of loss calculation. The estimate must be based upon loss flowing from a breach of the parking terms. 
The Operator submitted that the charge is a genuine pre-estimate as they incur significant costs in managing this car park to ensure motorists comply with their terms and conditions and to follow up any breaches of these. The Operator gave examples of such costs including a write off allowance.
The Operator has produced a list of costs. However a substantial proportion of these appears to be general operating costs and not loss consequential to the Appellant's breach. The aim of damages for breach of contract is to put the parties in the position they would have been in had the contract been performed. Accordingly, the operator cannot include in its pre-estimate of loss costs which are not in fact contractual losses but the costs of running its business and which would have been incurred irrespective of the Appellants conduct.
I need not decide any other issues
Happy days all round.

Pre-estimate of Loss Calculations

VCS provided detailed calculations of their pre-estimate of loss. So detailed, in fact, that they were down to the individual penny in 13 different categories.

POPLA robustly dismissed these calculations.

Having thus committed themselves, The Prankster considers that VCS are truly shafted. If they submit new, different calculations, then these will not be believable - after all nothing will have changed. As the charges were globally calculated and not just relevant to the one car park, all VCS charges are now unenforceable.

VCS have stated that a significant proportion of each ticket is a write-off allowance. Another significant proportion is also due to general running costs. They will not be able to replace these calculations with new costs without serious questions being raised as to the validity of the calculations.

Furthermore, an unreasonably large amount of these charges are for internal debt collection charges that will of course only occur if the motorist fails to pay up. The Prankster questions whether these charges are actually incurred, given that it appears to be commercial suicide to spend such a large amount on a motorist who does not appear to be going to pay.

Lastly, a large amount of charges are for events that might happen. From analysing the calculations, the true loss to the parking company at the time of issuing the initial NtD appears to be a few pence for the paper ticket and cellophane wrapper. The loss to the landowner appears to be...nothing.

VCS bet the company against an elderly, severely disabled motorist, and lost. The Prankster thinks they should now carefully consider whether their tickets are enforceable. If they are not then they should consider if they are trading under false pretences and if so, whether to gracefully shut the company down. Knowingly trading while insolvent is an offence. If their tickets are not enforceable, then they have no legitimate income.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster


  1. We've been here before in VCS-vs-Ibbotson

    "Toothbrush Coates" was warned not to bring anymore cases under this flawed premise. Judge McIlwaine was also considering at the time whether VCS director Simon Renshaw-Smith should face contempt of court charges. I'm wondering if the BPA Ltd will now be 'spurred into immediate action,' to coin a phrase.

    Renshaw-Smith is from the planet Crapton and leads a double life as The Man of Steal. Still no match for arachnid based superpowers.

  2. The contract produced to 'satisfy' POPLA pre-dated Vehicle Control Services v HMRC (2012), and was word for word similar to the phrases referred to in the case. According to that ruling 'there was no contract between VCS and the motorist'. However, POPLA never got as far as needing to consider the contract.

  3. One of Mr. Renshaw-Smith's many directorships is for "Captain Clampit Limited", which says it all really!