Friday, 28 February 2014

How Parking Operators use ANPR

This article explains how parking operators use ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition), answering some common questions and showing how problems may arise.

A typical modern ANPR system will comprise of a digital camera with extra hardware and software which can recognise number plates. When a number plate is detected an image is recorded and stored. The numberplate is decoded using OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and this is stored along with the date and time of the image. This can be used to deduce entry and exit times to a car park and thus the duration of stay.

ANPR systems need to work at night as well as in the daytime; in good weather and bad; in rain, mist, fog and snow. For this reason, they do not just use the same spectrum our eyes use; instead, they also use the infra-red or near infra-red band. This works at night and also works well in bad weather conditions.

This also explains the photographs you will see on a typical parking charge. If the photograph is at night, all you may see is a blurry car with headlights and no visible numberplate. This is the image taken using natural light. Below that will be a small box with the numberplate; black letters on a white background with the fixing pegs also showing in black. This is the infra-red image. It may also be digitally enhanced to sharpen the font or to straighten any skew. Alternatively the operator may just provide you with the infra-red image.

This explains why in some photographs the rear numberplate does not appear yellow, why the fixing pegs are so visible and why the font might appear exactly the same as it looks to the naked eye.

The ANPR system has to solve two basic problems. First, it has to recognise that there is a number plate in its field of view. Then it has to decode that number plate. Both of these are subject to error. Several published studies are available, variously quoting the success rate as between 93% and 98%. Not all of these studies are for car park situations; some are for fast moving vehicles where the problem is slightly harder doe to speed.

One problem is skew. The number plates are not read head on - the cameras are not sited in the middle of the road at number plate level! Instead the cameras are high up on poles. The image therefore has to be adjusted to compensate for this.

Another, bigger problem is character recognition. Certain characters, such as the letter 'oh' and number 'zero' can be easily confused. One study indicated that 10 characters caused over 55% of the misreads, and that the two most common causes of misreads were fixing pegs and marks.

A third problem is coverage. The cameras only have a limited field of view, so if the road is wide two, three or more cameras may be needed to ensure that wherever a vehicle drives the numberplate is detected. Most cameras have a width range of 4m although some more expensive ones go up to 12m.

A fourth problem is that the cameras do not have x-ray capabilities! if a pedestrian crosses the road or a vehicle drives close to the one in front then the camera will never see the number plate at all. This problem can be lessened by siting the cameras as high as possible, but this increases the skew problem.

A fifth problem is drop-out. If any one part of the whole system stops working for any period of time, then some images might not be recorded. A car could drive in and out of the car park and not be recorded.

A sixth problem is related to timestamps. If more than one camera is used, the clocks may be out of synchronisation. There has been at least one reported occasion where one camera was recording at GMT, while the other camera was using summer time, thus adding an hour to each visit.

A seventh problem is that the times recorded are entry and exit to a car park, and not the actual duration the vehicle is parked. This can cause a parking charge to be incorrectly issued when delays in parking or leaving the car park occur. Some car parks can take half-an-hour to leave at busy times; car parks near football grounds can be especially problematical.

Double visits

The main problem reported with ANPR technology is multiple short visits being recorded as one long visit. This results in a parking charge notice being issued when it should not. It is easy to see how this problem can occur.

ANPR technology is not the same as CCTV technology; it does not record a continuous stream of images. Instead, a photograph is only taken and recorded when a numberplate is detected.

There are three separate situations to consider; character misreads, numberplate misses and misconfiguration.

If a character misread occurs, the operator can detect when a motorist complains by searching through their log for a numberplate which is similar to the missing one. Although in theory time consuming, in practice this should be easy because only unmatched numbers need to be searched.

In a misconfiguration situation, the operator has their software configured to record the duration of stay as the first entry and last exit, and to ignore entries and exits which occur in between. This should also be easy to detect on investigation.

Number plate misses are a bigger problem. As the system only records information when a number plate is detected, the operator will have no record on their system of that particular entry and exit, so no matter how long they search their database they will never be able to resolve the problem. Some operators acknowledge this is a problem and are receptive. Others bury their head in the sand and pretend the problem does not exist.

The most likely cause of number plate misses is a close following vehicle obscuring the number plate, especially a lorry, van or other high sided vehicle. This will be more common in times of traffic congestion. This will also be more common in car parks where high sided vehicles are common, such as motorway service stations. In cases where large numbers of incidents are reported in one car park it is also possible the operator has misaligned the cameras so they either do not cover the entire road or that the camera is not high enough.

In some reported situations the operator has neglected to place cameras on all entrances and exits. Operators often forget service roads and internal entrances/exits. In other cases there may be no well defined barriers to the car park, so if a motorist chooses to exit in a non-standard way, they will not be recorded.

In one reported situation an operator was recorded issuing a charge when the two visits were on opposite sides of a motorway service station - a clear example of misconfiguration.

How Operators can Improve

Currently many operators pretend the double visit problem does not occur. They need to be more open about the problem and accept that it happens. As neither side is likely to have conclusive evidence, the operator should be more willing to cancel charges when a motorist explains they have visited twice. In one reported case an operator refused to cancel a charge even though six witness statements that there was a double visit were provided by the motorist.

Operators can also look to improve their systems. Burying an induction loop at the camera points is fairly cheap compared to the overall cost. The loop will cost around £100, and the installation another £250. The loop will detect any vehicle passing over it and can be used to trigger a photo capture whether or not a number plate was detected. When a motorist reports a double visit the operator will then have photographic evidence they can search through to confirm this.

For a pay and display car park, the operator should move to a pay on exit regime. The motorist enters their registration at pay machines at the time of exit, and the system automatically calculates the time of stay. This means the motorist pays for the time they use and the system is therefore extremely fair. Systems where the motorist has to guess the time stayed and where the operator knows this but does not divulge it are basically designed to entrap the motorist and generate penalty charges. Complicated systems with different amounts of free time and later payment time are also not fair to the motorist as there is often no way on exit of knowing the amount of payment the operator expects.

Putting a barrier at the entrance and exits is the best solution, but not always possible. With a barrier system it is not possible to enter or leave without the number plate being recorded. Moreover, the camera can be placed at the barrier, low down and is closer and has less skew than a pole mounted system. It can therefore get a more accurate read. This system is often used at airports.

How Motorists can Improve

In situations where you know you are visiting a car park twice you can often quickly and simply gather evidence that you are doing this. For instance, if your phone has a camera you can take a picture of your car outside the car park. Many phones have a GPS option which will add date time and place information to the picture, thus proving the vehicle was not in the car park.

If you are at work you could send an email to somebody  (even yourself).
Hi, I'm just visiting a car park for a second time, so letting you know in case their ANPR system has problems.
Emails are tagged with the IP address of the sender, which places you at a specific location. If you already sent any emails, you do not need to do this, as long as you keep your sent emails for a period of at least a few months.

If your phone has mapmyrun or similar application, you can record a short GPS log of your location.

This type of evidence can then be sent to the operator if they incorrectly send you a charge, which will allow both parties to quickly resolve the issue.

Drive defensively.

When you enter or leave a car park, leave gaps to the vehicle in front so your numberplate is visible. Obviously you are reliant on the driver behind also leaving a gap. Drive in the centre of your lane to maximise your chance of being in the sweet spot of the camera.

Always enter and leave by regular exits. Don't use service lanes or just drive out over a kerb (even if you have a 4x4!)

Keep your numberplate clean. Make sure that there are no marks on the plate and that your plate is not covered or obscured.

Consider buying a dashcam to always record your driving - these can also be useful evidence if you ever are unlucky enough to have an accident.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Thursday, 27 February 2014

ParkingEye v Gosnold transcript available

Another transcript is available, kindly funded by Bargepole and friends.

The main transcript, ParkingEye v Gosnold, establishes that the landowner witness statement is pants*, that 'parking is at the absolute discretion of the site' does not mean anything and that ParkingEye do not have the right to bring the claim.

The second transcript, for your amusement only, is the after judgement conversation. It appears that the ParkingEye LPC lawyer has an unfortunate 0-2 record so far, having met 'another one like him'.

Congratulations to Bargepole and all.

Happy Parking

*this is a technical legal term, meaning pants

Parking Prankster guides updated to version 2

The Parking Prankster guides have been updated for a while now.

The Parking Prankster naively assumed that  Amazon was telling the truth when it said readers could update Kindle books to the latest version.

After receiving a customer report which proved the opposite he did some investigation and received this reply.

At this time, customers who have purchased a Kindle book cannot automatically download the revised content. Our technical team is aware of this issue, and are working towards automating this process

The Prankster has now filled in a form and Amazon has said they might be able to contact customers who bought version one within 4 weeks to allow them to update.

The updates

The updates are important because the government has changed the forms used. Therefore the old guide could be confusing because it mentions forms you will no longer be given.

Major changes
Form N149 Allocation Questionnaire has been replaced with form N180 Directions Questionnaire. This section has been rewritten to explain the new form.

Minor changes
 An example where the LPC Law costs were £210 has been added
 The 3JD prefix information has been clarified and updated for 2014 prefixes

The Workaround

The Smashwords version of the book is updating fine, so if you bought via Smashwords you can update without any problems. Smashword supports Kindle and other formats, but you have to buy in dollars!

If you bought via Kindle and cannot wait 4 weeks because you already have form N180 and are wondering what the heck to do, email The Prankster at

If you are thinking of buying the guide in the near future, for the time being The Prankster recommends you get it via the Smashwords site because then you can update it easily.

To check which version you have, go to the very first page.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Prankster guides fund next transcript

...and it's a cracker, ParkingEye v Collins-Daniel, available on the case law web page.

You really need to read it for yourself. The judge rips ParkingEye a new one while the defendant gets to speak exactly one line on page 10: 'That’s fine. Thank you'.

If you are a subject of a ParkingEye court claim and are frightened about court, take heart from this transcript. This shows that with the right defence you can let the judge do all the work.

Deputy District Judge Melville-Shreeve lets the ParkingEye advocate have it from the start. He highlights the fact that ParkingEye's legal department are acting incorrectly in only providing information about winning cases, and not about the ones they lost.

He points out that ParkingEye have selectively filtered one of the key cases they quote, ParkingEye v Somerfield, and that the lines quoted are 'obiter' (legal jargon for not relevant to the main case), and that in any case the charge in that case was £75 and not £85

He tells the advocate that it is too late to 'wave it around' because if he wanted to supply the contract it should have been supplied beforehand (a typical ParkingEye trick).

He rips the wording of the 'contract' (signage) to bits.

He points out the financial consequences to ParkingEye are the same if motorists overstay one hour or 40 years...nothing.

He points out that ParkingEye have not dared appeal a case even though this may be worth millions of pounds if they win. (He doesn't point out it is game over if they lose, but the implication is there).

The Advocate's crowning glory is in opposing babysitting costs of £20, at which point the judge awards £45 for loss of maternity leave instead. No doubt Mr Gopal will have put all that in his report back to ParkingEye.

His other contribution was to repeat ParkingEye's untrue allegations that
The Court may not be aware of it but at present there’s a big, the only way I can describe it is an internet vendetta against ParkingEye, and there’s been issues with certain members of the public obtaining copies of the parking agreements that ParkingEye have with landowners, so ParkingEye, on such matters, are cautious about providing these written agreements, it’s been made aware that these, these confidential documents have leaked onto the internet on certain public forums, which ParkingEye, obviously, given the fact that it’s a confidential relationship between ParkingEye and the landowner, are reluctant to do so.
For the benefit of any future defendant's who have to put up with this guff, this is all baloney and there are no known incidents of contracts being leaked onto public forums. Challenge the ParkingEye stooge to name one if this happens to you. However, there have been plenty of examples of ParkingEye contracts being placed onto public forums by their own customers. This usually happens as a result of Freedom of information requests to councils or hospitals.

Well done Mr Gopal for believing the rubbish ParkingEye fed you. The Prankster understands he can only work from the brief he is given, but sometimes you do have to question the information your client gives you.

Congratulations all round, especially to Mrs Collins-Daniel, whose defence meant she didn't even need to speak during the hearing.

The approved judgement is currently missing from the transcript; this will become available once the judge has approved it, as per the usual legal processes.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Monday, 24 February 2014

ParkingEye over-redact contract. Lose in Stoke county court

3JD08925 ParkingEye v Watson.  (24/02/2014 Stoke) Duke of Gloucester Pub, Crewe, car park.

ParkingEye lost in court again, this time to a defendant who has had no help from forums. The defendant posted his account of the hearing on a facebook group and it has been subsequently reported on MoneySavingExpert.

ParkingEye have a habit of over-redacting contracts, and today was no exception. ParkingEye redacted the parking charge amount. Most people would not regard this as secret, since it is usually plastered over signs around the car park. ParkingEye thought differently, and the big black box appeared over this section of the contract.

Of course, the only reason to hide this is if the charge on the contract is not the same as the charge on the signs. Other important and relevant areas of the contract such as the grace period were also redacted.

The judge duly dismissed the case.

Help and resources

To find out about the legal arguments to use, click here for my free guide
To find out about the processes involved in defending a claim, click here for my bestselling guide*. Profits go to funding transcripts.
For an emergency skeleton defence, click here
For a list of court cases ParkingEye lost, click here
For resources to use in a court case, click here
Case transcripts, many funded by my guide, click here

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

*In the category, 'Legal, Administrative Law' on the Kindle

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Is POPLA fit for purpose?

Normally it is the Prankster asking this question. However, today it is the turn of the parking companies to show their high esteem at the process the BPA Ltd has put in place for them.

The whole discussion can be found at this address on linkedin.

Selectively edited parts follow.

Kevin McManus, Director, AS Parking
I accept that motorists have the right to complain / request us to consider their explanation; what I do not accept is that correspondence of this nature should be treated as a formal appeal and be processed through the POPLA.
 However for some reason, only known to the BPA and POPLA, we are required to provide a POPLA code when a request to cancel is rejected; irrespective of the grounds under which the motorist wishes to appeal.
POPLA publicise a list of acceptable grounds under which they may consider an appeal; yet they still process ‘appeals’ that are not on this list (vexatious appeals). Yes they will reject the ‘appeal’, but we have to pay for the privilege.
The Prankster points out that POPLA have repeatedly refused to put fuller reasons for appealing on their web site, despite many requests by motorists. As The Prankster noted in a previous post, the Lead Assessor of POPLA stated in a meeting with the BPA Ltd that any grounds can be used to appeal to POPLA. However, the Lead Assessor has chosen not to inform the general public of this, presumably in a hope that not too many people will realise the stated grounds for appeal are not all inclusive. The Prankster has helped many people get their tickets cancelled at POPLA who previously thought they had no valid grounds for appeal at all.

Barrie Douglass, Director, Premier Parking Solutions Limited
I could only add comments about the numerous admin failures by POPLA and the inconstant adjudication's we have been on the wrong end of, which include contradicting earlier adjudications.
This is perhaps something motorists would actually agree with. Consistency of adjudications is very important. One way forward would be to publish all adjudications in the same way that PATAS do. Then inconsistencies would be highlighted and also motorists would be more aware of the reasons for which it is sensible to appeal and the reasons for which it is not.

Kevin McManus, Director, AS Parking
The system is a complete joke, even the people who post on the various forums encourage people to appeal to POPLA just for the sake of it. They have no intention of making payment if the appeal is not allowed; they just appeal as they know it will cost the operator £27 + VAT if they do.
Obviously Mr McManus has not been following the same forums as The Prankster. The moneysavingexpert forum encourages people to appeal to POPLA to get the charge cancelled; since May last year they have been spectacularly successful in this regard. The £27 is just a bonus. If the parking company are silly enough not to cancel an unenforceable ticket on receipt of an appeal, they can hardly complain if the motorist takes them to POPLA.
It wouldn't be so bad if the decision was binding on the motorist as well as the operator (as it is with LA's), but even when the decision goes in the favour of the operator we are still in the same position with regard to collecting payment as we were before; so what purpose has this process served?
The decision can never be binding on the motorist for several fundamental reasons. Firstly, at the point of appeal to POPLA the claimant is not identified. Thus if a case goes to court, the landowner may choose to make the claim instead of the parking company. Many court claims have failed because the parking company bought the claim instead of the landowner. It would not be fair on the parking companies if POPLA upheld all appeals because they were in the name of the parking company. Similarly it would not be fair on the motorist if they were not given the chance at court to get the right of the claimant to bring the case examined.

Secondly, companies such as ParkingEye and Excel Parking regularly abuse the POPLA system by practices such as submitting forged documents, incorrectly redacting documents, making untrue statements and using witness statements where the contents are not within the knowledge or expertise of the witness. Obviously not all parking companies use disreputable practices like this, but the lack of enforcement by POPLA means everyone is tarred with the same brush. The court process allows the defendant a chance to expose these practices and bring the parking company to heel. This is not possible at POPLA where the process is purely written and no chance to cross-examine is possible.

Thirdly, the POPLA system has no appeal process. As previously mentioned, several decisions are inconsistent and it is notable that new assessors often make decisions which go against the previous results.
Some have said that a successful decision with POPLA would add more weight to our case in court, firstly I have heard of courts disagreeing with POPLA decisions and secondly if the notice was issued correctly / lawfully we would be successful in court anyway.
This is of course a very interesting point. As many parking cases have failed in court it is obvious that many notices are not, in fact, lawfully issued. The Prankster will return to this later.
In its current form it is simply a time/money wasting exercise put in place to appease the
government; rather than an effective platform to settle disputes
Be careful of what you wish for. Your wish may come true. 

Simon Morgan, Chariman Buchanan Computing Ltd
It would be good it the rules could be changed to allow the operator to add the £27+VAT to the outstanding charge after an unsuccessful POPLA appeal, or a least give the adjudicator the power to add that charge for appeals wholly without merit or legal basis.
Perhaps a tit-for-tat compromise could be sought. The operator could offer an initial 40% discount when the charge is first issued. If the motorist's appeal is not upheld, the operator could increase the initial charge by removing the discount. Similarly, it costs the motorist time and effort to appeal to the operator then POPLA. If the appeal is upheld, then the operator could be required to reimburse the motorist by a nominal amount, say £27.

Steve Clarke, Head of Operations, BPA Ltd
In reply to your query about whether you can add the POPLA fee to your Court cases, as far as I am concerned this would be permissible as it is a legitimate cost in resolving the dispute you have with the motorist.
This is interesting because it is in direct contraction of an email from Patrick Troy of the BPA Ltd to the government when he promised that POPLA would be free to the motorist. Obviously if the motorist has to pay for POPLA at any stage, it cannot be 'free'.

What you cannot do though is add the per appeal fee to your Parking Charge Notice amount calculations - only 1.1% of tickets issued go to POPLA and as such could not form part of a Genuine Pre-estimate of Loss
This is good advice. POPLA appeals will be upheld if the operator tries to sneak in POPLA costs...unless the assessor is new and has not yet come to grips with the system.

Stuart Harrison, Commercial Director UK Parking Control 
I think that POPLA have got a number of things wrong, although I do not believe that this makes them unfit for purpose. I think they need to be stronger with vexatious appeals and focus on the key issues pertinent to the parking event, not a spurious claim that there is no contract or that the amount charged does not amount to a genuine pre-estimate of loss.
It is encouraging that Stuart has such a complete grasp of the subject.*

No doubt he is not aware of the many court cases ParkingEye have lost when they said they had a contract but it turned out they did not in the judge's opinion.

No doubt he is also not aware that it is not possible to run a company only from monies received from pre-estimate of loss. Perhaps the musings of Deputy District Judge Buckley may prove instructive.

"At the moment as it seems to me we have the rather bizarre situation where the present claimants make no money apparently from those who comply with the terms of the contract and make their profit from those who are in breach of their contract. Well that cannot be right. It is nonsense, it seems to me."

The key problem is that a lot of this information is commercially sensitive and no operator wants this information in the hands of competitors and spread across the blogs for armchair lawyers to trawl through and mistakenly pick apart

The other key problem, which he forgot to mention, is that when the armchair lawyers pick the contracts apart they are found to contain more holes than a string vest. For POPLA's purpose, it should be possible to redact enough of the contract so that commercially sensitive details are not made available. However, the parking companies can no longer be trusted to do this correctly. Companies like VCS have already been caught out trying to hide the fact they pay up to 35% commission to landowners, and that they are no accounting for this in their pre-estimate of loss calculations. ParkingEye have failed to admit they pay 15% commission on sites like Corporation Street, Preston.

For all the criticism, I have had a number of meetings with POPLA and have found that they are understanding of the problems we are facing and prepared to listen and offer advice where they can. It is important that they are independent and are seen as independent and so I appreciate that there are points that they can not comment on.
The Prankster thinks that POPLA can hardly be seen to be independent if they allow meetings with operators and offer advice, but do not offer the same to motorist organisations.

Robert Kehinde, Legal Advisor UK Parking Control Ltd
Some parties put in intentionally light appeals to operators and exceptionally “hard” appeals to POPLA. It has to be recognised by POPLA where parties who have blatantly and fragrantly had no respect for the restrictions on site are trying to simply do anything they can to absolve themselves of liability. POPLA should be taking these factors into account when making decisions
POPLA don't do mitigation. Surely Mr Kehinde knows this by now? If the operator's charge is not legal then it is not a mitigating circumstance for the operator to state that they hoped the motorist would not realise this.
It surely cannot be the case that no matter what a motorist says, the operator must establish to the contrary with evidence.
Mr Kehinde is surely aware that it is the responsibility of the claimant to make their case. This is not a huge burden on the operators. They only need to create a signage plan with photographs, redact a contract, and produce a pre-estimate of loss document once for each of the car parks they manage. This document can then be used with each appeal for the car park in question.
If POPLA requires something to be included in the POPLA evidence or anything related to it, this should be made abundantly clear to us.
POPLA has made it clear from the start that all evidence relied on must be submitted. If Mr Kehinde is still getting it wrong 16 months down the line, perhaps he should reconsider his position as legal advisor.

Andre Smith. Manager, Norwich Traffic Control Ltd
I have been spending an extended period now expressing that it is simply not worth replying to a POPLA appeal.
It seems many operators have now taken Mr Smith's advice and are no longer bothering with sending in an evidence pack.

Kevin McManus, Director, AS Parking
If the motorist feels that strongly, let them defend their case in court.
Excellent advice from a company that according to the last FoI the Prankster saw has never taken a motorist to court.

The Prankster notes that the two most litigious companies are Civil Enforcement Limited and ParkingEye. CEL until recently regularly flunked out a few days before any hearing with a robust defence. When they did turn up, they lost, and lost again at appeal. ParkingEye have issued tens of thousands of court claims but have never won a single case where a lay representative turned up to present a substantial defence. The only cases they have won are where expensive advocates have been pitted against motorists with a poor grasp of the issues.

Andre Smith. Manager, Norwich Traffic Control Ltd
The issue which partially detracts, in my view, from the value of your opinions in this very specific field is that this is directly affecting someone's income.
The Prankster notes that many of the motorists who do pay up are the vulnerable members of society; the elderly; the ill; the less able. If Mr Smith is happy parasitically feeding off these people he should not complain when the tables are turned.

When ParkingEye brag that they won a court case against an elderly man who could not turn up to the court hearing because he was on oxygen something has to be wrong.
What would be a better system is anonymous inter company adjudication. If someone appeals our ticket it goes into the pot and is suitably redacted. Then it goes to another operator to review.
The Prankster thinks this is an excellent idea and only needs one small amendment. If someone appeals a ticket it goes into a pot and is suitable redacted. Then it goes to another motorist to review.

Stuart Harrison, Commercial Director UK Parking Control 
People are talking about profit on here, as bad decisions at POPLA cost the operator loss of earnings, an important point to remember is that profit and management are not mutually exclusive. By focusing on profit, we are not ignoring management. However as a private company we couldn't focus on management and give no regard to profit.
A very interesting comment. UK Parking Control issue charges for breach of contract. It is therefore impossible for them to make a profit. If Mr Harrison does not understand this, he is perhaps in the wrong industry. Perhaps the DVLA should take note and suspend UK Parking Control until they lower their charges to be a true pre-estimate of loss.

Inconsistent decisions, and loopholes, undermine the intention of an independent appeals system which is what we were all looking for. These decisions are promoted on newspapers, blogs and websites and encourage people to park in breach of the terms and conditions of parking on the understanding that they can get out of the charge on a technicality. This is bad for the Operator and Landowner as it impacts how the site is managed. This is the impetus behind this post, as this effects our ability to manage sites effectively.
Another interesting comment. The law is the law. There are no such things in law as technicalities and loopholes. If Mr Harrison and his company cannot abide by the law, 16 months after the introduction of POPLA, perhaps they are in the wrong business.

Grahame Rose, Development director, CP Plus
Of course the elephant in the room regarding enforcement is deterrent; without an effective deterrent many motorists will ignore the rules and this goes for on-street as well as off-street. The only reason people generally avoid parking on a yellow line is the likelihood that they will receive a PCN coupled with the PCN amount being enough to deter them. Imagine if a PCN for parking on a yellow line was say £5 - I think you would see many, many more drivers prepared to park and risk it.
Off-street PCN's cannot be based upon a deterrent but my contention is that a large proportion of a parking company's costs are directly attributable to enforcement and in the case of some companies, which only deal with enforcement, all of their costs. 
A great example of how the parking company directors do not understand what can and cannot be a part of a pre-estimate of loss calculation. Even in a company which only deals with enforcement not every cost is allowable, and of course the company would not be able to make a profit solely from charges for pre-estimate of loss.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster


Parking Prankster on local radio - Richard Spendlove

Richard Spendlove ran a feature on Private Parking on his radio programme on 22/02/2014. The Prankster heard about this fairly late in the day, but just managed to nip in before the end of the programme to offer his services.

The Prankster admits he was not at his most eloquent, owing much perhaps to the fact it was his bedtime and he may have partaken of a few glasses of wine.

RS: Good evening and welcome to Alex*
PP: Hi there
RS: Hello Alex
[pregnant pause]
PP: I go under the moniker of the parking prankster and I run a website and blog helping people with court cases from private parking companies
RS: Right
PP: ...and appealing against tickets at POPLA
RS: Yeah
PP: So if any of your listeners are having any problems I'm quite willing to help them for free, provide them with information and lots of stuff they need
RS: So if anybody wanted your number we can give it them
PP: Well the website is easiest
RS: Oh all right let's have the website
PP: Yep, parking hyphen prankster dot com
RS: parking hyphen
PP: prankster
RS: dot
PP: com
RS: Ok mate, thank you very much indeed.

The edited programme is here. The Prankster makes his stumbling appearance at 18:04

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

*The producer explained that Mr Spendlove required a first name, and that 'The' or 'Parking' would not cut the mustard. After some thought, The Prankster settled on Alex because he has always liked that name.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Proserve business model exposed as a sham

Proserve lost in court today. This puts 700 other claims at risk.

Their business model works as follows.

1) They persuade a landowner to enter a contract with them whereby the landowner pays Proserve a large amount of money if a trespass occurs. This money is not connected to the actual costs caused by any individual trespass. According to their court papers, this contract is to provide parking enforcement services.
2) They erect signs warning motorists they will be charged for stopping. The signs are so complex you can only read them if you stop.
[note; the sign might be out of date. Please email if you have a recent photo]

3) If you stop, a Proserve operative photographs your vehicle and then on behalf of the landowner makes an application to the DVLA for keeper details due to trespass.
4) Proserve are not a member of either of the two Accredited Trade Associations (the BPA Ltd or the IPC Ltd). They have therefore told the DVLA they do not provide parking enforcement services and are requesting the data for trespass.
5) Because they are not an ATA member, they have to submit paper applications, which take a while to process.
6) They therefore almost never get a Notice to Keeper to the keeper within the 14 day timescale required by the protection of freedoms act, which means only the driver can be held liable. To counter this they send a document to the keeper explaining that the government got it wrong and the 14 day limit does not apply after all.
7) Proserve explain to the keeper that as the motorist trespassed, the landowner now owes Proserve money; as the landowner has lost money due to trespass, the keeper must reimburse the landowner; Proserve are acting on behalf of the landowner to recover that money; once the keeper pays up, Proserve can give the money to the landowner so they can pay it back to Proserve.
8) At this point in time though, no money has changed hands and Proserve have not even invoiced the landowner. Proserve only invoice the landowner once the motorist pays up or if they decide to go to court.
9) If Proserve and the landowner decide to take the keeper to court, Proserve invoices the landowner and the landowner immediately pays up. Proserve can then file the invoice and payment as evidence in court.
10) In court, Proserve (acting on behalf on the landowner) asks for the money as a claim in contract even though they told the DVLA they would only use the data to pursue claims for trespass.
11) They are asking for damages to cover such items as kerb repair and Proserve costs. However, in court they produced a document showing the occupants of the landowner's estate pay a service charge to cover Proserve costs and are also responsible for estate upkeep.

Not surprisingly the judge found the whole thing fishy and dismissed the claim.

The landowner has decided to appeal. This is not surprising. If the result stands, they will be in an uncomfortable position. Large numbers of motorists will have paid them money which can now be reclaimed. This will leave them out of pocket, because it is unlikely that Proserve will reimburse the landowner. The landowner has also been adding VAT to the damages, which is not allowed. HMRC may well therefore be interested in reclaiming about £20,000.

Proserve are not laughing all the way to the bank though. As they have been deceiving the DVLA according to their own legal submissions, it is likely that their access to the DVLA database will be suspended, curtailing their operations. They are requesting data from the DVLA on the grounds of trespass, but are taking court action on the grounds of breach of contract. The court agrees the ground are breach of contract, if anything. By deceiving the DVLA in this way they sidestep the requirement of all parking operators to belong to an ATA. This means that their charges are far more than the maximum allowed by ATA's, and also means they do not have to provide access to an independent appeals service. This means they can turn down all appeals without really caring about the appeal content. it also means they are competing unfairly with all ATA members who have to pay large charges such as ATA membership fees, POPLA fees, etc.

Lastly, it seems that Proserve's Mr Duff has been impersonating a Mancurian lorry driver on pepipoo, in an attempt to try and persuade posters that Proserve's operation was legal. He was discovered when he provided information only Mr duff or the defendant would have known. Suspicions were already raised for some time when his posts morphed from worried lorry driver to armchair lawyer in the space of a few days.

See pepipoo for more details.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Civil Enforcement Limited finally turn up at court...and get absolutely spanked

3YK50188 (AP476) On Appeal from Watford County Court. Civil Enforcement Limited v Kerry McCafferty. (21/02/2014 Luton County Court). Mr Recorder Gibson QC.

Claim dismissed

Civil Enforcement Limited don't usually turn up at court if a strong defence is posted. Their usual operational mode is the same as bullies everywhere - to back down when confronted. The Prankster has a list of almost 20 cases where CEL cried off one of two days before the hearing.

This case was startlingly different. Not only did they turn up to the original hearing, but when they lost they decided to go for broke and appeal. No one knows where this sudden attack of courage came from, but it was sorely misplaced.

CEL forked out on an expensive barrister to represent them; Barrister Richard B Ritchie QC. This will have sent them some £3k-£4k down. Mr Richie immediately flexed his barristerial muscles by asking for the lay representative, Bargepole, to be barred. The judge, Mr Recorder Gibson QC, agreed - lay representatives are not allowed automatic rights of audience in a court of appeal. Bargepole was relegated to the position of McKenzie friend and the defendant, Ms McCafferty took up the reins.

This was Mr Richie's only success of the day. Despite quoting from an impressive list of cases, the judge found they were not relevant. CEL's argument was that the parking charge of £150 was a contractual sum agreed to by the defendant when she parked. The judge disagreed. His judgment was that the sum was not a genuine offer to park at that price, but its main purpose was to deter. It was, therefore, a penalty dressed up as a contractual term, and not recoverable.

The case was dismissed.

Well done Ms McCafferty, Bargepole and Andy “Two Dinners” Foster from Pepipoo, who was also in attendance.

In future this will no doubt be a key case to quote in parking cases where the charge is a contractual charge, rather than the more usual breach of contract. Although the result is not binding, it will be 'persuasive' to other similar cases. There may of course be useful aspects which apply to breach of contract cases too, and the Prankster eagerly awaits the transcript.

The Prankster thinks that CEL will be well satisfied with their spend of over £3k and will no doubt be getting congratulatory phone calls from parking companies all over the weekend. The BPA will be getting involved, doling out sanction points like confetti since their maximum allowed charge without special dispensation is £100. The DVLA will be refusing to divulge keeper details for this car park, and all other car parks with similar conditions, until the charge has been lowered until it is no longer intended as deterrent. Pigs will fly.

The original owners of ParkingEye will be breathing a sigh of relief that they offloaded the company to a willing patsy before the doo-doo hit the fan, and the list of county court judgments against parking companies started to become compelling. Obviously if they object to this judgment because it it is a contractual charge they will have to dispense with all their favourite CPS v motorist cases.

There is no truth to the rumour that CEL have applied to companies house to change their name to Civil Unenforcement Limited.

Moneysavingexpert account
Pepipoo account

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Prankster in The Cornish Guardian

The Cornish Guardian is current running a story about The Parking Prankster.

The Prankster is offering to help motorists who have paid parking fines to reclaim them, especially for Fistral Beach, which is a notorious trap, with the council receiving p to 20 complaints a week during holiday season.

The address given by The Cornish Guardian points to this blog, rather than the web site. Hello cornish Guardian readers!

To get help reclaiming parking fines, please register on the website here

For brief advice on POPLA appeals, go here

For help with court cases, go here

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Monday, 17 February 2014

Are the DVLA attempting to hide the number of complaints about parking companies?

The Parking Prankster has been made aware of a freedom of information request to the DVLA, asking about the number of complaints about private parking companies from 1 Oct 2012 to the the present day.

The list does not contain complaints which are solely on the lines of 'how dare you release my private data to this company'. It only contains complaints where there was a breach of the relevant code of practice or some other complaint.

The result is available here.

The DVLA has registered 55 complaints, together with another 14 complaints not contained in the document.

Unfortunately for the DVLA The Parking Prankster has previously asked motorists to contact him if they have complained to the DVLA regarding a private parking company. The Prankster therefore also has a list of complaints, and it is substantially different to the list released by the DVLA.

The Prankster wonders why the DVLA's list is so different from his. Perhaps it is all some innocent mistake. Surely the DVLA is not trying to fake the figures so that it can report back to the government that all is well in the parking sector, and that there are hardly any complaints?

Have you made a complaint to the DVLA about a private parking company? Was it on the list? If not, please contact the prankster - - if you have not already, to tell him the name of the parking company, the brief nature of the complaint, the date of complaint and the date of resolution (if any).

If you think the DVLA are trying to bury your complaint, please contact the head of the DVLA to make him aware of your concerns.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Friday, 14 February 2014

Large number of operators giving up on POPLA appeals

A worrying new trend is developing whereby operators do not bother to send in an evidence pack if the motorist raises the issue of genuine pre-estimate of loss at POPLA.

Reasons for the Assessor’s Determination
It is the Appellant’s case that the parking charge notice was issued
The Operator has not produced a copy of the parking charge notice, nor any evidence to show a breach of the conditions of parking occurred, nor any evidence that shows what the conditions of parking, in fact, were.
Accordingly I have no option but to allow the appeal.
Chris Adamson
The operators have clearly thrown in the towel on this issue and accepted that their charges cannot be justified.

However, this raises the serious concern of why these charges were ever imposed in the first place. The parking operators concerned are relying on fear and uncertainty to make their money. They know that a robust challenge will see the charge cancelled by POPLA, but know that most motorists pay up. They also rely on the fact that POPLA continually refuse to explain on their web site that a motorist can challenge a charge for breach of contract on the grounds that it is not a true pre-estimate of loss.

If the operators have accepted that their charges will always be cancelled by POPLA then they should lose the right to issue them, period!

The British Parking Association and the DVLA continue to refuse to address this issue.

Here is a list of recent cases

JAS Parking Solutions
MET Parking
MET Parking
MET Parking

Some operators are not even bothering to go to POPLA

MET Parking

Thursday, 13 February 2014

ParkingEye cancel court claim after implicitly admitting ANPR is at fault

The Parking Prankster has been sent a series of documents relating to a court claim dropped by ParkingEye once they were faced with overwhelming proof their ANPR system was at fault.

The Parking Prankster is currently in the middle of writing a piece on why ANPR cannot be relied on, given especially that it does not have X-Ray vision and cannot see through vehicles and pedestrians. However, until this is published anyone wanting the low-down should download The Prankster's free legal guide from Smashwords and read the chapter 4.4 'Visited Twice'. The Prankster's website also contains several documents explaining why ANPR is not accurate. Exhibits ex013 to ex019 are all relevant.

In the current case, the motorist explained in his defence that he had never parked in their car park, but regularly visited twice a day to drop his daughter off to work, and pick her up again afterwards.

I believe this claim to be the result of an Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) error. To my knowledge I have never actually parked in the car park in question, but in December 2012 (which is when I assume the alleged contravention took place) I was regularly dropping my daughter off as she works in Waitrose, which is adjacent to the specified car park. Having dropped her off, I would return later in the day to collect her. I believe this claim to be the result of “drop off” (Excel Parking Services v Hetherington-Jakeman, Mansfield County Court, March 2008. Page 5 paragraphs 13-14) where only the first entrance and last exit are recorded, resulting in an incorrectly recorded overstay.
It is my belief that ParkingEye have access to logs that record vehicle movements entering and exiting their network of car parks, and I have asked ParkingEye to provide me with details off all recorded movements of my vehicle during the month of December 2012. I believe this will demonstrate that at the time in question I was regularly visiting the car park twice a day for the reason stated above. See attached copy letter

As soon as I receive full details from ParkingEye, in particular the date and times, I hope to be able to provide proof that this alleged contravention could not have occurred
ParkingEye sent in a bad tempered reply to defence.
The Defendant states that he was merely dropping his daughter off at the car park, as she is employed by Waitrose store adjacent to the site. He states that the ANPR system captured the initial entry and the final exit which has resulted in the parking charge.The Defendant implies that the two pictures printed on the parking charge notice do not constitute images of a vehicle which was parked for the continuous period of time which the defendant stayed for. ParkingEye would advise the Defendant that our ANPR camera system captures an image of a vehicle as it enters and leave a car park. If, as the Defendant is implying, the vehicle entered and left, only to re-enter later in the day, the ANPR system would have two separate images of each occasion.
This is an outrageous attempt to deceive the court. ParkingEye are telling huge lies here, and it is beyond the bounds of probability that they are not fully aware they are doing this. To understand why, a brief diversion into the technical workings of ANPR is needed. Unlike CCTV, an ANPR system does not record a continuous video stream. Instead, it only takes an image when the software and hardware detect a numberplate. This means that if a numberplate is obscured in any way then no image will be recorded. ANPR does not have X-ray capabilities and so if a pedestrian walks behind the vehicle or another vehicle drives too close, then the numberplate will not be visible and no image will be recorded. ParkingEye are perfectly aware of this fundamental shortcoming of their system. To state 'our ANPR camera system captures an image of a vehicle as it enters and leave a car park' is therefore nothing short of an outright lie. A more truthful parking company would state something along the lines of 'our ANPR camera system captures an image of a vehicle as it enters and leaves a car park, as long as a numberplate is detected.'

Of course, incidents like this do not happen every time; but if you regularly visit car parks twice a day they will happen now and then, as The Prankster knows only too well. With over 800 car  parks, ParkingEye should expect a significant number of these double visit errors every week.

In robust ANPR systems, operators bury induction loops in the ground at the camera points. These loops detect the presence of a vehicle and cause extra images to be recorded, whether or not a numberplate is detected. For whatever reason, ParkingEye choose not to make their system robust which results in issuing substantial number of incorrect tickets for double visits.

ParkingEye, it seems, were fully aware of the shortcomings of their system. At the same time as sending this pack of lies to the court, ParkingEye also sent an offer to settle to the defendant for £50.

The defendant reiterated his request to ParkingEye asking for full logs showing every entry and exit of his vehicle for a month. ParkingEye keep these records and have been known in the past to produce them in court when it supports their case. However, they refused to produce them for this claim. The logs would of course have backed up the defendant's claim that he regularly visited the car park twice daily and never parked there.

The defendant then sent categorical proof that at the time of the incident he was working over 3 miles away and stated he would not be paying any settlement as the problem was entirely of ParkingEye's own making due to their faulty machinery.

Faced with overwhelming proof of the unreliability of their ANPR system ParkingEye backed down and cancelled the claim.

This story illustrates the mindset of ParkingEye employees who are unable to admit that their system is flawed and would rather fleece innocent motorists than invest a few hundred pounds installing induction loops.

Sadly, this is not an isolated case. The Prankster is aware of other claims where ParkingEye refuse to provide vehicle logs because this would destroy their case and their credibility.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

ParkingEye suffer premature capitulation. Only able to keep going for five minutes.

3JD08473 ParkingEye v Mason (Sheffield 12/02/2014). District Judge Birkby.

The Pepipoo report is here.

Mr Masons additional report...

Happy to report that I won in court yesterday against PE, rather easily! Neither myself or the lay rep got a word in as the judge ripped into their solicitor straight away, he was furious that no copy of the contract had been provided before the hearing and the one that she then produced was both redacted and a variation rather than the actual contract. Case dismissed inside 5 minutes without the defendant needing to even speak!

Thanks for the use of your guide to defending a court claim, lots of good stuff in there which I included in my defence, and also the other resources many of which I printed off to take along and didn't even need in the end. The stuff about locus standi must have made an impression on the judge as he'd read the papers just before the case and went straight into it - he was grilling her about it before I'd even sat down!

Re their witness statement about the contract, if we'd got chance to speak we'd have pointed out that not only was it identical to other "witness statements" produced by PE, but amongst other things the company named as the landowner didn't even exist as it had been dissolved in 2009 yet the "contract" was dated 2012...

Another sterling performance by ParkingEye, and further calling into question the legitimacy of their landowner witness statement.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Why size does matter. ParkingEye's 3 inches just not impressive

3JD03769 ParkingEye v Baddeley 11/01/2014. District Judge Bull. Claim dismissed.

The Parking Prankster and Lynnzer helped a defendant with preparations for a ParkingEye court case this week, but all credit must go to the Mrs Baddeley for her sterling efforts, putting in the work and research before the hearing, then performing extremely well on the day. ParkingEye tried their usual tricks, filing an inch of paperwork then another 2 inches of paperwork after the filing deadline, but this turned out to be more hindrance than help. Here is the account of the hearing, mostly in her own words.

The LPC Law solicitor was a Mr Johnston from Oxford. No dirty tricks, no extra evidence, very nice man. They didn't have anyone available in Birmingham. It was snowing when we went this morning and the poor chap had got soaked and had gone to dry off when I arrived. We met at about 11.40 and he asked if we could go and have a word somewhere quiet, as the waiting room was quite busy. We went in the corridor and he told me he only got the paperwork this morning and there was a mountain of it.

He hadn't had time to read most of it. I said that I'd not had time to read the second lot that PE sent (there were two big, big envelopes when I got home on Saturday night) - only had 2 days to deal with the first lot, which was quite substantial. I said we'd never get through all of it in an hour, so I was going to concentrate on my main two points - lack of authority to take action in their own name and not a genuine pre-estimate of loss. We agreed that we would discard everything after my defence and PE's reply to it and the evidence for those, as both these points were pretty well covered in the first submissions.

The judge was District Judge Bull and the hearing was at the Priory Courts in Bull Street (lol), Birmingham. After introductions he said he'd only got the bundle today and there was no way he could read all of it, as there was so much more than would be usual for such a small claim. Would we like to adjourn for a couple of weeks to allow him time to read it all? We said no and told him what we'd agreed, which he thought was very sensible.

First off he said he wasn't at all impressed with the way PE had just sent a pile of papers with no numbering or proper order to it, making it very difficult to find his way round it. He said he wouldn't expect me, a lay person, to know how to present a bundle, but PE do this all the time, so should know. I pointed out my very orderly file and papers all marked up with coloured post-its and told him my paperwork would have been like this if I'd been in the country, but I had to have it copied and delivered by someone else. 

Mr Johnston went first, starting with authority to pursue in their own name, with evidence being John McCluskey's (of the managing agents for the site, Marriots) witness statement. Judge wasn't very interested in any other cases quoted as evidence. Pulled both of us up pretty quickly (but not in a nasty way) most times we mentioned other cases. Basically he said he was making the decision so there weren't any precedents. He questioned who this witness statement writer was. The statement said he was a 'partner'. Was he a partner in PE or Marriotts? I explained the relationship. He commented on the fact that nowhere was the landowner identified. He questioned if it should have been the landowner, if anyone, taking the action. 

Next up, genuine pre-estimate of loss (GPEOL). DJ Bull was interested in whose loss we were talking about - PE's or the landowner's. Solicitor concentrated on PE's loss. Judge wanted to know how the £53 calculation was arrived at. He completely disregarded their "we have consulted Barrister Jonathan Kirk QC"  and "he says it's fair and a genuine pre-estimate" ...etc., as there was no mention of the actual calculation and he was pretty adamant again that it was him who would decide if it was a GPEOL or a penalty. He had a thick law book that he referred to every now and again and read bits out of, so he did take note of some precedents that he himself found. I think he said the book was all contract law. He had a real go about PE not providing any evidence whatsoever that the charge was a GPEOL, so Mr Johnston moved on to 'commercial justification'. I got a bit worried here, as it sounded like Judge might be persuaded by this from the bits he read from the book. The solicitor then quoted (and DJ Bull seemed pretty interested in this) PE v Somerfield Stores, where Judge Heggarty said £75 was probably not a penalty, which turned out to be a gift for me when it was my turn, as I knew this case.

My go next. First I said I admitted that either me or my husband had overstayed and that the signage was clear, told him a bit about the shops available  and explained why I didn't appeal or contact PE till claim made. Pointed out that when I or my husband used the car park, we didn't enter with the intention of overstaying - it was an oversight by him or me due to losing track of time, and whichever of us it was would be spending more money if we stayed longer, so it was actually advantageous to the shops and ultimately to the landowner.

I then objected to the witness statements, McCluskey's - no proof without seeing contract. They said they'd sent the witness statement from the landowner, but McCluskey wasn't the landowner. No contract to prove the statement, PE had used untrue witness statements before in these cases - he didn't want to hear about those or photocopied signatures, etc.  I'd asked several times and they wouldn't disclose it. Showed the one from ParkingEye's standard contract (photocopy was very poor - tiny writing and blue didn't copy clearly) I'd written out clause 22 and read it out. He wasn't madly impressed, as it wasn't the actual contract with Newtown Shopping Centre. I laboured the point a bit - why hadn't they disclosed the contract? Because it didn't give authority, etc. Did the BPA bit - must have written authority. he didn't want to hear about the BPA at all. I objected to the Jonathan Langham witness statement, as it was riddled with inaccuracies, insinuations, etc. and read out just a few of the most salient points I'd noted, including that he said I'd pieced my defence together from defences distributed on online forums. Pointed out I'd done online research and written defence myself, thank you very much, and spent many hours doing it. How else could I find out any info when i'm not a law expert? Judge said my using internet was only to be expected and law profession use it all the time.

Went on to Pre-estimate. Used the money flow diagram to explain how PE got 'consideration' and landowner paid VAT. Showed POPLA appeals and said I'd got transcripts. Not interested at all! So presented my own calculations re, the claimed £53 per PC. Used 2011-2012 company accounts to show 31% of turnover is profit, but extended this to show that profit is actually 50% - they invest £9 million approx and make £4.5 million approx. If I put 9m in the bank and get back another 4.5m the interest rate would be 50%, so that's what their actual profit is. So think about it - is it 13%, 31% or 50%? Then did calculation for actual charge. 629,000 DVLA requests. I allowed generous 20% off for stolen vehicles and unregistered numbers, so 500,000. £13.5m divided by 500,000 = £27. Approx one third is profit, so £18. Costs of running the business accounts for most of this, which don't count, so actual average revenue from each PC is about £4-£5. Addressed PE v Somerfield Stores and explained what it was all about and PE refusing to increase free parking time, as Somerfield wanted, proved that they weren't looking after the interests of the landowner, but their own profits. He liked that, I think.

Break for lunch and come back at 2.15 for the judgement! That was unexpected. Kept us waiting about 20 mins. Judge started off by saying how impressed he was by my calm delivery, knowing what I was on about, etc. Went on to authority to pursue in own name. Said he discounted Langham witness statement, as it wasn't a 'Statement of Truth'. (I think it was supposed to be, but maybe he didn't see the "I believe it's true" bit on the last page. Or maybe he'd taken on board the inaccuracies etc. I'd  pointed out - not sure). However, and this was a bit of a shock after what he'd said earlier, he said he had to accept John McCluskey's witness statement, as it was a Statement of Truth. i.e. he said it was true, so it must be true. What? So on that point he found for the claimant.

Well, you can imagine how I felt at this point. I thought OK, so he buttered me up with all that praise, just so I wouldn't feel so bad when he told me I'd lost.

However he went onto GPEOL and slaughtered PE for not providing any evidence whatsoever of loss to either them or the landowner, for not providing any calculation to justify their charges ("Mrs Defendant, on the other hand, had prepared,etc."), might be some 'commercial justification' by increasing customer turnover, but agreed with me that it was probably advantageous if people shopped for longer anyway. Pointed out that PE only make any money if people break the rules, so it's in their interests if people do. All in all, taking everything into consideration, he found for the defendant. I was very relieved!

He asked if I wanted to claim costs. I asked if I could and told him costs were only £21 for photocopying and postage. "OK £20 - lets call it expenses". Didn't want to see receipts or calculation, which was quite funny as I think the outcome hinged greatly on PEs lack of a calculation. lol

The Prankster makes the following comments

  • ParkingEye's habit of trying to misdirect the court from the actual issues by using a blizzard of paperwork is obviously not impressing the courts. "there was no way he could read all of it, as there was so much more than would be usual for such a small claim"
  • ParkingEye's blizzard is also not useful for their own contract lawyers, who get paid a fixed fee of around £200-£300 to turn up at the hearing. LPC Law do not charge travel costs to their clients so poor Mr Johnson had to travel from Oxford to Birmingham and back and get soaked all for nothing. As he only got the paperwork on the day there was no way he could properly prepare for the case.
  • This therefore plays into your hands if you have to attend a hearing. Although you will be up against a trained advocate, you will hopefully know your case well and be able to demolish the key points of the claimant's case
  • ParkingEye's attempt to discredit the defendant for using the internet was rubbished by the judge. In future all defendants can now quote from this case.  3JD03769 ParkingEye v Baddeley 11/01/2014. District Judge Bull stated that 'using the internet was only to be expected and the law profession use it all the time.'
  • It is worrying that despite ParkingEye repeatedly providing landowner witness statements which make false claims, judges continue to accept these despite the witnesses never appear in court for questioning. ParkingEye only get away with this because this is the small claims court. They would be laughed out of a higher court, with the witness statement wedged up somewhere they would rather it was not
  • The judge rightly discarded Jonathan Langham's witness statement. The Prankster has seen many of these and they contain large numbers of untrue statements, misleading statements, factual errors and unsubstantiated allegations
  • ParkingEye's false claims that their costs are £53 per ticket issued were completely discredited by the defendant's careful analysis of their accounts, and validated by the judge. ParkingEye have made these fictitious claims in many of the court cases they won, which casts doubts on the reliability of the verdict. Knowingly submitting false evidence could well be the undoing of ParkingEye later on.
  • It was probably a blessing in disguise for ParkingEye that their late evidence was not used. This contained so many false statements that their credibility would have been blown out of the water had the judge been inclined to adjourn the case to study it. This was a case where an extra 2 inches is not an advantage.

Lastly of course, well done to the defendant! Although ParkingEye do win regularly at court this case proves that with careful preparation and a judge prepared to hear both sides of a case the right verdict will be reached.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Saturday, 8 February 2014

ParkingEye update web site after complaint to Trading Standards

Following a complaint to Trading Standards from The Parking Prankster (and possibly other people too), ParkingEye have removed a few of their untrue claims from their website.

The following untrue claims have been removed.
'It should be noted that every court hearing that ParkingEye has attended as Claimant in 2013 (where Judgment has been given) has been listed above.'

'ParkingEye has not vacated any hearing unless the defendant has chosen to pay prior to the date of the hearing.'
It should be noted that every court hearing that ParkingEye has attended as Claimant in 2013 up until the 29th of August (where Judgment has been given) has been listed above.
The other untrue claim has been completely removed. Several other untrue claims remain. Here is one example.
Further to this many motorists, on receiving a claim form, visit these sites for a 'robust' template defence.This sort of defence, and all that have subsequently followed, have failed to convince any County Court Judge that ParkingEye's charges are unfair, disproportionate or a penalty.
Judge Buckley ruled that ParkingEye's charges were 'pursuing a claim for their own profit as opposed to quantifying a breach and a loss'.

'Of course there are operating costs in enforcing parking restrictions eg barriers, ticket machines, chasing and pursuing defaulters but these are simply the costs in the car parking operation. Enforcement is merely part of the operating costs. Whatever system they have, if nobody breached the contract, they would still have to set up a system to pursue those who do break the contract.'
'We have a rather bizarre situation where the claimants make no money apparently from those who comply with the terms of the contract  and make their profit from those who are in breach of the contract. Well that cannot be right. That is nonsense it seems to me.'

Judge Buckley's decision is available on The Parking Prankster court transcript page. More transcripts will be available shortly.

For a robust template defence, visit the Parking Prankster robust template defence web page.

Friday, 7 February 2014

New BPA Ltd Code of Practice

A new BPA Ltd code of practice has been issued.

Version 4 is effective from Feb 7 2014 onwards.

Here are the major differences. The Parking Prankster's comments are in italics.

18.2 A standard form of entrance sign must be placed at the entrance to the parking area. There may be reasons why this is impractical, for example:
• when there is no clearly defined car park entrance
• when the car park is very small
• at forecourts in front of shops and petrol filling stations
• at parking areas where general parking is not permitted

This is just a conformation of the requirements in Appendix B.

18.11 Where there is any change in the terms and conditions that materially affects the motorist then you should make these clear on your signage. Where such changes impose liability where none previously existed then you should consider a grace period to allow regular visitors to the site to adjust and familiarise themselves with the changes.

This is a welcome change, pinched from the IPC code of practice. As this is optional The Prankster waits with baited breath to see if any operators take notice of this. The IPC is still the industry leader in this area, with requirements for signs at the entrance notifying motorists of the change, and for a grace period of one month when tickets are issued as a warning.

Making use of Keeper Liability provisions

21.5 If you want to make use of the Keeper Liability provisions in Schedule 4 of POFA 2012 and you have
not issued and delivered a parking charge notice to the driver in the car park where the parking event took
place, your Notice to Keeper must meet the strict requirements and timetable set out in the Schedule (in particular paragraph 9).

Not making use of Keeper Liability provisions

21.6 To give drivers early notice of your claim, you should apply to the DVLA for the keeper details promptly. The target time to apply to the DVLA for keeper details is no more than 14 days after the unauthorised parking event. You must apply no more than 28 days after the unauthorised parking event.
21.7 You must post the parking charge notice to the keeper as soon as possible. Your target is to send the parking charge notice to the keeper of the vehicle no more than 14 days after receiving the keeper data from the DVLA.
21.8 Your letter to the keeper should point out the details of the unauthorised parking event and ask for payment or request details of the driver.
21.9 It is the driver’s responsibility to pay the parking charge notice. If you receive information from the keeper which identifies the driver, and the driver is someone else, you must serve the parking charge notice by post on the driver.
21.10 Parking charge notices served by post must offer the same payment discount arrangements as tickets placed on vehicles, while allowing extra time for the postal service.

This is a clarification of the situation which currently exists where sometimes operators choose to make use of keeper liability and sometimes do not. The Prankster thinks this does not go far enough and that the letters should point out that keeper liability does not apply and only the driver is liable for the charge. However, this is a start, and therefore welcomed as such.

22.1 Under the Code you must have procedures for dealing fairly, efficiently and promptly with complaints, challenges or appeals. The procedures must give drivers and keepers the chance to challenge a parking charge notice. If a motorist pays a Parking Charge Notice and then appeals, you do not have to accept the appeal unless you opt to do so.

The Prankster thinks that if an appeal cannot be accepted after payment, this is only acceptable if the correspondence to the motorist clearly spells this out. 

22.7 We consider it a reasonable timescale to allow 28 days from the issue of the parking charge notice (in whatever format you send it) to allow the driver, keeper or hirer to challenge the enforcement action. A keeper cannot make an appeal concerning the same incident if the driver has already appealed.

This seems fair. Once a driver has appealed, the keeper is no longer liable. Of course the reverse is not true. If the keeper appeals and the appeal is turned down, the driver still has full rights of appeal if identified by the keeper.

22.12 If you reject a challenge you must:
• tell the motorist how to make an appeal to POPLA. This includes providing a template ‘notice of appeal’ form, or a link to the appropriate website for lodging an appeal and the 10-digit verification code. Even if the verification code is automatically printed on an enclosed appeal form, it must still be in the dated rejection notice/letter.
• give the motorist a reasonable amount of time to pay the charge before restarting the collection process.
We recommend that you allow at least 35 days from the date you received the challenge

The Prankster considers this a good change, but it does not go far enough. The POPLA code should be clearly described as such in the rejection notice. This wording still allows operators to hide the code away. The Prankster thinks that all motorists should be given both the template form and a link to the website. Not everybody wants to use the internet.

22.14 Drivers and keepers may appeal against a parking charge to POPLA but a keeper cannot make an appeal concerning the same incident if the driver has already appealed.

This is fair for the reasons outlined earlier. Of course, a driver can still appeal after the keeper has.

Appendix B

Combinations such as blue on yellow are not easy to read and may cause problems for drivers with impaired colour vision.

The Prankster wonders which operator using blue on yellow signs persuaded the BPA Ltd to remove that text.

The Prankster's overall verdict is that these are small steps in the right direction, but nevertheless welcome for all that.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

ParkingEye blunder-team install ANPR on a car park not surrounded with barriers

ParkingEye's blundering sales team sold an ANPR system for a car park which was not totally surrounded by barriers. Their blundering installation team then installed ANPR on the one official exit wihout noticing the gaping holes not covered by camera. Finally, their blundering legal team tried to enforce charges for motorists who had not parked there, but merely 'passed through'.

The car park no longer exists. Possibly this is not because anyone at ParkingEye noticed what buffoons they were; more likely (although this is not confirmed) this is because the landowner informed the leaseholder they did not have permission under the lease to use the land as a car park. Preston council confirmed there never was any planning permission to use the site as a pay and display car park.

The car park is Springfield Road in Preston.

The probable car park boundaries are shown here.

The big problem the ParkingEye engineers seem to have missed is here.

As everyone but ParkingEye can easily see, there is no barrier to stop cars driving onto the grass. Equally, there is no barrier to stop cars driving onto the one-space parking area owned by the Wellfield pub.

One unlucky motorist fell foul of this when DJ-ing at the pub. They got a parking charge even though they parked in the pub car-park. The ParkingEye photograph even shows this, capturing the vehicle as they turned into the pub car park.

Despite the evidence of their own eyes, and the '19 separate steps of checking and auditing by ParkingEye personnel' nobody seems to have picked this up.

Rachel Ledson , Head of Legal, also failed to pick this up during her careful scrutiny of the case prior to filing legal action.

Despite the defendant pointing out the error of their ways, ParkingEye's legal team declined to cancel the claim, stating 'There is no evidence to support the defendant's claim they did not park in this car park.' and 'ParkingEye ensure that the landowner has all the relevant planning permission before we install ANPR cameras on site.'

It was only when The Prankster intervened that ParkingEye finally backed down. Perhaps the 8 witness statements from the landlord, waitresses and customers also helped. Perhaps it was the photographs, maps, or land registry plans. Perhaps the threat to report Rachel Ledson to the Solicitor's Regulatory Authority for continuing to pursue a case when there was no reasonable cause of action also contributed. Who knows.

Sadly this is not an isolated case and The Prankster is aware of several other ParkingEye car parks where the ANPR cameras do not cover all potential entrances and exits. If you are aware of such an ANPR controlled car park run by any parking company, please contact the Prankster so he can add it to his files.

You should also consider reporting the operator to the British Parking Association Limited for running and ANPR controlled car park where not all entrances and exists are covered by camera.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Sunday, 2 February 2014

The Prankster Unredacts

Previously The Parking Prankster redacted some information regarding job titles at the request of ParkingEye. The Prankster has now reconsidered that decision, and it is his opinion that this information is in the public interest and is published in his accordance with his article 10 rights.

As ParkingEye are regularly in the habit of making untrue statements in court regarding their pre-estimate of loss calculations, The Prankster considers it is in the public interest to know just how many ParkingEye employees are involved with ticketing, and how many employees have jobs which cannot be included in any pre-estimate of loss calculation. ParkingEye regularly state that the cost per ticket issued to them is £53, while their own accounts show it can be a maximum of £16. The job titles further show that this maximum of £16 will in reality translate to a true figure of somewhere between £5 and £10.

The Prankster gave ample notice of his intention to unredact to ParkingEye, who chose not to object, and therefore to implicitly agree with the contents of his letter, stating that false claims had been made to the court and so on.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster