Excel Parking have recently filed a number of similar court claims for multiple tickets. The claims all followed the same pattern, providing no information on the dates or amounts of the parking events, and missing crucial information needed to file a defence, such as copies of the parking charge notice, signage, and details of their standing to bring the claim.
The claims also came out of the blue, with no letter before claim. This is a violation of practice directions, which are written so as to minimise the need for court involvement and encourage participants to settle out of court wherever possible.
One motorist took exception to this and took a stand, shelling out £80 of her own money to ask for a preliminary hearing to force Excel to provide this information so she could file a defence, listing the information she thought she would need. She also asked the court to refer the case to POPLA as the most cost efficient solution.
The hearing took place in Stockport county court. Excel sent two representatives, and the motorist was represented by The Prankster.
District Judge Lettall explained he would not force Excel to use POPLA, but he also warned Excel that there may be cost implications if they did not voluntarily agree.
Excel argued that they had provided enough information by sending the parking charge notices over a year ago, and again shortly before the hearing. The judge explained that court procedures required the claimant to sent the defendant this information at the time of making the claim; not some arbitrary time before or after. This was to enable the defendant to properly defend the claim. He described the particulars of claim as wholly deficient. He did not accept that the British Parking Association Ltd code of practice allowed Excel to file a claim without sending a letter before claim.
The judge asked Excel if they could now send the information and Excel agreed to this. The Prankster pointed out that the contract Excel had provided was over-redacted, and that in previous cases he had helped with the contract revealed that Excel were paid £30,000 a year by Peel Holdings to run the Peel Centre car park, which included parking services and the ANPR systems. He felt that this was relevant information since this was also included in Excel's pre-estimate of loss and was therefore double charging. He asked for a full unredacted contract to be supplied. The judge stated that it was up to Excel what they supplied, but that failure to provide an unredacted contract may prejudice their claim.
DJ Lettall asked the claimant to provide the information within 14 days and the defendant to then file her defence within 14 days with a view to listing the case in September.
The Judge asked The Prankster if he would be happy for costs to be held over to the next hearing. The Prankster replied that the motorist was forced to apply for this hearing because Excel did not
send a letter before claim or enough information to defend the claim.
Excel replied the information had been sent at the time of sending the parking charge.
The judge decided the hearing had been necessary and therefore awarded costs against Excel. The defendant will therefore get her £80 refunded by Excel.
Not all judges will take the same view, so asking for a preliminary hearing is a risk. Costs have also increased from £80. However, defendants should consider asking for the following reasonable information.
Dates and charges of the parking events, together with copies of the parking charge notices
Full details of any contract it is alleged was entered into
An explanation of how the contract was offered and accepted
An explanation of the consideration from motorist to operator
An explanation of the consideration from operator to motorist
A breakdown of the charges
Whether the operator is bringing the claim as principal or agent
A copy of the contract with the landowner to support this and to show they are authorised to bring charges
This is the minimal information needed to defend any claim.
The Parking Prankster