In early 2014 it was apparent that Parking companies were facing a crisis. Almost all cases at POPLA were lost when the issue of parking charges was raised. The one or two that were won were found to be inconsistent judgments made by inexperienced adjudicators before their training was complete.
The British Parking Association Ltd, therefore ran a number of training camps for operators. No independent monitors were allowed to attend, despite requests, and the DVLA also decided not to send representatives to ensure the sessions were run correctly.
Sadly, following those sessions a number of operators have been spotted trying to scam POPLA by putting in similarly worded fake accounts of their costs. It is not clear whether this is the result of instructions at the BPA Ltd training sessions, or whether the operators have all latched on to one company's anomalous POPLA results and decided to copy their cost document.
As a starting point, these new descriptions of 'genuine pre-estimate of loss' cannot possibly be genuine. if they were, they would have been calculated before the parking charges were set; in most cases this would be pre 1 October 2012. That is what the 'pre' means in pre-estimate. Instead, these calculations have been made after the signage was installed, and in many cases even after the parking event. The operators have sent in large numbers of different explanations of their charges, until they finally hit on a formula that has produced a few strange decisions by the more inexperienced POPLA operators.
It is no credit to POPLA that they have swallowed these lies and continually allowed parking operators to change their tune. If their current explanations are 'true' then the previous 15 or so variations must by definition be false. No action by POPLA or the BPA Ltd has to this point been taken against operators trying to defraud motorists by producing false information to POPLA.
The particular formula currently in vogue by operators is to expand their appeal and POPLA costs until they total the amount of the parking charge.
This is flawed approach for the following reasons.
1) The initial cost is incorrect
If it costs around £5 to issue a charge and £95 to process an appeal, then the correct charging structure is an initial charge of £5, increasing to £100 if not paid before an appeal.
If the charge is £60 increasing to £100, then the motorist is correct at the time of appeal in stating that the £60 is not a genuine pre-estimate of loss
2) Parking Companies can artificially inflate time needed
If they wanted to, Parking companies could justify any charge by instructing their minions to spend an artificial time on appeals, or by using artificially highly paid employees to process the appeal. The Prankster has visited a number of parking companies and it seems a genuine time needed to process a POPLA appeal by an efficient company is around an hour. Pretty much all appeal reasons will have been seen by now by a parking company, so it is just a matter of getting the right template paragraphs, pulling in the signage and other relevant information, and sticking it together in the right order. This does not take a highly paid employees in any of the organisations the prankster visited.
3) The amounts are not in proportion
Only around 1% of cases are appealed to POPLA. Therefore to be accurate the costs must be adjusted proportionately. If a company state a POPLA appeal costs £66, then the true average cost is 66p.
4) The amounts are not accurate.
Parking companies claim huge costs which are simply not believable. For instance, Excel v Cutts establishes that Excel issue about 4,000 tickets a year at the Peel Centre, generating £240,000 to £400,000 a year in charges. One percent of this is 40 tickets. 40 tickets appealed to POPLA a year can easily be dealt with by one part-time appeal handler. If they took an hour per appeal, they could knock them all out in a week. Even an outrageous 3 hours per appeal will leave them with 49 weeks of the year off. Total cost? Something around £400-£2,400, depending on wage levels.
Luckily the more experienced POPLA assessors are cottoning onto this scam. However, it is clear that appealing to POPLA now is not just a matter of stating 'the charge is not a genuine pre-estimate of loss' Instead, once you get the appeal pack it is now necessary to send a rebuttal in case you are unlucky enough to get one of the weaker assessors who are not up to speed on the parking company scams.
The Parking Prankster
Have you received a costs document from a parking company falsely claiming that over 50% of their costs are due to appeal handling? If so, please email a copy to The Prankster at firstname.lastname@example.org