As reported in the Dundee Courier, UK Parking Control has dropped 3 cases in Scotland involving parking at Gallagher Retail Park.
The laws in Scotland differ significantly from the laws in the rest of the UK. There is no offence of trespass; there is no concept of keeper liability; parking companies are not required to offer an independent appeals service.
What this means is that apart from all other hurdles, any parking company would need to prove the identity of the driver to the satisfaction of the Sheriff hearing the case. In at least one of the test cases, they would have also had to prove the signage was sufficiently visible in the dark and rain to form a contract, that the wording was clear and unambiguous and that as parking was free for 2 hours, a breach of contract had occurred by staying for 10 minutes. All these would have been quite high hurdles to cross. Add in that in one case they were up against a company with a legally qualified representative arguing the defence, one theory is that UK Parking Control crept away with their tail between their legs. Having a body of case law against them would not be a good start to their campaign.
However, The Prankster believes this is not the case and that UK Parking Control are secretly laughing up their sleeves. The Prankster believes that they are running a far more devious campaign than previously outlined. To explain this reasoning, it is necessary to look at campaigns run by other parking companies. Figures released by the Ministry of Justice show that while ParkingEye issue over 1,000 claims a week, only around 10% or less get to a hearing. As ParkingEye very rarely drop cases, this means that the majority of motorists simply pay up to avoid the hassle of going to court. UK Parking Control will be very aware of this, and if the figures repeat themselves in Scotland, they can expect to have trousered cash from 27 motorists who paid up, for the minor expense of having to drop 3 cases. This would leave them with around £3,000 profit from the paid up motorists, while forking out a few hundred pounds on the dropped cases.
This tactic is also employed by Civil Enforcement Limited, who file large numbers of claims, but either drop them at the last minute of fail to attend hearing in most cases. By keeping the pressure up right to the last minute with letters threatening an escalation of costs, CEL successfully bluff large numbers of motorists into paying up. UK Parking Control will also be aware of this, and may be trying to emulate this strategy in Scotland.
In Scotland the process is that there is a first hearing, which is rather like a mitigation hearing, followed by the real hearing. UKPC stayed firm during the mitigation hearing, dropping their request from £160 to £152. They then dropped out before the real hearing.
Like CEL, they may be trying to pick and choose the few cases which make it to court, making sure they only proceed if a weak defence has been filed and it is clear the motorist does not understand the legal issues. This will then allow them to gradually build a body of case law which can be used to present a one sided picture; a strategy very successfully used by ParkingEye over the last two years.
UKPC stated they dropped the case because 'it was in the wrong pile'. This may well be true, and they only meant to carry on with weak defendants, not ones who had filed a strong defence.
Using these strategies and others it is possible to abuse the legal system and use it as a cheap debt collection service with very little chance of a comeback. Judges in England and Wales have so far taken no action against this abuse of the system. It remains to be seen whether Sheriffs in Scotland will be far cannier and will get a grasp of the situation more quickly.
Meanwhile The Prankster will sit back and wait to see what action UK Parking Control will take next. No doubt they will be totting up their spreadsheets with actual numbers of motorists who folded against the 3 who refused, to see if their strategy is viable or needs changing. While he is waiting he will also keep an eye on Vehicle Control Systems, who have also filed several claims in Scotland.
The Parking Prankster