Link Parking v Cowles B5GF95H3, Chippenham Court, 24/11/2015 in front of DJ Asplin
The Prankster has received this court report from a BMPA observer. Prankster notes are in italics.
Gladstones Solicitors scored another big payday, what with fees for filing the case and preparing a witness statement. As usual in cases reported to the Prankster, their client Link Parking was not so lucky.
In court was Mr Cowles, the driver of the car and Mr Gardner, a director from Link Parking. DJ Asplin opened proceedings by trying to establish the facts of the case
The car park in question was a car park in Bristol, not fully open to general members of the public but used for contract parking. Parking is permitted, according to the sign submitted in the Link Parking witness statement, for cars with a blue badge, cars with a valid P&D ticket displayed, or cars with a valid permit displayed. By parking otherwise, DJ Asplin explained, drivers are agreeing to pay a penalty of £100.
At this point Mr Cowles waved his evidence pack but DJ Asplin asked him to wait as he was taking all the excitement away. DJ Asplin then produced another sign, this time from the defendant's evidence pack, which had a different set of terms and conditions. He asked Mr Gardner about this sign. Mr Gardner explained this sign was put up by a company called TCN who are the landowners. The signs (for it turns out later there were many of these) were put up before Link Parking managed the site and are still there, two years later.
DJ Asplin asked why the signs had not been removed. Mr Gardner explained the building was listed and the signs would require planning permission to remove. DJ Asplin did not appear to believe this and made a funny noise. DJ Asplin asked why the signs could not be covered up with Link Parking signs. Mr Gardner did not come up with an answer.
DJ Asplin then attempted to understand the complexities of the site. Bargain Parking lease some of the spaces in the car park from the landowner, TCN. Other spaces are apparently available for P&D customers or leased to other parties by TCN directly. Bargain Parking then contract with companies whose staff need parking, and these companies allow some of their staff to park there. Mr Cowles was one such person. Meanwhile, Link Parking are retained by Bargain Parking to manage their part of the site.
It is not immediately apparent to The Prankster how Link Parking have standing to bring the case. The contract appears to be with Bargain Parking and to have been concluded long before the actual parking event. However, this was not explored in court.
DJ Asplin asked how a random person arriving would know which bays are patrolled by Link Parking. Mr Gardner replied that random people did not use the car park.
This does not appear to answer the question and appears to conflict with the statement that some spaces are used for P&D.
DJ Asplin then turned his attention to the rogue signs which stated; Permit Holders only. Use the car park at your own risk. Unauthorised users will be fined.
There was no requirement to display any permit and Mr Cowles explained he was an authorised user because his work authorised him.
DJ Asplin wondered how a member of the public was supposed to know which of the two different signs were valid and which not.
He then turned his attention to a map of a random car park somewhere in Cardiff, and asked what this had to do with the car park in question, which was in Bristol. Mr Gardner explained his solicitors, Gladstone Solicitors had a computer problem which 'printed one page down', and so had filed a map of the wrong car park.
DJ Asplin asked Mr Gardner did he not sign a witness statement on 27 September stating this was the car park in question? Mr Gardner admitted he had. DJ Asplin asked why, if the car park was not correct. Mr Gardner explained that when Gladstones had sent him the witness statement to sign, they had not included the evidence. DJ Asplin asked was that not a silly thing to do, to sign a witness statement which was not complete? Mr Gardner replied that the solicitors asked him to sign it. DJ Asplin asked if his solicitors asked him to jump off a cliff, would he do so? Mr Gardner replied he would not.
DJ Asplin then explained that the witness statement had been signed negligently.
DJ Asplin then asked Mr Cowles why the permit was not displayed. Mr Cowles explained that he had taken his wife's car that day, and had forgotten to switch permits. DJ Asplin mused that the car park attendant could not be expected to memorise all the registration numbers used by all the motorists.
Although they could easily have this list on a mobile device, or could cancel the ticket after the event once the motorist had established their authority to park.
DJ Asplin then pointed out that the rogue signs do not allow a ticket to be issued for not displaying a ticket. only for not having authority to park.
Mr Gardner explained he had noticed the mistake yesterday and had a plan of the correct car park. He asked if he might file it. Mr Cowles objected. After some deliberation, DJ Asplin concluded that it would not be fair to admit the new evidence on the day, as it should have been filed 2 weeks ago.
The witness statement contained a picture of a sign which was stated to be in the car park in Cardiff. Mr Gardner explained this was the same as the sign in Bristol but had not evidence to back this up. Mr Gardner stated there were two signs visible in the distance in a picture which showed Mr Cowles car. DJ Asplin stated that although on the face of it the might be the same, they were too far away to read and might be adverts for car boot sales for all he knew.
Mr Cowles explained he had been using the car park for 6 years, and when he parked he turned left, passed 4 of the 'rogue' signs which had been there for along time, were sturdy metal and were affixed to permanent structures like buildings and poles, and went into his work building. There was no reason to believe these were not the parking conditions in operation, or for him to wander round the car park looking for other terms and conditions. The Link Parking signs, in contrast, were at the other end of the car park, were made of flimsy material and attached to temporary link fencing. He had not really noticed them or felt the need to go and investigate them before this whole event happened.
DJ Asplin asked Mr Cowles if he had evidence he was allowed to park. Mr Cowles replied that he had the permit, and also a copy of the contract between his company and Bargain Parking. Mr Gardner retorted that the contract was the current contract, but was not in force at the time of the parking event. Additionally, it was not even signed. Mr Cowles replied that this was the copy his company had given him when asked, and that 40 employees were allowed to park although he did not have a list of the 40 names. Mr Gardner stated there was no proof Mr Cowles worked for the company in question, which was rather clutching at straws as Mr Cowles was wearing company clothing.
DJ Asplin wondered whether on the evidence he should accept that Mr Cowles was one of the 'chosen 40' and whether he should have seen one of Link Parking's signs from where he parked.
Mr Gardner then chipped in to say Mr Cowley was fully aware or the terms and conditions as he had had three tickets and paid two of them. Mr Cowley denied this. Mr Gardner reiterated that 2 tickets were paid for. Mr Cowley explained that these tickets were in any case issued after this parking event. One was to a hire car which his company had paid. The other was currently with Zenith debt collectors and he was waiting on the result of this case to decide what action to take.
Mr Gardner chipped in to say there was no need for the company to pay the ticket. Mr Cowley wondered how Mr Gardner knew so much about his companies internal procedures.
Mr Gardner reiterated 2 tickets were fully paid. Mr Cowley said this was incorrect.
DJ Asplin decided to cut off this line and explained he was interested in this parking ticket, not other ones. He asked if Mr Cowley was willing to take the oath. Mr Cowley was. DJ Asplin then established Mr Cowley had been using the car park for 6 years, was one of the chosen 40 and had never been cognisant of the Link Parking signs. Mr Gardner had no questions to ask.
DJ Asplin then handed down his judgment.
The claim was for a parking charge of £150 plus £4.70 interest. Mr Garner had signed a witness statement provided by some solicitors in Cheshire before it was complete and which contained a map of a car park in Cardiff totally irrelevant to the case. There was therefore no plan showing where the notices were situated.
For Mr Cowley to be liable Link Parking should take reasonable steps to draw to his attention the terms and conditions of the car park.
There were notices in the car park which no longer applied. Link Parking should have removed or covered these over.
Is it likely Mr Cowley was aware of the need for authorisation to park? Yes, he was aware for 6 years. But the old notices do not say a permit must be displayed. To find for the claimant, the new notices must have come to the attention of the motorist.
There was no reason to suggest Mr Cowley should know of the new obligations.
DJ Asplin then asked Mr Cowley if he wished to claim expenses (but warned him not to be triumphal). Mr Cowley did not.
Although the Gladstones mess up did not help, The Prankster thinks Link Parking only have themselves to blame and they should have removed the old signs and provided coverage with their new signs.
There is still the question of who the motorist is contacting with though? Bargain Parking or Link Parking?
The Prankster has seen similar cases involving bad or confusing signage in which the IPC appeals service, the IAS, has always ruled on the side of the parking company. Based on today's verdict, it does seem like the IAS have got it wrong and do not rule the same way as a proper judge would.
The Prankster would therefore advise against using the IAS in their 'nonstandard mode' (where the motorist pays £15 and the IAS verdict is binding. Instead, the motorist should either get a proper judge to rule on the case, or preferably, use an ADR Entity which does appear to be in line with the courts, and which is not binding on the motorist. One such possibility is the Consumer Ombudsman.
The Prankster also wonders about the business model of Link Parking, which appears to be based on gouging legitimate authorised users of car parks for more money, and not on genuinely managing a car park. The Prankster has helped a number of motorists in previous Link Parking cases and all of them have been authorised users, not motorists abusing the facilities.
The Parking Prankster