Alan is the sole shareholder, owning both shares in the company, having acquired the other share from his wife some time previously.
MIL have a fairly poor reputation as debt collectors and a quick Google search turns up a large number of complaints regarding the tactics they use. Although they are members of the CSA, in The Pranksters opinion many of the tactics they use are against the CSA code of practice.
Recently MIL have been buying old parking cases from parking companies for around £1 each, and have been attempting to monetise these by aggressively contacting the vehicle keeper and hugely inflating the cost. MIL move to court action as soon as possible, failing to follow practice directions for pre-action conduct. The idea appears to be that by filing a court claim either they scare the keeper into paying up, or the keeper fails to respond so they can get a default judgment..
The Prankster previously blogged about them in this blog entry.
Of course, one reason that the monies were never paid is often that they were not owed in the first place. Some clever people in the parking and debt collection industries have realised that this is no barrier to making money. By filing court claims in bulk, enough people will be scared into paying up that a lucrative income stream is almost guaranteed. While it is easy and cheap to file a bogus claim in this way, it is very tricky for the man in the street to know how to fight this properly, or to unwind it if things have got as far as a default judgment.
This week another MIL case made it to a county court hearing. The hearing took place in Manchester between MIL Collections and Dr S. Dr S was assisted by the British Motorists Protection Association with HO87 running the defence and preparing the documents, and John Wilke acting as lay representative. MIL Collections, smarting with their earlier court loss, decided to dispense with the services of their barrister. In fact, they even dispensed with the services of their own staff, not bothering to send anyone all the way from Truro to Manchester just to get a good spanking in court.
The defence had a number of good arguments about champterous assignment of debt, but these were not specifically tested in court, the judge deciding to rule on easier points.
The case was won due to failure to comply with Schedule 4 of POFA, the lack of a valid deed of assignment, no proof that the parking company had the right to issue tickets and no proof of the right to litigate.
The judge made it clear that MIL Collection's case was wholly deficient and made even more hopeless as the evidence was served late and was not filed with the court. Additionally, when the judge was shown the evidence served he was of the view that it did not meet court requirements anyway.
MIL Collections had not sought to excuse their non-attendance either.
In the costs hearing, John Wilkie argued that as MIL Collections had neither turned up nor notified the court they caused court and the defendant's time to be unnecessarily wasted. The claim was entirely deficient, as outlined in the defence and witness statement, and had no chance of succeeding. Had the defendant known the claimant was not coming they could have had a paper based hearing.
Because of their conduct and pursuing a wholly deficient and hopeless case ab initio it was entirely appropriate for a punitive costs order to be made, which would include Lay Representative costs. This would be under the 'unreasonable behaviour' provision (27.14.g) of the small claim track rules.
John Wilkie pointed out DDJ Buckley's judgment in the Forgione case, which the judge was aware of. The judge hemmed and hawed and finally agreed. He ruled that pursuing a hopeless case, serving late, failing to file, failing to turn up and wasting court time was certainly unreasonable behaviour and awarded the full costs asked for, which were defendant's loss of earnings, travel, and the full lay representative expenses, all to be paid withing 14 days or enforced.
The judge suggested a Third Party debt Order as MIL Collections had very kindly supplied their bank details, and Dr S agreed this was the best method for enforcement if required. It does appear that the courts are not happy with being used as speculative debt collectors by the likes of MIL Collections, Civil Enforcement Limited and a few others, and that word is going around the circuit.
Buying the speculative debt off the parking company for one pound did not turn out to be the bargain MIL Collections were hoping for, and they are now several hundred pounds worse off.
Sadly many vulnerable people in similar cases will be tempted to cave in due to the bullying tactics of MIL Collections, and the fear that the debt may escalate. This will mean MIL only need to get paid for more cases than they lose to make the exercise profitable for them.
The Prankster advises people not to be a victim and to robustly defend themselves, following the procedures laid down by the courts and making it clear to MIL Collections they will be asking for punitive costs if the case gets as far as a hearing.
The Prankster will leave you with this linked-in endorsement of Alan Davis from his ex-colleague David West.
"Alan is one of the most generous people I have ever met and knows the debt industry inside out"
For someone who knows the debt industry inside out it does seem surprising so many basic errors were made regarding debt assignment and court procedure.
The Parking Prankster