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Saturday, 2 January 2016

Race to £600 parking charge begins? DCBL inflate charges

Bailiff company DCBL has hit on a wheeze to massively increase parking charges.

They chase up old parking debts and add on massively inflated 'collection' charges to push the charge to way beyond the initial levels. The danger is that they could escalate  the charge beyond £600. They could then file a small claim, which if undefended will result in default judgment for £600.

At that point they could then ask for a high court writ, and can then use their bailiff powers to enforce the judgment. They could then start to really ramp up charges, adding hundreds of pounds. A £100 parking charge could easily become £1000 or more.

As bailiffs they could then seize goods, such as your car or high worth items in your home.

Parking companies know from experience that many people ignore parking letters, which means this is likely to be a successful strategy in many cases.


As this letter shows, they are attempting to ramp up the initial parking charge by sending a 'Notice of Enforcement' and adding a £240 'compliance fee'. The letter also states DBCL are 'Certified Bailiffs'

There is such a thing as a compliance fee, but this is only £75 (plus VAT) and only applies after high court enforcement starts once a sealed writ of control has been obtained by the high court. There is also such a thing as a 'notice of enforcement'. Again, this only applies after the high court stage.

A very useful website explaining all this is Bailiff Advice Online. They will also give advice by email on individual circumstances.

It therefore appears this is an 'impersonation of authority' scam by sending letters implying they are acting as Bailiffs when they are not, and by using terminology which is the same as a bailiff would use. In reality, they are acting as Debt Collectors, and have no legal powers at this point in time.

The most important advice if you receive a letter like this is not to ignore it.

You should write to DCBL explaining that the debt is denied, which must give a genuine reason why you believe the charge is not owed.

Dear DCBL,

The debt is denied. Please refer the case back to your principal. The debt is denied for the following reasons
(eg The signage did not create a contract; no contravention occurred. The signage did not contain the information required by distance contracts. Keeper liability does not apply)

Debt collection activities are therefore not appropriate and wil be wasted costs on your part. I am prepared to attempt to settle the matter using alternative debt resolution and suggest the Consume Ombudsman.

Alternatively please endure your client follows practice directions if they wish to settle the matter in court. Practice directions are here.
https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/rules/pd_pre-action_conduct

I wish also to raise an internal complaint with yourself that your letter is an impersonation of authority scam and that you are failing to follow OFT guidance regarding several matters, inclusing the level of charges which bear no relation to the cost of sending one letter and are out of all proportion to the allaged debt.



Contacting the BPA

DCBL are also AOS members of the British Parking Association, so you should also contact them to complain along the following lines.

aos@britishparking.co.uk

Dear BPA,

I enclose a letter I received from DCBL, one of your AOS members. I wish to complain that they are misrepresenting their authority by sending a letter purporting to come from bailiffs, and using bailiff terminology, while actually acting as debt collector.

While not specifically banned by your code of practice, section 14 concerns 'Misrepresentation of Authority' and I believe this is a clear example of misrepresentation.

The 'compliance fee' of £240 is in any case far higher than the statutory figure of £75+VAT.

Please ensure they cease sending such letters.

Contacting the DVLA

DEBT Collection practices like this are not allowed by the DVLA, and it is a violation of the KADOE contract between the DVLA and parking operator to behave like this. You should therefore complain to the DVLA about the parking operator.

Instructions on contacting the DVLA are here

Dear DVLA,

I wish to complain about New Generation Parking Management limited. They are using debt collection agents DCBL in direct contravention of their KADOE contract with yourselves. I enclose a copy of the letter sent to me by DCBL which shows they are using an impersonation of authority scam by purporting to be acting as bailiffs and using bailiff terminology, while actually acting as debt collector. The letter is also in violation of many OFT Debt Collection Guidance principals. 

This is contravention of condition C3.1 which states:
The Customer shall abide by the OFT Debt Collection Guidance whenever it seeks to recover payment of unpaid Parking Charges from any person.
and D5.1 (b)

 (The Customer shall respect the confidentiality of the Data and shall not disclose it to any person, except in the following circumstances...)to a sub-contractor who engages in debt collection, with whom the Customer shall have entered into a written contract which requires the sub-contractor to abide by the requirements in SCHEDULE 2, and the OFT Debt Collection Guidance;

The OFT Debt Collection Guidance States:
2.2 Examples of unfair practices are as follows:
a. use of official looking documents intended or likely to mislead
debtors as to their status,
e.g. documents made to resemble court
claims.
b. leaving out or presenting information in such a way that it
creates a false or misleading impression
or exploits debtors' lack of
knowledge
c. those contacting debtors not making clear who they are, who they work for,
what their role is, what the purpose of the contact is
False representation of authority and/or legal position2.3 Those contacting debtors must not be deceitful by misrepresenting their authorityand/or the correct legal position.2.4 Examples of unfair practices are as follows:a. falsely implying or claiming authority, e.g. claiming to work oninstructions from the courts, claiming to be bailiffs or, inScotland, sheriff officers or messenger-at-arms.
2.10 Examples of unfair practices are as follows:a. claiming collection costs from a debtor in the absence of express contractual orother legal provisionb. misleading debtors into believing they are legally liable to pay collectioncharges when this is not the case, e.g. when there is no contractualprovisionc. not giving an indication in credit agreements of the amount of any chargespayable on defaultd. applying unreasonable charges, e.g. charges not based on actual andnecessary costse. applying charges which are disproportionate to the main debt.
Please therefore take the necessary action to ensure this practice ceases and that any necessary sanctions are taken.

Other bodies

You can also complain to your MP and to trading standards regarding the misrepresentation of authority.

Prankster Note

Extortionate collection charges are not normally allowed in the small claims court, but will still need to be contested if it gets that far. The most important point is not to ignore the letters.

A useful case to quote is ParkingEye v Somerfield Stores, where although the main parking charge of £75 was found to be valid, the increase to £135 was held to be a penalty and not enforceable. The later case of ParkingEye v Beavis, where a charge of £85 was found to be enforceable does not appear to contradict this.

Office Of Fair Trading

Although the Office of Fair Trading is of course no more, its guidance is still valid and used by the DVLA in their current KADOE contracts.

More information is available here:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/kadoe_contract_2#incoming-728930
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/guidance_for_businesses_engaged
.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster


11 comments:

  1. What a filthy situation all this is becoming 😱

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  2. I am more than alarmed at "an enforcement agent may visit you to open lines of communication" at the bottom of the letter. A quick check on their website reveals "experience has shown us person to person contact improves communication and collection success rates".

    Pay up or we'll send the boys round. Obviously the readership here won't be standing for any of that nonsense but I do have to wonder if more less informed people have been robbed at their street door.

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  3. These charges would be unlikely to be allowed if they did do court, so long as the action is properly defended, if a default judgment was obtained, a set aside may well be successful.

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    Replies
    1. The whole point is that it is a numbers game. Many people don't defend a claim properly and timely and this results in a CCJ. And once you have the CCJ the fun begins, because after £600 you can trade up the CCJ to the High Court and get proper enforcement agents and their spiralling costs to get the money back.

      Of course in theory people can apply to have this set aside but again this costs money and time and needs an understanding of court processes that most people simply don't have.

      So whilst you're absolutely right, this whole farce still works perfectly well and is a great money spinner.

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    2. Last year I paid a PCN inflated to around £540, I believe it would have been a county council PCN as opposed to private (as it was public highway) it was my Dad's car that I'd driven, he didn't tell me about any of the letters received, there was no PCN on the car, it went to court and they sent the bailiffs, he gave them my number when they turned up at his door, so I had no choice but to pay. He told me he'd not received any letters (likelihood is he did or didn't open them...) and I had to bear the brunt. I don't talk to him anymore (not just because of that) and fortunately I now drive a company car so have no need for his games. But it sent me into a "payday loan" spiral for a few months...I was going to fight it but the person online whom I found could help gave no guarantees and I didn't understand the processes. It also involved getting the V5 I believe and my Dad wouldn't send me this as he said "just pay it and make sure I don't get the bailiffs back at my door" (don't know why, he's used to that anyway....keep up the good work Parking Prankster. This is verging on criminal, and was very a stressful time.

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  4. It says on their website "as seen on channel 5" is this the same lot as that fat git who looks like he is going to keel over at any minute?

    If he comes to my gaff I'll finish the fat cunt off.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow! Pranky would simply point out that the claim is disputed and he should refer it back to the principle but I guess there's always an alternative means of dispute resolution.

      Delete
    2. Sounds like the "Go Compare" advert to me. Surely not!!

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  5. It was only a matter of time really.

    From a business standpoint it makes perfect sense. If x% of court claims go unchallenged and end with a default judgment which the motorist then pays then common sense says that if you inflate that charge massively, you make a lot more money.

    Things like this can only strengthen the case for government intervention/regulation. Sadly a lot of people will have their pants pulled down before we get to that stage.

    ReplyDelete
  6. In the letter under 'Enforcement details", it says:
    "Vehicle Registration Mark: CAPITA RETAIL PARK"
    Surely this is an invalid registration mark (Too many characters.)?

    ReplyDelete
  7. In the letter under 'Enforcement details", it says:
    "Vehicle Registration Mark: CAPITA RETAIL PARK"
    Surely this is an invalid registration mark (Too many characters.)?

    ReplyDelete