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.
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.
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.
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
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
b. leaving out or presenting information in such a way that it
creates a false or misleading impression or exploits debtors' lack of
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.Please therefore take the necessary action to ensure this practice ceases and that any necessary sanctions are taken.
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.
You can also complain to your MP and to trading standards regarding the misrepresentation of authority.
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:
The Parking Prankster