Excel Parking Services v Drain Trace Ltd
After numerous threatening letters from BW legal wanting payment for a private parking charge dating back 2.5 years I finally had my day in court!
I run a drainage company and one of my engineers got a parking charge whilst working for Direct Sports and Fitness at Cavendish retail park in Keighley; he didn’t buy a ticket while working on site. We received the notice a week later and I appealed sending the job cards and invoices stating we were working on site. Excel Parking chose to ignore this even though my vans have a distinctive logo.
After numerous emails and telephone calls to both Excel and BW Legal they finally took my company to court. I gathered all the information, emails, photographs, etc and arrived at court. A young solicitor working on behalf of BW Legal introduced herself and asked for a consultation, I agreed. She then went on to mention that it was an open and shut case that my engineer hadn’t purchased a ticket and as such had broken the agreement. She then went on to say I should settle. She produced a letter for a £10 settlement that was sent to me. That was her first mistake as that was for a previous charge on a different date but on the same site. I mentioned that I would settle for £10 as a goodwill gesture. She phoned B W Legal who declined my offer; they wanted the full court costs of £269.00 plus a further £400 for the solicitor. I refused and said I will let the judge decide.
We Went in to court, sat down and the judge introduced himself; then the solicitor went to work stating I had broken the agreement by not obtaining a ticket. I mentioned that we were working on site and the signage doesn’t instruct contractors to sign in at site or give a number to contact the parking company.
The judge was gobsmacked that they expected a company working on site to purchase a ticket. He asked the solicitor“If I was to have a heart attack whilst at the gym are you telling me that the ambulance would need to purchase a ticket before they attended to me?” The solicitor had no answer; she had to say yes. She did say there was an exemption list but she couldn’t produce one.
The judge dismissed the case and said that common sense should prevail and that he was sick and tired of presiding over parking cases.
My advice is fight to the end. The judge has common sense; get all relevant information to back your story up and don’t worry about CCJs. If you don’t win just pay the cost within 28 days and its wiped off. During the process B W Legal tried to bully me with CCJs trying to frighten me saying my credit score would go down; well that’s just bully attacks.
I would like to get the full transcript on my case. I'm making notes so that when I go to court again for the numerous parking tickets my engineers have acquired I will just say I revert back to Excel parking vs Drain Trace Ltd and give the judge the transcript.
The judgment which arrives in the post will normally just say that the claim has been dismissed.
Parties at a small claim hearing are not allowed to record it themselves, but can get a transcript by paying a fee.
5.1 A hearing that takes place at the court will be tape recorded by the court. A party may obtain a transcript of such a recording on payment of the proper transcriber's charges.
To get a transcript of your hearing, fill in form EX107, choose a transcribing firm, and send them the form. On payment of the fee, you will get your transcript. A short judgment will normally cost £20 - £50. The whole hearing will cost more.
The judgment needs to be signed off by the judge, so may take a few weeks to arrive.
Disreputable firms like BW Legal often use underhand bullying tactics. Their letters are written to deceive the victim into thinking a CCJ is inevitable once the court process commences, and that this will inevitably damage the recipients credit.
Nothing could be further from the truth. You can only get a CCJ if you go to court, lose, and then fail to pay withing the stipulated timeframe (usually 14 days).
The real truth is that BW Legal would do anything rather than get to an actual hearing. As the above account shows, they are willing to go to a hearing on shaky grounds, and if it gets that far they are going to effectively lose whatever the result, since they will be paying £400 to a solicitor to recover a £100 parking fee. Solicitors fees are not normally reclaimable in the small claims track, so they will be at least £300 down, regardless of the result.
The negotiation attempt is laughable, and nobody in their right minds would settle for £400 more that the claim on the morning of the hearing. BW Legal were clearly trying it on in the hope that the defendant did not know that in the small claims court solicitors costs are not normally allowable.
It is likely that even had BW Legal won then the full claim of £269 would not have been awarded. A more likely scenario would have been an award of £100 parking charge, £50 solicitor filing fee, £25 court filing fee and £25 court hearing fee, totalling £200.
Prevention is better than cure. If you own a business with similar problems then before agreeing a job it might be better as part of the negotiations to:
1) Get a letter authorising you to park on site for free for the duration of the contract
2) Put in your standard terms and conditions that you expect on-site parking to be free and that if not any costs will be chargeable to the client.
While oral contracts are valid, it does make life easier if everything is down on paper. If you have pre-authorised permission to park then you have strong evidence of primacy of contract. Any signage you encounter later cannot unilaterally override the already agreed terms.
The Parking Prankster