Sunday, 4 February 2018

Parking Bill moves to next stage. Will Hurley and John Davies's use of obfuscation techniques found out.

On Friday Sir Greg Knight's Parking Bill passed the second reading and now moves to committee stage. If all goes to plan it should reach the next stage around October.

The proposed bill can be found here

The bill's progress can be monitored here.

Hansard's copy of the Friday's debate can be found here.

The bill aims to impose a common code of practice and regulated appeals system across the parking industry. As Sir Greg Knight put it;

Motorists should have the certainty that when they enter a car park on private land, they are entering into a contract that is reasonable, transparent and involves a consistent process. Poor signage, unreasonable terms, exorbitant fines, aggressive demands for payment and an opaque appeals process, together with some motorists being hit with a fine for just driving in and out of a car park without stopping, have no place in 21st-century Britain.

The debate was a one sided affair with no dissenters and MPs from all sides of the house and around the country lining up to expose the scams and dirty practices of the parking industry.

There were a number of choice quotes.
“These people are the John Wayne of the cowboys”
 “The BPA are as much use as a multi-storey car park in the Gobi Desert”
 “This Bill will mark the beginning of the end of these parasites”
 “This industry is like putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank”

Some of the scams which have come to the notice of MPs include:

  • Parking companies failing to reply to correspondence
  • Confusion "marketing"; signs that advertise different terms and condition for the same car park - only one of which is correct
  • Using small signs mounted so high up motorists are likely to miss them - especially disabled motorists; using font too small for motorists to read
  • Obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception.; deliberately breaching the code of practice; cancelling charges when the motorist appeals, but not correcting the problem and continuing to accept payments from other motorists for the same event
  • repeated issuing of charges to individuals parking in their own parking space outside their property
  • repeat ticketing of motorists away on holiday
  • ticketing residents before they have been informed a new scheme is in place
  • stopping in an empty lay-by for 15 seconds to check satellite navigation settings
  • using the term PCN and the mimicking of police tickets or court documents to deceive motorists into thinking they have received a statutory parking fine.
  • charging motorists for mis-keyed their number plate into an automatic machine when the parking company has a record of all vehicles currently in the car park
  • failing to maintain payment machines then charging motorists when the machines do not work
  • Advertising phone numners which do not work; are not answered; or are too complicated.
  • Only accepting payment by app
  • Acting in a predatory fashion at hospitals
  • Making it hard to get parking permits for a change of car
  • targeting of taxi drivers picking up passengers from retail parks
  • disparity between the ease with which a roboclaim company can file a bogus claim compared to the cost of defending it
  • lack of transparency of hotspots where large numbers of charges are issued
  • charging customers for temporarily leaving a retail park
  • The grossly invasive, threatening and wholly inappropriate use of debt collection companies
  • Offering free parking with hidden terms and conditions designed only to trigger charges
  • Issuing charges to people who decide not to park
The Prankster has seen all these practices and confirms they are in common use. The Prankster receives 10-20 emails a day on these themes.

Prankster Notes

There are a large number of parking companies, and although no-one likes receiving a parking charge, most of these companies act responsibility and very rarely feature in the Prankster's email inbox. When they do, the companies involved very often accept the charge is not valid and cancel the charge.

However, there are a few companies who crop up time after time. they act in a predatory and unfair fashion. Names highlighted in the debate include Premier Parking Solutions, Premier Park Ltd, Link Parking, New Generation Parking, UK Parking Control and ParkingEye, and these correspond closely with the problem companies from the Prankster's postbag. Other problem companies include Excel Parking/Vehicle Control Services. These were not mentioned by name, but cases involving them were highlighted in the debate. 

Smart Parking, were mentioned as a company that blights communities throughout Scotland. Their activities hit England and Wales as well.

Rogue solicitor firm Gladstones Solicitors were mentioned; the MP in question had referred them to the Solicitors Regulatory Authority for investigation. It did not escape the MP's notice that the directors of Gladstones had tries to obfuscate their association with the International Parking Community by repeated changes of names and address. 

The Prankster notes that although the obvious conflict of interest was highlighted by MPs, the DVLA have already investigated this relationship and for some unaccountable reason found there was no conflict. noted. Apparently the DVLA see no problem with "putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank."

Genuine parking companies have nothing to fear from this bill. In fact, they stand to gain because removing the bottom feeding practices means a level playing field for all companies.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster


  1. At last. They were given all this information back in 2015, via the consultation implemented by Eric Pickles. Some of us will need to find a new hobby if all goes to plan.Capita looking to off load Parking Eye is also good news. Every Smalls Claim Court judge should read up on these proposals too. There are still a lot of cases to be heard. There is likely to be a surge in cases as the sharks go into a feeding frenzy.

  2. Judgment day for the RoboClaimers is comin'

  3. I wouldn't put money on that. They will already be laying the foundations of the next level of legitimised scamming.
    We need the DVLA to be brought into this whole equation and made to stand before Parliament to answer for their complicity.

    The fact that the PPC's who don't "obey" any new Code of Practrice will be denied access to the DVLA database is a load of tosh. Every single PPC will fail at some point and a blanket ban on them all is about as likely as the Antarctic hosting the next winter Olympics.

  4. It will be interesting to see what happens. I would argue that there is already legislation in place to clean the mess up but there is no will to make waves. I thought confusion between yellow council PCN and yellow private PCN was already outlawed. I agree with Fractious Tart that the DVLA need to be held to account. A change in DVLA attitude and actions could change the whole industry.

  5. I think that the saddest thing of the whole debacle is that it has shown how the justice system is readily subverted and is, er, unjust. In the world of consumer law, it is understood that the public do not understand much and the law reflects that, it puts the onus on business to be fair and the courts reflect that. Yet the same courts in another consumer interaction have allowed themselves to be subverted by these dubious claims. Surely the fix is to fix the courts that have allowed claiming companies to subvert the rules time and again.

    1. Patliament itself is to blame for the massive invasion onto our consumer rights. Since when did a 3rd party's actions result in someone else being hounded through the courts. The general principle of Consumer Law is that only the signatory (or person knowingly in acceptance of a contract) can be held to account for any lapse of contractual obligations. It's a bloody sad thing that Parliament has seen fit to override this.

      Apart from the oingoing watering down of the old regime, the whole of the PoFA section involving the actions of parking companies needs adressing as well.

      It's no use them setting new guidelines (which aren't legally enforceable anyway) without them looking beyond their monacled noses to reset PoFA to a more frienly set of lawful obligations.

      Seems odd that PoFA is an actual legal statute yet the wording of the stuff so far on the Parking Code of Practice Bill still doesn't set legally binding parameters for PPC's and more importantly the DVLA.

      The wording so far has too many "may" clauses. We all know that sets no defined actionable event, and is oft used in defences to Parking Charges to good effect.

    2. Clearly the courts are bound to interpret the law, so are dependent on Parliament setting clear law - something that they don't seem very good at (and if you have ever complained to a government department about the drafting of their legislation you'll find they rapidly dive for cover of "it is up to the courts to interpret what we wrote, not for us to fix it"). However, what has become clear is that the courts have rules for proper conduct of cases and time and again the PPCs don't comply yet get no sanction and that is the element I am alluding to. If the courts insisted on a clear and precise statement of claim and did not allow last minute unfair changes whilst being reasonable and tolerant of the mistakes of inexperienced defendants then most claims would disappear. Instead, PPCs get to play fast and lose, default judgements get applied to nonsensical claims and a number of judges seem determined to take interpretations that assume hard working and fair PPCs are being hard done by by a deceptive and unscrupulous public.

  6. Why not blog updates since Jan 8th?

  7. Says something about the lack of understanding on this issue when the sponsor of the Bill calls them "FINES"

    1. I'd say he was just using the word that most people use in common parlance for what are in effect being levied as a fine even though they are not.

    2. Perhaps Pranky is taking time to seek to represent us at the hearings, or is drafting something to submit to the committee.
      Is trhere any way our voices can be heard at this stage I wonder by submitting anything?

    3. As I understand it, the consultation phase of a proposed new law is a Green Paper, where representations are invited. A White paper sets out government policy in a matter, but might also invite comments.
      As this is now between a first and second reading in Parliament, it is past that stage. In fact the green or white paper stage may not have even happened as it is a private members bill. I think the only option open to the public now is to write to their own MP in the hope that they raise the matter at the second reading in the autumn.

  8. Is this line missing the word "not"?

    > Issuing charges to people who decide to to park

  9. The writing is on the wall. I wonder if MP's are as sick to the back teeth of these charges, as are the county courts.

    The legal system, has, unfortunately, let us down on this occasion.

    "Division of the Powers" comes to the rescue.

    I'm hopeful.

  10. Just shot this off to my MP:
    Dear Mr Morris,
    I see that the Bill above is now to be brought to the Committee Stage.
    I think you will have a good idea of the kind of atrocious behaviour some of the Parking Companies subject the general public to. I ask that you add sufficient input to the progress to ensure that the manifestly unfair provisions of the closely associated Schedule 4 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 are addressed as part of the progress.

    I give what may be an apparent absurd comparison. If, for instance, Starbucks were to set a time limit on customers sitting at a table under a warning by way of a sign at the entry door that they would impose a "Sitting Charge" on a customer it would be in the same parameter as a "Parking Charge Notice". There would be no difference in the way a penalty was notified, no difference in the intention, ie to clear seats for other customers, and the charge would more than likely be reasonable if adjudged on how expensive it is against the potential loss to Starbucks. The only difference is that Parking Companies have PoFA to back them up.

    There are absolutely no other instances when a third party person can be held accountable under contract law for the misdeeds or lapses of the person who has allegedly entered into a contract for parking services, or indeed for any contract.

    No case has gone so far as to be considered at the highest level, ie the ECJ.
    The case of ParkingEye v Beavis heard at the RCJ in London didn't address that particular matter as Mr Beavis didn't deny he was the driver and no 3rd party involvement was occasioned. Contract Law does not allow such passing of liability.

    We have in the POFA, what appears to be a trap for the unwary. Only in driving offences which are of a criminal nature can such a passage of liability occur by way of a S172 against the Registered Keeper for not naming the driver. As parking is a civil matter this is a grossly exaggerated crossing between civil and criminal cases.
    Please pass these considerations to the general committee.

    1. Nicely written. If by some chance you get a timely reply from your MP, I hope you post it here.

    2. Response from Graham Morris.
      Thank you for contacting me recently about unfair parking practices and the use of County Court Judgement for tickets issued on private land.

      I share your concern about this issue, as I know that unfair parking charges can be a cause of real frustration and significant cost for many people. Data from the Citizens Advice Bureau has shown that 10,000 people sought advice about a private parking ticket last year, and I agree it is time bring forward justice for motorists.

      I know that parking charge notices issued by private companies are often designed to look like penalty charge notices, which are issued by local authorities, in an attempt to blur the rules between public and private car parks. I also understand that many people feel intimidated into paying unfair parking charges and I believe the indiscriminate and excessive enforcement used by some parking companies is a real problem.

      As you may be aware, Greg Knight introduced a Private Member's Bill on this issue in July 2017. The Bill is designed to create a higher standard for parking across the sector by creating a single code of practice for parking operators, which will be developed in conjunction with motoring groups and industry experts. The Bill also states that parking operators that fail to comply with the code of conduct will be blocked from accessing driver data and issuing fines (sic) effectively forcing them out of the industry. The Bill has received support from the Government, the Opposition, the RAC and the British Parking Association. I believe it is vital that this code of practice outlaws dodgy practices in the industry and I assure you I will continue to support this Bill

      Th Government has also recently launched a consultation on the appropriateness of using CCJ's. At present CCJ's can be used by private parking companies to enforce debts, and can result in default judgements being made without the motorist knowing the case has been brought to court. This consultation is expected to close on 21st February 2018 and I can assure you I will follow developments on this closely.

    3. I am heartened by your acceptance on the unfair ticketing of drivers on private land and note that you will add support to the ongoing re-think of the way the industry is held to account.

      You do seem to have missed the main point though. I know that the overall contemplation of parking matters will be addressed as part of the recommendations but I do not think that this will flow directly to addressing the equally if not more important matter of the way that Schedule 4 of PoFA operates solely for the benefit of parking companies

      I did remind you that nowhere in law within the EU, save for PoFA is there any provision for passing contractual responsibility to persons not actually known to be the party who allegedly entered into a contract; of any sort.

      While PoFA encompasses many other matters such as homeland security issues, the inclusion of the highly unfair Schedule 4 is something that is well beyond any legal precedent. This has been enacted with no regard to the person(s) who may well fall foul of its provisions even if they are completely innocent of any misdeed. There are many circumstances when even the registered keeper of a vehicle has no knowledge of who drove the vehicle on a specific day or time. To allow a parking company to use details obtained from the DVLA to press charges against someone in this situation is a highly skewed interpretation of the legal position regarding an individual's contractual rights.

      I did say it already but there is no contractual relationship that naturally passes to some third party who is not a party to the actual contract itself by way of an agreement known and accepted by that person prior to the contract being set.

      If life was only that easy. A contract is an agreement between consenting parties only and any 3rd person's liability holds no sway.

      I made a play on how Starbucks could start charging seating fees if customers didn't vacate their seats in a specified time. Think of it. Think of how this is a directly similar set of conditions and also think how damn stupid it would be to press it into law just for the sake of it, which is the way the parking industry has gained the assistance of parliament for their own benefit.

      The issues are far greater in the round of things anyway, such as the DVLA's total incapacity to uphold the integrity of the KADOE Agreement and the parking being monitored by themselves. The phrase wolf in sheep's clothing springs to mind where the BPA is concerned, or perhaps the monkeys being left in charge of the zoo. It is a self serving institution which has failed to act in any reasonable manner in the past making lame excuses for their member's lack of compliance and ignoring continued complaints on their own intransigence.

      We have had many years of BPA lack of integrity already and further lapses will almost certainly continue as long as they are without totally independent monitoring.

      You will know Peterlee Town Centre. I was visiting the Post Office a couple of years ago around a week before Xmas. The elderly lady in the queue in front of me was sobbing her heart out at the till. She was paying best part of her weekly pension as a parking charge for overstaying the allowed time. She had visited the town centre and carried out her total Xmas shopping for her children's & grandchildren's presents. It took a long time to choose things within her meagre budget but she spent time only to do that. No extraneous time was spent in the centre. I mean.... who on earth wants to spend more time than necessary in such a miserable, damp and cold place anyway. This lady was the victim here. If I had only spoken with her prior to her making payment I would have had the situation sorted favourably. Anyway, I digress.

      To conclude, I am asking directly if you will intervene and press for consideration of the PoFA situation, and the contractual rights of innocent 3rd parties who may not even know the identity of who a driver was in relation to a claim. I would really appreciate your direct input on this.

    4. I am truly amazed that you got a substantive reply from your MP in under 10 days. Thanks for sharing.

    5. Another response:
      Thank you for taking the time to contact me again about the Parking (Code of Practice) Bill.
      I have noted your comments about contractual rights, and in view of the circumstances, I have made representations on your behalf to the Department for Communities and Local Government, which has departmental responsibility for this Bill, highlighting the issues you have drawn to my attention in relation to this matter. I hope this is helpful and I will write to you again on receipt of a reply.
      ---------------Could I ask for others who follow this blog to make the same representation to their own MP. Let's make sure it doesn't get shoved into the gutter.

    6. Here's the latest reply from Grahame Morris, letter wording from the attached response from The Minister for Local Government who has responsibility in this matter:
      Dear Graham,
      Thank you for your letter of 1st March to the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, on behalf of your constituent. I am replying as this matter falls within my ministerial responsibilities.

      PoFA 2012 banned wheel clamping and also made the registered keeper of a vehicle liable for parking tickets incurred by the vehicle if the driver is not named. This was to allow for parking management on private land while removing the practice of wheel clamping. Registered Keepers have the right to pass on details of the driver, and upon doing so the parking company has no further legal right to pursue them for any outstanding tickets.

      As your consituent ponted out, Sit Greg Knight has introduced a Private Memebers Bill that seeks to create an independant code of practice for private parking companies. If a parking company was to repeatedly break this code then their access to the DVLA database would be blocked. The Government fully supports Sir Greg's Bill which will seek to get the fairest deal for motorists. It will help tackle roque private parking operators, in line with the Manifesto. Should the Bill progress, there will be an opportunity to consider the obligations on private parking companies. I spoke at the Bill's second reading in the Commons to voice the Governments support. Further information is here

      Until the law changes, however, it may be of use to know that private parking companies must be a member (won't add the rest as it just points to existing BPA, IPC and their appeals services.)

      There's still a complete lack of any sort of answer to my complaint that Contract Law is precedent and the passing of liability to a third party cannot be justified under Contract Law.
      So I'll have another go shortly.

    7. Perhaps you should tell the Minster that POFA doesn't make the Registered Keeper liable; only the keeper, which may not be the same person/company.

    8. Oh, forgot to add in my latest response from yesterday:

      Many thanks for your further action on my behalf in response to my earlier submissions on Private Parking. The response from Rishi Sunak MP, however, has still missed the whole point.

      I am fully aware of the PoFA 2012 Act and how it impacts upon private parking matters. I know of, and have used the appeals systems for both the BPA and IPC members, often deliberately being ticketed so I could present the parking companies with insurmountable problems in furthering their claims against me. I even got a parking ticket on an Asda shopping trolley just so I could show that the claimed careful inspection of captured data from ANPR devices is a nonsense. It is little more than a conveyor belt of Notice To Keepers with the claimed “fines”.

      My question, which I believe cannot be answered anyway, is why PoFA should set third party liability upon a potentially non contracted keeper of a vehicle. To state that PoFA sets that liability does not in any way satisfy the legal issue in the situation. Pofa is totally secondary legislation to the existing law under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the prior legislation, neither of which allow for passage of liability to a non contracted third party. I know of no case law to discredit my assertion on this matter.

      Could you please seek further answers to this.

      Specifically, what legislative instrument exists which takes away third party rights as set out in The Consumer Rights Act 2015 to allow PoFA to demand payment from an unsuspecting vehicle's registered keeper who knows nothing about an alleged incident?

      The wording within PoFA certainly seems lacking in removing the protection rights afforded within the primary Consumer Rights Act. To do so PoFA would need to make that quite clear in its own wording. What law or other legislative instrument has been passed to give priority to PoFA over the Consumer Rights Act, or its prior Act, effectively enabling 3rd party liability for a breach of PoFA to a non driver?

      Do I have assurances that the matter of the non legality of passage of liability to 3rd parties is addressed as part of the recommendations submitted for consideration to Sir Greg Knight?

      I also note that Rishi Kunak MP, states “if a parking company was to repeatedly break this code then their access to the DVLA data would be blocked”. This sounds entirely unconvincing. How often is “repeatedly”? Is it 3 times, 10, 50 or more. It has to be set in stone otherwise the whole purpose of the penalty of non access to the DVLA data would be watered down over time so that it is in fact completely useless.

      Will Rishi also answer that, or at least give assurances that he will press this point in further submissions to Sir Greg so as to give a crystal clear basis on the matter.

      Please make Rishi aware that anything less than a simple answer to the points posed would be seen to be obfuscation. If there is no legal basis for PoFA to take priority over the Consumer Rights Act, for instance, then it should be declared as such. Perhaps it may be as well, or instead of passing this to Rishi, to seek an answer on the legal aspect from the Government Legal Department.

  11. You could also suggest that the 'grace periods' which the BPA tell operators to keep quiet about, should be published and printed along with the tariffs in the car park. It's nonsense to say upon passing an ANPR you are now on the clock for parking...