Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Excel lose claim on signage and authority

Excel Parking V Booth. C6DP9P15 24/1/17. Bury CC.

Mr Booth parked in a car park but did not ralise it was pay and display. The signage was hidden behind a van. Excel Parking disagreed and filed a court claim.

The hearing

Excel Parking Services Ltd 0 Versus Booth 1

Mr Booth represented himself. He had a number of lines of defence, but focussed on the poor signage in the car park. Excel Parking used BW Legal who hired a local solicitor to turn up. She wasn't that well prepared and had not bothered to bring printed copies of the case. When the Judge asked her to refer to defence photographs provided of poor signage she used her phone.

Mr Booth admitted that he never bought a ticket - but this was because he never saw the signage signage in the first place and so no contract was entered into.

Excel provided pictures of the signage, date stamped for August 2015, but the event was in March 2015. They also provided at the last minute a witness statement from the landowner stating he gave authority, date stamped September 2015. The PCN they sent in their Witness statement was a photocopy and completely blurred and illegible.

Mr Booth's arguments were that;

1. Poor signage - there were "staff only" parking signs on the building wall next to where he parked - he questioned the claimant's right to sue someone parked against these bays
2. He questioned their authority to act on behalf of the landlord
3. He questioned whether the signage had planning consent.

The Judge followed this through with Excel's representative: "Did they have a contract which said these bays were exempt or not exempt from Excel issuing tickets on the vehicles parked?
As Excel had not bothered to supply a copy of the actual contract, the solicitor could not confirm either way.

Regarding. planning consent, Mr Booth had an email from the town planning officer stating that in his opinion the signage would require planning consent, and that there was no planning application on file. The judge said if Mr Booth had only brought this point up he may have found differently.

The judge clearly had doubts about the signs where any reasonable person would think the same and that the "staff only" signs would not lead them to think there was a requirement to buy a ticket.

He took a recess for 10 mins then made his judgment.

Claim refused - the parking signs cause confusion , and there was prof there was a contract which allowed the charges claimed.

He went on to state that he was staggered that serial claims companies like Excel do not take a photo of the signs at the time of erection. Why do they wait until litigation to take photos. There was no evidence that the signs were there at all on the date.

Mr Booth was too excited and trying his best not to grin from ear to ear that he forgot to ask for costs.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Monday, 23 January 2017

VCS discontinue another Albert Street claim

Vehicle Control Services v Ms O. C8DP9D8C 23/1/2017. Birmingham. Allocation hearing, Employment Judge Hodgson

This sorry state of affairs began in 2014 when Ms O purchased a ticket to park in Albert St, Birmingham. Unfortunately, due to one or other of the well-publicised flaws in their Metric parking machines, the ticket did not register back at head office and Ms O was issued a parking charge notice. She disputed the charge for several years until eventually BW Legal filed a claim on behalf of VCS.

Ms O filed a defence stating that she had purchased a valid ticket and that in any case the signage at the car park was in the name of Excel, not VCS. VCS therefore had no rights to bring a claim. Ms O also filed a counterclaim for £250 for breaches of s13 of the Data Protection Act 1988.

BW Legal bluffed and blustered, filing a 3 point reply to defence stating they found it embarrassing.

The court

VCS sent a local solicitor. Ms O had a lay representative from the British Motorist Protection Association.

Ms O's representative, who we will call Mr Happy introduced himself to VCS's representative, who we shall call Mr Angry. Mr Angry told Mr Happy that VCS were discontinuing the claim. Mr Happy expressed his delight and said that just leaves the counterclaim then. Mr Angry flew into a rage and said the counterclaim was preposterous and had no merit and should be struck out. Mr Happy said, backing off, that he would rather leave all that to the judge, and bade his farewell until the hearing.

The Allocation Hearing

Employment Judge Hodgson accepted the discontinuance notice and asked if Ms O still wanted to counterclaim. She did. He then went through the particulars of claim with a fine tooth-comb, picking up some areas which he wanted clarifying. He then ordered that new improved particulars of counterclaim be filed, VCS to file a new defence to the counterclaim, and the case be allocated to the small claims track in February 2017.

Prankster Notes

It is hilarious that BW Legal, the masters of the non-compliant particulars of claim, are calling a detailed 7 page defence embarrassing. Obviously it was so embarrassing they felt the need to discontinue the claim before a judge got their teeth into it.

This is now the 3rd claim regarding the Albert St car park where VCS have filed a claim and then discontinued when the defendant pointed out that the signs were in the name of Excel Parking.

VCS v Zozulya A8QZ6666
VCS v Ms M. 3QZ53955

VCS did eventually get round to changing the signs. The Prankster is not sure of the exact date. However, all motorists taken to court by VCS for alleged contraventions at this car park should raise the point that the signage is not in the name of VCS, and so there can be no contract with them, and should also consider a counterclaim for data protection breaches.

Filing a counterclaim stops VCS grandstanding you and then pulling out at the last moment, trying to avoid costs.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Credit Services Association uphold complaint against MIL Collections

The Credit Services Association have upheld a complaint regarding MIL Collections.

When MIL were contacted by telephone to inform them of a change of address, MIL's operative became aggressive and provided false information regarding the court process, trying to imply that bailiffs would call round even before a court claim was filed.

MIL defended the complaint on the grounds the information was given in good faith. However the CSA ruled that the agent should not have answered the questions raised and should have made it clear at the start of the call he could not offer legal advice, and pointed the caller to free advice sources.

MIL stated that the essence of what was said was not oppressive or misleading. However the CSA ruled the agent was not following best practice and their comments could be construed as threatening in nature. The CSA therefore upheld this part of the complaint.

Prankster Notes

Best advice when contacting MIL Collections or any other debt collector by phone is therefore;

1) Don't. Avoid the phone if possible because you can be subject to bullying and false information
2) If you have to call, record the call. Although you may not be able to play this to a 3rd party, you can make a transcript
3) If they are rude, aggressive or give you false information, make a complaint to the Credit Services association

The CSA code of practice and complaints process can be downloaded from their web site.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Saturday, 21 January 2017

UKPC and POPLA fail to understand registration numbers with spaces

The Guardian has reported that both UKPC and POPLA fail to understand registration with spaces in them.

The motorist paid by phone using Parkmobile.

"She inputted the registration number with a space on it, as it appears on a car. As a result we were sent a £100 fine".

The motorist appealed to POPLA, who failed to understand that paying by phone means there is not ticket to display.

The ticket was only cancelled as 'a gesture of goodwill' after the Guardian intervened. The Guardian commented that this shows how useless POPLA has become.

Prankster Notes

The Prankster has not seen the POPLA appeal or verdict, but if the Guardian has reported this correctly, he would have to agree that this is an example of how useless POPLA is.

Anybody who owns a car can check their registration document - it will contain a space. They can also go and look at their car - the registration plates will contain a space. It is therefore perfectly reasonable to enter a space when asked to input your registration.

Given that the Parkmobile app allows spaces to be entered, then the fault seems entirely that of UKPC and not the motorist.

The Prankster considers that UKPC had no valid reason to get keeper data from the DVLA database and the motorist should consider making a claim against UKPC for a breach of the data protection act. A claim in the region of £250 to £750 would seem to be appropriate.

Meanwhile, POPLA should reconsider whether a space is a valid character or not; and if it is not, why is the Parkmobile app allowing it?

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Friday, 20 January 2017

Gladstones claim struck out - utterly hopeless particulars

Parking & Property Management Limited v C Limited C6GF02Z5 19/1/2017 Birmingham. DJ Musgrave 

PPML imagined some parking slight or other had occurred. C Limited did not agree. PPML therefore instructed Gladstone Solicitors to file a claim.

As with all these Gladstone claims, the particulars were a nonsense. Gladstones do not believe they need to obey practice directions. As their solicitor Helen Cook explained a while back:

We issue on a vast majority of claims, majority of which are not defended and therefore it is time consuming and not financially viable to send further particulars of claim

C Limited were not in the habit of wasting time with bogus claims and so filed for a strike out. They submitted that the claim should be struck out pursuant to CPR 3.4(2)(b) insofar as the statement of case is an abuse of the court’s process or is
otherwise likely to obstruct the just disposal of the proceedings.

They also pointed out that there was a clear conflict of interest as the IAS and Gladstones were run by the same body. A potential conflict of interest therefore exists between the Claimant’s Solicitors and their client. In effect the Claimant’s solicitors have the potential, to exert influence via their formulation of the appeals process and appointment of adjudicators (whose identities are deliberately withheld), over the extent to which appeals are allowed. This in turn is likely to have the consequence of generating more litigation for them to undertake on the IPC’s members behalves.

There is also the potential for the Claimant’s solicitors to compromise the supposed independence of the IAS to suit the broader interests of parking management companies who are both its clients and the members of the trade association it operates

C Limited sent an employee to the strike out hearing. PPML sent a man called Mr Blake, who introduced himself as a director even though he does not appear to be according to Companies House.

The hearing was short-lived.

The claim was struck out and variously described by District Judge Musgrave as 'poor', 'utterly hopeless and inadequate' and 'an abuse of process'. He did not require submissions in respect of the matters raised in C Limited's statement and the matters raised therein did not form the basis of his judgement.

PPML were ordered to pay £341 in costs.

Prankster Note

Hiring cheap shoddy solicitors does not always save money. If your solicitors believe that it is not financially viable to obey practice directions then you probably either need to change solicitors or not file the claim.

Parking & Property Management Limited - you've been Gladstoned!

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Thursday, 19 January 2017

UKPC cancel £1500 of residential charges

UKPC have cancelled a court claim and a number outstanding parking charges totaling £1500 against a resident, Mr L for parking in his designated parking bay.

This follows a long running battle to get the charges cancelled. The resident pointed out his tenancy agreement lease allowed him to park without restriction. SCS Law, acting for UKPC, demanded to see it. Mr L obliged. SCS Law responded 'There would be an additional clause for the management agency to state you need a permit pass'. This appeared to be either wishful thinking or the ability to read invisible ink. Mr L, unable to read invisible ink, could see no such clause.

Mr L. pointed out that the Management Agency had directed UKPC to cancel the charges. SCS Law refused as it was 'the legal stage'. Mr L pointed out the Management Agency had requested this before the claim was filed.

Eventually Mr L. sent a Letter Before Action to the Management Agency demonstrating they could be held liable as UKPC work on their behalf. The claim was magically cancelled.

Prankster Note

The only reason SCS Law don't cancel at the legal stage is so they can trouser more money from their client. In reality, courts expect parties to settle right up to the courtroom door.

Mr L now has a potential claim against UKPC for breach of the Data Protection Act for pursuing charges when none were lawful. He has 6 years to make his decision.

Mr L. has passed on the information and knowledge gained from this experience to other residents. The Prankster wonders how long UKPC will decide to remain once residents start suing in droves.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Resident counterclaims against UKPC for £1000. Score draw

UKPC v Mr McCarthy 15/12/2016 Luton

Mr McCarthy's vehicle was often to be found parked in common residential areas. This behaviour was allowable under his lease agreement. UKPC attempted to unilaterally impose new terms and conditions which Mr McCarthy ignored, resulting in the issue of a number of parking charges.

UKPC filed a claim for £840. Mr McCarthy filed a counter-claim for £1,000 for harassment.

The Hearing

The claim was partially dismissed and the counterclaim partially allowed. The judge awarded amounts which cancelled each other out.

Prankster Note

A score draw.

The Prankster suspects that if McCarthy had used different arguments it would have been a clear home win, and UKPC would have been sent packing. So next time, use 4-3-3, not 3-3-4.

An analysis of the legal issues around residential parking is here.

It is clear that parking companies have no idea of the laws which govern their own industry. This sad state of affairs has been compounded by unscrupulous shysters of the likes of Will Hurley and John Davies who cruelly convince parking companies they have a valid case, while actually the reverse is true. Instead of guiding the companies to be within the law, they actively encourage sharp practices and the issuing of tickets in situations where they cannot, in the Prankster's opinion, possibly be valid.

The case of ParkingEye v Beavis revealed that something like 80% of tickets are not valid. While not all of these will give rise to an enforceable claim against the parking company, it is likely that a good percentage will.

A total of 16 million keeper enquiries were made in 2015 and 9 million in the first half of 2016. Extrapolating these figures would mean that something like 29 million parking charges have been improperly issued over the last 2 years. If each driver managed to get £250 per ticket, this would mean that parking companies are in the hole for around £7 billion.

Claims can go back up to 6 years, which would mean the actual liability is substantially more.

Given that driverless cars may substantially alter the way we park over the coming years, The Prankster thinks that anyone investing in a parking company right now may be throwing their money away.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster