What the Dickens is going on? Today The Prankster tells the story of two motorists who went to court on the same day, defending claims from ParkingEye. Both motorists had broadly similar defences, but the outcome was completely different.
In Stoke-on-Trent, Mrs Rodgers, turned up for a hearing along with a friend to act as Lay Representative. They had prepared carefully, studying the information on The parking Prankster website, and the two guides published by The Prankster. They also has useful information provided by Phil from parkingticketappeals, and a small rainforest worth of paperwork. They went into the hearing with some degree of trepidation as neither had any prior experience of civil litigation.
Mrs Rodgers firmly believed she never actually parked in the car park in question. She drove through it an parked outside the boundaries. ParkingEye operate a flawed system which only covers the designated entrances and exits. if a vehicle drives through the car park and parks elsewhere, then their systems cannot cope. This is not an isolated incident and The Prankster has reported on similar cases in the past.
The Guardian had previously run a story on her plight. The defence team prepared themselves for the fight...they were in court for 10 minutes and neither of them said a word.
The judge laid into ParkingEye's lawyer (a very pleasant young lady from LPC Law) demanding to be shown evidence that ParkingEye were authorised by the landlord (Eurogarages) to make a charge of £100. There wasa copy of ParkingEye's contract with Eurogarages in ParkingEye's bundle of evidence, but it was heavily redacted and did not include the amount of charge. [Prankster's note; why do ParkingEye redact this? It is hardly secret, being platester all over their signs...unless of course the contract states a different amount!] It was also in very small blue print, fuzzy and virtually unreadable. ParkingEye's lawyer produced a copy which she had enlarged on a computer, but this was only of a small portion of the contact. In addition, it referred to Schedules which were not attached to the contract and which the lawyer did not have copies of.
There were also a series of emails with names redacted which had been submitted by ParkingEye after the filing date. These apparently gave ParkingEye permission to increase the charge from £90 to £100. ParkingEye's lawyer did not have a copy of these documents with her, but offered to show the judge on her i-Phone.
The judge commented that there was no witness statement referring to this new documentation and no statement of truth. He concluded there was no proper evidence before him that ParkingEye were ever authorised to charge £90. If it was then changed to £100 he would expect it in a proper form containing a statement of truth. The documentation supplied was not sufficient evidence for the court. If the original agreement was not redacted or was in statement form, this may have been acceptable, but today he was being asked to decide on the basis of a blanked out document.
The judge dismissed the case.
As Mrs Rodgers is self-employed he decided not to allow any expenses for loss of earnings, but did allow travel and parking.
Afterwards, the defendants spoke to ParkingEye's solicitor about the case. She admitted that the same judge had thrown out a ParkingEye case recently on the same grounds, but on that occasion had heard the case all the way through before throwing it out. This time, he seemed to have decided to speed things up.
Mrs Rodgers and her friend sent their thanks to The Prankster and Phil for their help, although as it turns out it was not needed.
This was in Pontypridd, which currently is a bit of a graveyard for motorists. There do seem to be isolated courts where it is very difficult to get a judgment in the motorist's favour, no matter how poor a case the parking company come up with.
In this particular case, ParkingEye v Mrs A, ParkingEye had been served two different copies of the 'Reply to Defence'. The copy they included in their court bundle was different to the copy originally served.
Mrs A turned up at court with another forest worth of paper. She got the feeling very early on that the judge wasn't really interested in what she had to say or point out. The judge accepted the witness statements from Jonathan Langham and the landowner despite the problems with them and the non-compliance with practice directions and the fact they ware admitted to be generic. She paid no heed to the fact that no contract was available and no accounts were available.
Mrs A repeated put the point that no contract had been produced. She also explained the signage was not there at the time of the parking event. However, the judge believed the witness statement saying the signs were there.
The LPC Law advocate tried to introduce a print-out from pepipoo, but Mrs A pointed out this had not been filed with her, and so this was not allowed.
The judge upheld the claim, citing VCS v HMRC as this was at appeal and higher than ParkingEye v Sharma. [Prankster's note; this has since been refuted by ParkingEye v Somerfield, which is of equal standing to VCSv HMRC] She cited ParkingEye v Shelley [Prankster's note; all major points in this case have since been refuted by other cases involving the contract (The Range). The signage was found to be ambiguous in PE v Lemon and Harris, the contract was found to be not in place by PE v Walkden, and the charge was found to be a penalty in PE v Clarke]. Finally she cited CPS v Collier , which was also a Pontypridd case [Prankster note; this case is unsafe because the judgment relied on fact which have since proved to be false; namely that ParkingEye's average cost per ticket issued is £53; that the Department of Transport approved the charge of £100; that the British Parking Association approved the charge of £100. The judge also errer in law in ruling that the charge for breach of contrct could contain an element of 47% profit]
She said that if you park on private land then the onus is on the driver to familiarise themselves with the rules of the car park.
Mrs A pointed out that despite this, she enjoyed herself, and although ParkingEye were awarded £190 they will have to accept £5 a month like everyone else as she is on a Debt Management Plan.
Mrs A also felt that the judge was too accepting of the Collier case because that was also held at Pontypridd. However, this is sadly normal human behaviour, and to be expected.
The moral of the story is that the small claims court is a bit of a lottery. Clarity might come after the test case in Cambridge; but then again, it might not. ParkingEye have cleverly conducted that case in a way which they can argue it is not the same as most of their car parks if they lose; but the same argument also holds for motorists.
The Prankster maintains the best way to win at court is never to get there in the first place. Always appeal Parking Tickets, then appeal again to POPLA. If you cannot, then engage the parking company in dialogue, and try and either negotiate an acceptable settlement or get the landowner to cancel. If this doesn't work, go to court with the best defence you can.
The Parking Prankster