This tale starts some time ago - in fact, back in January 2013. The motorist was issued 2 parking charge notices by Premier Park. He appealed them, and when his appeal was rejected he appealed them again to POPLA.
POPLA rejected his appeals on 30th May 2013 and 19 July 2013, both of which were a surprise to the motorist as he never received any evidence packs from the parking company. This is a procedural error, because the motorist is required to receive these packs within 28 days of making the appeal, and then has 7 days to make further representations to POPLA.
The motorist therefore appealed both results to POPLA on procedural grounds, and asked for the case to be re-opened, the evidence packs sent to him, and the right of further representations to be had.
Meanwhile Premier Park instructed Trethowans who wrote to the motorist saying they would begin legal proceedings if he did not pay. The motorist replied that the POPLA result was under review.
There then followed a large number of letters to and fro, with Trethowans asking the motorist to pay, the motorist saying the case was still under review, and the motorist chasing POPLA to see the status of the review.
Eventually, despite being informed the case was still under review, Trethowans filed a court claim on 2nd December, without following the correct pre-court protocol by sending a letter before claim.
On the 4th December, the motorist finally received a letter from the lead adjudicator of POPLA agreeing to re-open the first case and giving a hearing date of 18 December.
With the help of The Prankster, the motorist therefore drafted a defence stating that the cases were still under review by POPLA, that Trethowans had filed the claim despite being informed of this, and without sending a letter before claim. The motorist further stated that the first case was due to be reheard on 18 December and the second was still in POPLA's administrative backlog. The motorist asked for the claim to be stayed for POPLA to complete the process, after which time he would file a defence
Exeter County Court recommended a stay of 3 months to allow the POPLA hearing to progress.
The motorist made his representations, the case was reassessed, and on 17th February POPLA upheld the first appeal on the grounds the charge was not a genuine pre-estimate of loss.
The motorist wrote to Trethowans asking them to drop the claim as they had no prospect of success, and that he believed the court would regard their behaviour as unreasonable if they continued.
After more emails to POPLA and a formal complaint the motorist finally got confirmation on 21st March 2014 that the second case was being re-opened and would be held on 8th April. The motorist sent his representations on 1st April, but these were rejected because the POPLA code was not valid. Luckily, the motorist received a second email on the same day saying the POPLA code was valid after all and this was an administrative error.
The case was finally reassessed on 23rd May 2014 and POPLA upheld the appeal on the grounds that...the charge was not a genuine pre-estimate of loss. No surprises there then!
The motorist is now waiting for formal confirmation from Trethowans that the claim has been discontinued.
The good news is that POPLA finally did the right thing. The bad news is that it took 3 days shy of a year to do it, and 4 months to decide to reopen the second case on exactly the same grounds as the first case.
It is a simple matter for POPLA to decide. If the motorist does not receive the evidence pack, then they are allowed the hearing to be re-opened.
Any motorist not receiving their evidence pack within 28 days should email POPLA informing them of this and asking for the appeal to be upheld as the evidence pack has not been provided in time.
In an ideal world POPLA would be responsible for sending the evidence pack to the motorist. They could then keep records around this. Sadly, in order to save money, they have decided not to do this but to leave the job to the parking companies, some of whom take advantage by sending evidence packs late or not sending them at all.
Companies such as CP Plus and Highview, for instance, regularly lie to POPLA and say they have sent evidence packs when they have not; the Prankster has personally experienced this several times.
The situation is therefore not ideal. As POPLA do not publish the procedure on their web site there are no doubt many motorists who have lost appeals at POPLA, but who never received evidence packs, or received them too late, and who do not realise that they can have their appeals re-heard.
Trethowans do not exactly come out of this covered in glory either. For a company that take a large number of motorists to court you would think they could string together some form of compliant Letter Before Claim by now. And rather than trousering the money from their client, churning out letters and filing court claims it turns out it would have been more prudent and cheaper for Premier Park to wait for the POPLA process to finish.
The Parking Prankster