Mr Griffiths car got a windscreen ticket from Local Parking Security Ltd, a British Parking Association member - it was £60 discounted to £40.
This is a breach of the British Parking Association Code of Practice which requires a 40% discount.
Mr Griffiths therefore contacted the DVLA to point out that breach (and others). He pointed out that under their own publicly stated policy - which requires membership of an Accredited Trade Association (ATA) and compliance with their Code of Practice - that the DVLA had no reasonable cause or legal basis under which to release his keeper data.
The DVLA released his data anyway.
The windscreen ticket did not comply with the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 and so LPS were in any event not able to chase the keeper. This did not stop them and LPS set their debt collecting dogs after Mr Griffiths as the Registered Keeper
Mr Griffiths complained to the DVLA, and when he had no joy, escalated the complaint, which means the complaint is decided by an Independent Complaints Assessor (lCA). Jonathan Wigmore was assigned as the ICA.
The ICA's report, was highly critical of the DVLA's handling of this whole sorry affair. He recommended the DVLA apologise and pay Mr Griffiths £75 in compensation.
Some choice extracts are as follows.
Paragraph 21 shows how the DVLA attempted to hide relevant correspondence from the ICA – this is a breach of the Civil Service Code of Conduct
On 29 May I asked the DVLA to send me all the documents in line with its usual process and on 6 June the Agency told me I had been sent all the documents it had. On 9 June I wrote back contrasting the inventory of correspondence on the referral form with the partial disclosure made to me and asking a series of questions. Further documents were provided on 17 June but gaps still existed leading me to approach you on 19 June, copied to the Agency. This prompted a further disclosure that day from the Agency but documents remained outstanding, as I outlined to you in my email of 20 June. We agreed that your case would be deferred pending your return from abroad but I felt I had enough to produce an initial draft which I referred to the Agency on 17 July. On 18 July you told me you would provide the missing documents so I asked the Agency to disregard my draft. After my holiday, on 6 August, I referred a new draft to the DVLA
Paragraph 29; the ICA confirms that the DVLA does not have sufficient safeguards in place
It should also be remembered that the BPA’s undertakings which the Agency relayed to you on 14 March, such as they were, were the first you had heard about enforcement action against LPS since the DVLA’s 11 November 2013 request that the BPA respond to the DVLA and you. (And you had needed to chase the DVLA after an 11 week lapse in communications.) The Agency’s slack handling of the correspondence with you and the BPS resembled anything but a “tough safeguard”.
Paragraph 33 confirms the DVLA have a policy of being useless and thus when they are useless they are policy compliant.
DVLA policy is to disclose keeper data to selected agencies unless it has a ground to think that reasonable cause does not apply. That policy was followed in your case and I am unable to find against the Agency where it has followed its policy. I therefore cannot uphold your complaint that the DVLA should not have disclosed your data. However, I have expressed concern at the robustness of the DVLA’s oversight in this case.
Paragraph 35 is the one to continually remind the ICA about on all future complaints. We know that the DVLA will behave like the ICO following Levison’s criticism. Once Levison put everything to bed the ICO reverted to form – so will the DVLA.
I welcome these developments, in particular the commitment of the Agency to ensure that complaints and other sources of intelligence will inform its oversight of compliance with the disclosure conditions it has applied. I am sure that this will tighten up code compliance on the part of companies like LPS.
Paragraph 37 – the same applies to the standards set out in the civil service code of conduct which the DVLA appears to treat with disdain
The applicable PHSO standards include:
“Public bodies should do what they say they are going to do. If they make a commitment to do something, they should keep to it, or explain why they cannot. They should meet their published service standards, or let customers know if they cannot.”
Paragraph 38 – they are doing the same with Proserve. They say they are doing something, in the hope that complaints go away, and then they file and forget. The Prankster is experiencing similar stalling tactics regarding his complaint over the IPC appeals system.
Looking first at the DVLA’s responses to your correspondence, it is clear that having been very responsive to your initial concerns in November 2013, your case dropped off the Agency’s radar as soon as you stopped corresponding. If the Agency pushed the BPA to look into your concerns after its 11 November 2013 referral, nothing was communicated to you until you pushed. Almost three months would pass with nothing happening at all (apart from LPS being allowed to access your data) despite an undertaking that a manager would review your case.
Paragraph 40” While I have been critical of the Agency’s apparent acceptance of the BPA’s approach to enforcing its Code” – A useful expression for other complaints.
While I have been critical of the Agency’s apparent acceptance of the BPA’s approach to enforcing its Code, I feel that a reasonable effort was made here to cover the points you had put to the DVLA
Paragraph 43 is almost unbelievable “The Agency also knew from an early stage that I was approaching you direct so my view is that no advantage could come from resisting disclosure deliberately. On balance I find that the Agency’s undoubted poor administration fell short of maladministration." There is a hint here that the ICA accepts that the DVLA was resisting disclosure but without criticising the DVLA. How he can say that there was no maladministration beggars belief. A failure to disclose must be maladministration in itself.
As I have stated, the erratic and piecemeal disclosure of information in your case is completely uncharacteristic of the DVLA. I acknowledge your view that this is part and parcel of a deliberate approach designed to thwart your complaint. However, I also note that some of the documents I have struggled to obtain, for example the DVLA’s letter of 28 March, represented clear and timely statements of the Agency’s position. The Agency also knew from an early stage that I was approaching you direct so my view is that no advantage could come from resisting disclosure deliberately. On balance I find that the Agency’s undoubted poor administration fell short of maladministration.
Paragraph 45 “I recommend that, in its response to this review, the DVLA provides you with an inventory of all the documents it holds in relation to your case together with an explanation of why it has struggled to provide them to me.” Then what? So, they give the list and say “We just couldn't be bothered to help you because we think all complainants are daft buggers” and they are not penalised for that? No, the ICA has made an error here and is a matter for the Ombudsman to consider. So far, no inventory or reasons have been supplied.
I recommend that, in its response to this review, the DVLA provides you with an inventory of all the documents it holds in relation to your case together with an explanation of why it has struggled to provide them to me.
Paragraph 46 “Concluding, the issue of real concern to me here is the lack of evidence of vigilance in the DVLA’s dealings with the BPA “ Again, this should be quoted in all complaints so that this lack of vigilance becomes evidenced as a norm in the DVLA to build up the picture to the ICA/Ombudsman. There also needs to be a timescale for the bullet points to be implemented with names of those responsible for ensuring that these matters are properly implemented and monitored. Again the ICA talks of code compliance being delegated to the BPA. The ICA is saying that code compliance is the province of the DVLA to monitor and investigate but that it has delegated it to the BPA. The principles of delegation in the public sector still mean that the party delegating it is legally responsible for it. I wonder if the ICA realises what he has said? Perhaps he is correct and has revealed what we have maintained for so long but which the DVLA has sought to deny/hide?
Concluding, the issue of real concern to me here is the lack of evidence of vigilance in the DVLA’s dealings with the BPA in this case and the lack of credibility of the assurances it relayed to you on 14 March. The existence of a well-oiled process in the Agency for dealing with complaints about code compliance by private parking operators accessing vehicle keeper data has not been evident to me in your case. However, it seems to me that such a process should underpin the Agency's assurance to the public about its disclosures of keeper details to private companies. I would expect such a process to include:
A clear arrangement with the ATA for complaints which engage code policing and compliance to be investigated and responded to within a set timescale
A statement of how the DVLA is assured that the tough safeguards delegated to the ATA are working effectively
An explanation of how evidence of code breaches is handled by the DVLA.
Paragraph 47 it must be from the CEO and not a subordinate. Watch the CEO change this “oversight of ATAs’ response to complaints “ to “ about the ATAs’ response to complaints about private parking companies.”. The DVLA’s responsibility, oversight and monitoring will disappear. When it does the ICA should be notified. In fact the ICA should be asked to add to his report that he will act as an arbiter of the DVLA’s response to this report to ensure that the DVLA properly corrects the failings revealed in this report. Without that independent view the DVLA can just whitewash. So far the CEO of the DVLA has done nothing.
Finally therefore, with the above in mind, I recommend that in his response to this review, the CEO of the DVLA sets out how the Agency has responded to complaints from you and other people about its oversight of ATAs’ response to complaints about private parking companies.
I recommend that the CEO of the DVLA apologises to you for the lapses I have identified and offers you a payment of £75 in recognition of the Agency’s poor administration which, as well as stalling at the local stage, occasioned a delay of at least three months in my review and further time and effort on your part in preparing a document set for me.
Mr Griffiths did indeed received a cheque from the DVLA but it came on it's own; no note, no covering letter, no suitable apology from Oliver Morely, just a cheque in an envelope. This speaks volumes about the mindset of the DVLA hierarchy and what they think of consumer complaints - it was a deliberate snub, designed and intended to show complete and utter disrespect.
Meanwhile it is the view of Mr Griffiths that the ICA has allowed the DVLA to mislead him over the critical issue regarding compliance with the Code of Practice and he is in the process of referring his complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.
The DVLA employs several people whose job it is to run interference with motorists genuine complaints and to protect the bonuses of high level DVLA employees who rely on the income from private parking companies to meet their bonus targets.
These employees are only exposed when tenacious people like Mr Griffiths are prepared to devote time and energy to pursuing complaints.
The Prankster recommends that complainants refuse to be fobbed off, and that they continue to escalate complaints to the ICA. Only if this happens will the deadwood in the DVLA be removed and genuine civil servants acting for the public appointed.
The Parking Prankster