Parking tickets are the bane of every driver’s life.
Many of us who drive have fallen victim to them at some time or other – and often they are fair. But at times they are downright wrong.
This story is about appealing a parking ticket issued by a private parking company.
The process for appealing a council issued parking ticket differs to that of a private firm and will be covered another time.
The Consumer Fightback column reveals how you can appeal against unfair parking tickets
Phoebe’s parking ticket nightmare
Phoebe contacted me about the case of an incorrectly issued private parking ticket dating back three years. Phoebe’s eldest son Finn owned the car and his brother Alex borrowed it in December 2015.
He booked a hotel room for a night in Norwich and paid for a parking bay through bookmybay.com a website run by National Parking Enforcement (NPE).
A few days later Finn received a Parking Charge Notice (PCN) for £60 from NPE. Finn returned the Driver Identification Form naming Alex as the driver and Alex appealed the ticket by emailing the booking and payment evidence. So that was that.
Or it should have been…
On January 2016 Alex received notification that the charge had been correctly applied, Phoebe’s family ignored it. In May, Finn received a letter from Debt Recovery Plus (DRP) demanding £160. Alex wrote sending his evidence again.
Two weeks later DRP again wrote to Finn demanding £160, Alex again sent his evidence.
Two weeks after that Finn received a demand for £136 from DRP, Alex wrote to NPE. On October 2016, Zenith Collections (the same company as DRP) demanded £80 and NPE was again sent the information.
Out of the blue, in October 2019, three whole years later, Credit Investigation Services (CIS) wrote to Finn demanding £160 and three days later Finn received another letter from NPE demanding £160.
With both her sons, Alex and Finn, out of the country, Phoebe turned to me for help.
After looking at the details, I advised Phoebe to email the whole log and evidence to NPE and the debt collecting agencies. DRP wrote to say that they were no longer processing the data relating to the charge, so had removed it.
However, that was the first debt collector. The second, CIS, sent Finn another letter demanding £160 and threatened to recommend legal action if they didn’t receive payment within seven days.
Phoebe’s son received a letter demanding £160 and threatening legal action (stock image)
I advised Phoebe to email everyone again. This time she forwarded the emails sent to the owners of NPE and CIS to the office email and also sent printouts by recorded delivery.
Still there was no response from anyone. The rudeness and ignorance shown by these companies towards Phoebe was truly unbelievable.
Next stage in complaint process
I advised Phoebe to contact the International Parking Community (IPC) which administers the Independent Appeals Service; an adjudication service for motorists seeking redress where a Parking Charge Notice (PCN) has been issued by a parking operator who is a member of the IPC’s Accredited Operator Scheme.
It took a whole month for the IPC to deal with the issue and on 11 December 2019 it replied to say that the operator apologised for the delay in dealing with the complaint, acknowledged their errors and stated that the transfer of liability was not actioned due to an administrative error.
It did not explain or apologise for ignoring recorded delivery letters sent to the CEO, nor has Phoebe received that apology.
NPE appear to claim that, due to an administrative error, the notification of driver details was not actioned but NPE instructed DPE and Zenith to write to Alex, then when CIS were brought on board NPE had instructed them to write to Finn.
So although the matter had been resolved, we continued to fight. Phoebe wrote to complain again to the IPC on principle and in the hope that it would prevent others being treated this way.
However, despite writing on the 11 December 2019 and chasing, she has not had a reply.
To date IPC has still not received any reply from its member company.
The DVLA allows access to its car owner database for members of the IPC as well as the BPA
Making a ‘subject access request’
Whilst we were waiting for IPC to respond I advised Phoebe to undertake a Subject Access Request (SAR). This is a ‘right of access’ to personal information.
A company must inform you if it has any stored personal information on you and provide copies when you make a SAR. She made an SAR to DRP.
The first response from CIS was written in such poor English that it didn’t make sense! And it was backdated to September 2019. Phoebe had requested the information in October 2019 and received the response on 11 November 2019.
This showed that personal details of the vehicle owner had incorrectly been passed to the debt collection company, in breach of the General Data Protection Regulations.
The NPE’s response of 5 December 2019 provided the SAR information and also confirmed that the charge had been cancelled.
Let’s be clear, it was the SAR that resulted in the dropping of the incorrect charge.
Get help with your problem
Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow, writes This is Money’s Consumer Fight Back column.
Helen is the author of best-seller How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! and runs The Complaining Cow blog.
Helen can help with your consumer complaints. Rather than do all the work for you, she will empower you to gain refunds, repairs, replacements or improved service by explaining how to complain and get results.
Helen Dewdney runs The Complaining Cow site and has written a best-selling book – she is here to help This is Money readers
If you have a problem you need help solving, please email [email protected] with Consumer Fight Back in the subject line, include a short paragraph about your issue – if we need more details we will get in touch.
If the company fails to act, she will ask them why and what they plan to do.
The parking organisation’s response
I attempted to get a statement from the IPC which addressed all issues below. I asked for this several times over a month:
1) Regarding the parking company’s lack of contact information, in breach of the IPC Code
2) The inability for anyone to contact NPE or CIS, other than to pay, another clear breach of the rules which continues, despite the new IPC Code
3) Repeated requests for the IPC to contact the company to explain the issues and provide a statement (it seems impossible for anyone to contact them)
4) That Phoebe had contacted the IPC on 11 December 2019 and has still not received a reply, despite chasing twice
The IPC CEO Will Hurley eventually, and after the deadline, replied, not answering any of the issues and leaving consumers with little faith in the IPC Code or anything else!
He said that NPE is required to have an internal appeals process which if rejected can end with the IPC.
He was pleased that the matter had been found in the motorist’s favour after following the appeals process. This was not correct.
It was the request for the SAR that resulted in the cancellation of the charge before the IPC responded, as follows: ‘Since 2015 processes have evolved and improved. We acknowledge there will always be errors and mistakes.
‘What is important is that motorists have the ability to appeal or complain to the car park operators and where the matter is not resolved they have the ability to have the matter escalated.’
Pay: Motorists are able to now buy parking tickets online, as opposed to just physical tickets
The CEO offered me a meeting to discuss my concerns but frankly what is the point? He has so far absolutely refused to answer the questions I posed, so why would meeting him be any different?
I asked IPC several times to obtain a statement from NPE, given that it was impossible to contact them, despite the IPC’s assurances. They did not do so. I tried with the one email address that is provided for enquiries and predictably got no response.
What about the DVLA?
The DVLA is complicit in the parking shark business. It allows access to its car owner database for members of the IPC and British Parking Association (BPA). This allows companies to write to car owners about alleged ‘debts’ for parking.
Is this simply a money making exercise for the DVLA?
The latest Which? research shows that the 10 major private parking companies operating in Britain revoked at least 33 per cent of the 14.7million charges they issued in the last four years and that the majority of people pay up after being harassed.
This figure for wrongly applied charges is huge. If the DVLA refused to give out these details, motorists would not be wrongly charged millions of pounds a year.
A spokesperson for the DVLA said that the fees they charge are merely to recover costs and that it has robust procedures in place to ensure data sharing activities comply with data protection law, specifically ‘Regulation 27 of The Road Vehicles (Registration and Licensing) Regulations 2002 allows vehicle keeper details to be disclosed to third parties in various circumstances.’
Their statement goes on to say that ‘Local Authorities and Private Landowners would have great difficulty in applying parking restrictions if there was no way of following up alleged breaches.’
Challenging a parking charge
It would appear that many of the companies in this sector have one simple business model. Grind people down, ignore evidence and just keep going until people pay up.
Do not stand for it. Here are some tips for how to protect yourself and how to complain if you receive an incorrect charge.
1) Keep evidence of payment. All of it. The actual payment, so screenshot a payment acknowledgement, the bank transfer/credit card statement etc. Keep the receipt. As you can see from the story above, keep all these details forever.
2) When the charge comes from the company, follow their appeals process. This will usually be an appeal internally. Then, if they are a member of either the BPA or IPC, you can appeal to one of those organisations.
3) If the firm is not a member, it cannot get your details from the DVLA which means they can’t take you to court if you don’t pay. Don’t write to the firm as it will then have the address details it needs to pursue you.
4) The firm sending you the charge usually won’t be the landowner, so you could also write to the landowner. So, for example, if the landowner is a supermarket you could try a two prong attack and write to the manager of the store as well as to the parking firm.
5) You can appeal on a number of things. As in this example, the clear defence is that you already paid for parking! Other possible defences include: poor signage (take photos as evidence), broken pay and display machine (again take photo at the time with date and time shown), you broke down, there was an emergency or that the car owner details recorded are incorrect.
The lack of explanation for this catalogue of errors from any company involved, and lack of help or any apology, is incredible. It remains to be seen if there will be improvements following the introduction of the IPC’s new Code of Practice.
I’ll believe it only when I see a real reduction in complaints about these appalling companies and their dubious activities.
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