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Gladstone Solicitors sent a County Court Letter
in Parking tickets, fines & parking
41 replies 552 views
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Parallel Parking LTD
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1. The parking charges referred to in this claim did not arise from any agreement of terms. The charge and the claim was an unexpected shock. The Defendant denies that the Claimant is entitled to relief in the sum claimed, or at all. It is denied that any conduct by the driver was a breach of any prominent term and it is denied that this Claimant (understood to have a bare licence as managers) has standing to sue or form contracts in their own name. Liability is denied, whether or not the Claimant is claiming 'keeper liability', which is unclear from the Particulars.
The facts as known to the Defendant:
2. It is admitted that the Defendant was the registered keeper of the vehicle..
3. The defendant visited Cyan Park on the 14/08/2022 to purchase some car parts From Euro Car Parts. On arrival there was no parking outside Euro Car Parts so the defendant proceeded to wait in the car on double lines to wait for a parking space. The signage is very poor and Cyan Park is just off a 60mph Dual carriageway so when braking and turning of the exit the signs were not clear.
4. The facts in this defence come from the Defendant's own knowledge and honest belief. To pre-empt the usual template responses from this serial litigator: the court process is outside of the Defendant's life experience and they cannot be criticised for using, in part, pre-written wording suggested by a reliable online help resource. The Claimant is urged not to patronise the Defendant with (ironically template) unfounded accusations of not understanding their defence.
5. With regard to template statements, the Defendant observes after researching other parking claims, that the Particulars of Claim ('POC') set out a cut-and-paste incoherent statement of case. In breach of the pre-action protocol for 'Debt' Claims, no copy of the contract (sign) accompanied any Letter of Claim. The POC is sparse on facts and specific breach allegations, which makes it difficult to respond in depth at this time; however this claim is unfair, generic and inflated.
6. This Claimant continues to pursue a disproportionate fixed sum (routinely added per PCN) despite knowing that this is now likely to be confirmed as banned by the Government this year. It is denied that the purported 'damages' or 'debt fee' sought was incurred or is recoverable. Attention is drawn to paras 98, 100, 193, 198 of ParkingEye Ltd v Beavis  UKSC67. Also ParkingEye Ltd v Somerfield Stores Ltd ChD  EWHC 4023(QB) where the parking charge was £75, discounted to £37.50 for prompt payment. Whilst £75 was reasonable, HHJ Hegarty (sitting at the High Court; later ratified by the CoA) held in paras 419-428 that unspecified 'admin costs' inflating it to £135 'would appear to be penal'.
7. This finding is underpinned by the Government, who stated in 2022 that attempts to gild the lily by adding 'debt recovery costs' were 'extorting money'. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities ('DLUHC') published in February 2022, a statutory Code of Practice, found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/private-parking-code-of-practice
8. Whilst the new Code is temporarily stalled for a final Impact Assessment, it is anticipated that adding false costs/damages or 'fees' to enhance a parking charge claim is likely to remain banned. In a section called 'Escalation of costs' the (stalled but incoming in 2023) statutory Code of Practice says: "The parking operator must not levy additional costs over and above the level of a parking charge or parking tariff as originally issued."
9. The Code's Ministerial Foreword is unequivocal about abusive existing cases such as this claim: "Private firms issue roughly 22,000 parking tickets every day, often adopting a labyrinthine system of misleading and confusing signage, opaque appeals services, aggressive debt collection and unreasonable fees designed to extort money from motorists."
10. The DLUHC consulted for over two years, considering evidence from a wide range of stakeholders. Almost a fifth of all respondents to the 2021 Technical Consultation called for false fees to be scrapped altogether; this despite the parking industry flooding both public consultations, some even masquerading as consumers. Genuine consumer replies pointed out that successful debt recovery does not trigger court proceedings and the debt/robo-claim firms operate on a 'no win, no fee' basis, seeking to inflate these claims with 'costs/damages' in addition to the strictly capped legal fees the small claims track allows.
11. This Claimant has not incurred any additional costs (not even for reminder letters) because the parking charge more than covers what the Supreme Court in Beavis called an 'automated letter-chain' business model that generates a healthy profit. In Beavis, there were 4 or 5 letters including reminders. The parking charge was held to cover that work.
12. The driver did not agree to pay a parking charge, let alone these unknown costs, which were not quantified in prominent text on signage.
13. Whilst the new Code and Act is not retrospective, it was enacted due to the failure of the self-serving BPA & IPC Codes of Practice. The Minister is indisputably talking about existing (not future) cases when declaring that 'recovery' fees were 'designed to extort money'. A clear steer for the Courts which it is hoped overrides mistakes made in a few appeal cases that the parking industry desperately rely upon (Britannia v Semark-Jullien, One Parking Solution v Wilshaw, Vehicle Control Services v Ward and Vehicle Control Services v Percy).
14. Far from being persuasive, regrettably these one-sided appeals saw Circuit Judges led in one direction by Counsel for parking firms, and the litigant-in-person consumers lacked the wherewithal to appeal. In case this Claimant tries to rely upon these, the Defendant avers that errors were made in every case. Evidence was either overlooked (including signage discrepancies in Wilshaw, where the Judge was also oblivious to the BPA Code of Practice and the DVLA KADOE requirement for landowner authority) or the Judge inexplicably sought out and quoted from the wrong Code altogether (Percy). In Ward, a few seconds' emergency stop out of the control of the driver was unfairly aligned with the admitted parking contract in Beavis. Those learned Judges were not in possession of the same level of information as the DLUHC, whose incoming statutory Code of Practice now clarifies such matters as a definition of 'parking' as well as consideration and grace periods and minor matters such as 'keying errors' or 'fluttering tickets/permits' where a PCN should not have been issued at all, or should have been cancelled in the pre-action dispute phase.
POFA and CRA breaches
15. Pursuant to Schedule 4 paragraph 4(5) of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 ('the POFA') the sum claimed exceeds the maximum potentially recoverable from a registered keeper, even in cases where a firm may have complied with other POFA requirements (adequate signage, Notice to Keeper wording/dates, and a properly communicated 'relevant contract/relevant obligation'). If seeking keeper/hirer liability - unclear from the POC - the Claimant is put to strict proof of full compliance and liability transferred.
16. Claiming costs on an indemnity basis is unfair, per the Unfair Contract Terms Guidance (CMA37, para 5.14.3), the Government guidance on the Consumer Rights Act 2015 ('CRA'). The CRA introduced new requirements for 'prominence' of both contract terms and 'consumer notices'. In a parking context, this includes signage and all notices, letters and other communications intended to be read by the consumer.
17. Section 71 creates a duty upon courts to consider the test of fairness, including (but not limited to) whether all terms/notices were unambiguously and conspicuously brought to the attention of a consumer. Signage must be prominent, plentiful, well placed and lit, and all terms unambiguous and obligations clear. The Defendant avers that the CRA has been breached due to unfair/unclear terms and notices, pursuant to s62 and paying due regard to examples 6, 10, 14 & 18 of Schedule 2 and the requirements for fair/open dealing and good faith.
ParkingEye v Beavis is distinguished (lack of legitimate interest/prominence of terms)
18. ParkingEye overcame the possibility of their £85 charge being dismissed as punitive, however the Supreme Court clarified that ‘the penalty rule is plainly engaged’ in parking cases, which must each be determined on their own facts. That 'unique' case met a commercial justification test, and took into account the prominent yellow/black uncluttered signs with £85 in the largest/boldest text. Rather than causing other parking charges to be automatically justified, the Beavis case facts set a high bar that this Claimant has failed to reach.
19. Paraphrasing from the Supreme Court, deterrence is likely to be penal if there is a lack of a 'legitimate interest' in performance extending beyond the prospect of compensation flowing directly from the alleged breach. The intention cannot be to punish a driver, nor to present them with hidden terms, unexpected/cumbersome obligations nor 'concealed pitfalls or traps'.
20. In the present case, the Claimant has fallen foul of those tests. The Claimant’s small signs have vague/hidden terms and a mix of small font, and are considered incapable of binding a driver. Consequently, it remains the Defendant’s position that no contract to pay an onerous 'penalty' was seen or agreed. Binding Court of Appeal authorities which are on all fours with a case involving unclear terms and a lack of ‘adequate notice’ of a parking charge, include:
(i) Spurling v Bradshaw  1 WLR 461 (‘red hand rule’) and
(ii) Thornton v Shoe Lane Parking Ltd  EWCA Civ2,
both leading authorities confirming that a clause cannot be incorporated after a contract has been concluded; and
(ii) Vine v London Borough of Waltham Forest: CA 5 Apr 2000, where Ms Vine won because it was held that she had not seen the terms by which she would later be bound, due to "the absence of any notice on the wall opposite the parking space'' (NB: when parking operator Claimants cite Vine, they often mislead courts by quoting out of context, Roch LJ's words about the Respondent’s losing case, and not from the ratio).
21. Fairness and clarity of terms and notices are paramount in the statutory Code and this is supported by the BPA & IPC Trade Bodies. In November 2020's Parking Review, solicitor Will Hurley, CEO of the IPC, observed: "Any regulation or instruction either has clarity or it doesn’t. If it’s clear to one person but not another, there is no clarity. The same is true for fairness. Something that is fair, by definition, has to be all-inclusive of all parties involved – it’s either fair or it isn’t. The introduction of a new ‘Code of Practice for Parking’ provides a wonderful opportunity to provide clarity and fairness for motorists and landowners alike."
Lack of standing or landowner authority, and lack of ADR
22. DVLA data is only supplied to pursue parking charges if there is an agreement flowing from the landholder (ref: KADOE rules). It is not accepted that this Claimant (an agent of a principal) has authority from the landowner to issue charges in this place in their own name. The Claimant is put to strict proof that they have standing to make contracts with drivers and litigate in their own name.
23. The Claimant failed to offer a genuinely independent Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). The Appeals Annex in the new incoming statutory Code shows that genuine disputes such as this would see the charge cancelled, had a fair ADR existed. Whether or not a person engaged with it, the Claimant's consumer blame culture and reliance upon the industry's own 'appeals service' should not sway the court into a belief that a fair appeal was ever on offer. The rival Trade Bodies' time-limited and opaque 'appeals' services fail to properly consider facts or rules of law and reject almost any dispute: e.g. the IAS upheld appeals in a woeful 4% of decided cases (IPC's 2020 Annual Report).
24. The claim is entirely without merit. The Defendant believes that it is in the public interest that claims like this should be struck out because knowingly enhanced parking claims like this one cause consumer harm on a grand scale.
25. There is ample evidence to support the view - long held by many District Judges - that these are knowingly exaggerated claims. For HMCTS to only disallow those costs in the tiny percentage of cases that reach hearings whilst other claims to continue to flood the courts unabated, is to fail hundreds of thousands of consumers who suffer CCJs or pay inflated amounts, in fear of intimidating pre-action threats.
26. In the matter of costs, the Defendant asks:
(a) at the very least, for standard witness costs for attendance at Court, pursuant to CPR 27.14, and
(b) for a finding of unreasonable conduct by this Claimant, seeking costs pursuant to CPR 46.5.
27. Attention is drawn specifically to the (often-seen from this industry) distinct possibility of an unreasonably late Notice of Discontinuance. Whilst CPR r.38.6 states that the Claimant is liable for the Defendant's costs after discontinuance (r.38.6(1)) this does not normally apply to claims allocated to the small claims track (r.38.6(3)). However, the White Book states (annotation 38.6.1): "Note that the normal rule as to costs does not apply if a claimant in a case allocated to the small claims track serves a notice of discontinuance although it might be contended that costs should be awarded if a party has behaved unreasonably (r.27.14(2)(dg))."
Statement of Truth
I believe that the facts stated in this defence are true. I understand that proceedings for contempt of court may be brought against anyone who makes, or causes to be made, a false statement in a document verified by a statement of truth without an honest belief in its truth.
..."wait in the car on double lines to wait for a parking space."
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".....so when braking and turning (off) of the exit the signs were not clear."
It wouldn't be usual to say the Defendant was waiting for a space if the Defendant was a passenger, would it?
defending as registered keeper and driver