Letter before claim - Hire Car
Hi – looking for advice regarding a reply to a Letter of Claim from UKPC (appears to be served via their in-house litigation team).
I believe their case (and practices) would get eviscerated in court but would prefer to have it discontinued before that point if possible! In particular, I’d like to know whether the specifics of the case (hire vehicle, code of practice breaches) should have any bearing on my reply, and the best method through which to request all relevant documentation, as I think some of the guidance around SAR on the Newbies thread has recently changed (or been removed)? I have just under a fortnight remaining to respond to the letter of claim. A short timeline is as follows:
May: Made aware of a windscreen parking charge
notice for “Vehicle owner/driver left site” in a time period where I was
the hirer of the vehicle in question. The evidence submitted in the
appeals portal contained pictures of the car parked
legitimately, and a photo of an arbitrary individual on some steps
minutes after the ticket issuance. It’s not clear whether UKPC ever
believed this person was related to the car in any way (they weren’t),
and the charge notice appears to have been issued
June: In accordance with the Newbies thread advice, I submitted an appeal to acknowledge my standing as the vehicle’s hirer and keeper per POFA, providing my contact details, declining to name the driver, and questioning the validity and legality of the notice issued. No NtK or NtH has ever been received. I also sent an email to the landowner, but never received a response.
July: After 28 days, UKPC email a request to name the driver, and to submit the information of the registered keeper. As they had clearly not read my appeal submission, I disregarded this. The timeline for an appeal decision (per UKPC and the BPA code of conduct) elapses, and I assume they have acknowledged the spurious nature of the charge notice and given up.
July: More than 50 days after my appeal submission, UPKC email to uphold their view that the charge was correctly issued. As I had already assumed the case was closed, I only noticed this communication well after the POPLA window would have passed.
Dec: UKPC issue a Letter of Claim via their “Litigation Team”, following the Pre-Action Protocol for Debt claims.
I’m aware I could have had this quashed at an earlier opportunity if I had noticed the appeal decision within a timeframe to submit to POPLA, but was caught out by UKPC not sticking to their own process. So… I am aware that the advice at this point was to ignore the reply form, and draft an independent letter. The PAP itself states that:
(4.2) If the debtor indicates that they are seeking debt advice, the creditor must allow the debtor a reasonable period for the advice to be obtained. In any event, the creditor should not start court proceedings less than 30 days from receipt of the completed Reply Form or 30 days from the creditor providing any documents requested by the debtor, whichever is the later.
Seeing as Box D (“I dispute the debt”) carries no obligation to fill out the Financial Statement or disclose finances (unlike eg Box F), it seems to me that selecting Box D and submitting document requests would give the same outcome as a separate email – and being fully aligned with the PAP process, may be viewed more favourably if this does go to court?
Either as the supplementary content for Box D on the PAP, or as a separate letter, I intend to outline the inadmissibility of the charge and the process breaches of UKPC, on the basis that they might (?) realise this is a futile exercise. This also seems like the best time to accrue all the information they have – is there any reason why a separate SAR request to the DPO is no longer advised on the Newbies thread, or should I do this in addition to the request for documentation below?
In summary, 3 questions!
- How’s the below draft?
- Is there any harm in using the PAP reply form (Box D, "I dispute the debt", no financial statement, attached letter), rather than sending the letter separately?
- Should I submit a separate SAR to the UKPC Data Protection Officer, given that they appear to be pursuing this internally and should have to provide me with the documentation under the Pre-Action Protocol and their own code of practice?
Happy to provide any of the original documentation – eg, if it’s worth checking neither of the letters they sent out constitute a Notice to Keeper, or if you’d like to see my original appeal statement (submitted to ensure the car hire company didn’t pay up as Keeper)
Draft PAP response
I refer to your Letter of Claim. The alleged debt is disputed and court proceedings will be vigorously defended.
In accordance with the Pre-Action Protocol for Debt Claims, I submit requests for documents and further information outlined in detail below. Per the protocol (PAP section 5.2), you will respond to these requests within 30 days, and will not commence proceedings sooner than 30 days following your complete response to these requests.
I require explicit response to each of the following points and sub-points:
1. I require copies of all documentation related to the Claim (XXXXX) and Charge reference number (XXXXX) prior to the Letter of Claim dated [date]. This includes, but is not limited to:
1.1 Information contained in original Parking Charge Notice (NoPC)
1.2 Any and all photographic evidence relating to the NoPC, as obligated by the BPA Code of Conduct (Section 23.3)
1.3 Information hosted and provided to relevant parties on the UKPC appeals portal in relation to the NoPC, including evidence submitted by UKPC at the time
1.4 Appeal submission data, including appeal submission content and accompanying letter (submitted [date])
1.5 Copies of UKPC responses to appeal submission (dated [date1] [date2])
1.6 Confirmation that 1.1-1.5 above comprises all documentation and communications relevant to this matter
2. Given that the appeal submission (1.4) contained explicit definition of my role as vehicle hirer in relation to this NoPC, I require an explanation of the grounds on which you are continuing to pursue any alleged debt, given that no Notice to Keeper or Notice to Hirer were received, and no keeper or hirer liability were correspondingly invoked. Doing so intentionally is in contravention of POFA Schedule 4 (Paragraphs 4, 6, 8, 13, 14) and the BPA Code of Conduct (Section 21.2)
3. An explanation of how the photographs submitted in supporting evidence of the NoPC “confirm the incident which you claim was unauthorised”, as required under the BPA Code of Conduct (Section 21.5a)
4. An explanation as to why the appeals outcome notification was issued over 50 days after the appeals submission, but only 21 days after an initial request (for information already provided within the appeal submission), in multiple contraventions of the BPA Code of Conduct. Under the BPA Code of Conduct (Section 23.8), “It is acknowledged that in exceptional circumstances, an investigation into an appeal may take longer than 35 days after such information has been received and in these instances the motorist must be advised accordingly and given a date by which they can expect a resolution. If this date cannot be achieved then the motorist must be written to again and a revised resolution date agreed. We may require you to demonstrate that you are keeping to these times”
5. A proposal as to how, given that the late issuance of the appeals outcome notification was directly responsible for my inability to initiate the POPLA appeals process, you intend to facilitate Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). This is an obligation of PAP prior to initiation of court proceedings.
6. A justification for the additional £70 Debt Recovery Fee applied to the Claim, and confirmation of whether this is inclusive or exclusive of VAT
7. Confirmation of whether the principal alleged NoPC sum is pursued as damages, or as consideration for parking (Is this relevant? Site does not charge for parking)
Under the Pre-Action Protocol (Section 5.1), you are expected to respond fully to the requests for documentation and information above, and not doing so will be noted during court submissions (Section 7.1) if the matter continues to escalate. Furthermore, where the Claim is not wholly and definitively withdrawn, each of the suspected BPA Code of Conduct breaches outlined above will be reported to the BPA with the aggravating context that you have been informed of, and continue to disregard (if you do so), these breaches.
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