Parking Penalty 2008

This is a tale of a civil parking penalty issued on 18 March and received 19 March 2008 and paid that day, within the 14 days period given for the first fee amount - it then doubles.

I had gone to the car park, and went into Halfords. In there I saw screenwash that I did want but it was some 80% more expensive than I had paid previously in the next town to where I live. I also looked at some child seats after a conversation with a friend. Then I came out and the next bit is interesting - in that I read a parking notice but read the text going down, and not the stick on notice. The notice seemed to confirm what I knew from before: that there was now a two hour limit. I then went to the car and messed about with baskets and the like prior to leaving.

I went off and was back well within the two hours stated on signs. I saw and picked up this yellow ticket and it was filled in 2:18 pm, and I calculated I arrived about 2:05 pm. So it was done as I walked out. It did not take me very long in that shop to see what was uncompetitive.

I went into Halfords and the assistant said that there are now these "overstickers" on signs and you cannot leave the car park - but that if I had bought anything they would have waived the charge. I drove out of the car park at 3:47 pm and it is the first time I have received a private car park penalty - not for parking too long but leaving on foot.

The ticket pouch impersonates a public roadside (etc.) ticket pouch in its colouration and appearance. It even has written that it is an "offence" for anyone but the driver to remove it. Note the reference here to driver. It surely is not; there is probably more offence in placing it on the car. It is a package that amounts to notice of an invoice, as is the document an invoice that comes by post and calls itself a certificate.

The ticket itself - to call it that - gives the only indication received of what has apparantly been done that is a "contravention" (in the words of the later document). In this case it is leaving the car park, and walking off in the direction of the town centre. Presumably where I am going is irrelevant. There is a sign on a wall high up as you walk out, but it is unseen: there should be one head height that states you cannot leave the car park - after all, there is a pavement that leaves the car park!

When the document arrived on 19 March 2008, one day after posting, suspicions about the legality of all this were raised even further. It now refers to the registered keeper as liable for the fine. All the websites say this is wrong - it is the driver who comes on to the private car park and makes a purported contract by entering that private space. There is, further, no obligation to reveal to a private company who the driver was. I had already probably indicated that I was the driver, and in any case photographic evidence could link me, the car and my known persona. I'm not exactly private. The evidence presented on the document is simply the properly parked car. It is, of course, allegedly involved in the "unauthorised" parking: they cannot say it was actually breaking a contract. The appeals process is apparently a waste of time, and in any case I decided not to write to this firm: I don't accept it as a kind of judge and jury - plus B & Q have a notice of emailing which is not in writing only. The appeal is, of course, a means to gather evidence by admission.

The main point about the invoice is the threat to use a Debt Recovery Agency. It seems that those who have successfully challenged UKPC and other firms have had to do it in two stages - first they address the firm directly, when they receive nothing but standard letters back, and then they have to take on the Debt Recovery Agency by telling it to "Cease and Desist" its harassment. The company is told to contact the driver and to get the detail from the parking company, that the registered keeper information sold by the DVLA to the parking company is not the same. The police also have to be involved, because alleged harassment is a criminal offence.

It is said that the documentation is so flimsy and the law so ambiguous that a parking company will never take anyone to court. So what you need, apparently, is a strong stomach and the abililty to take on the debt recovery agency. The point is it then becomes a game of poker, meaning how many chips you have got, how good is your own play and who folds first. I have never played poker: all gambling is the ability to afford to lose and, at this time, I could not afford to lose not have to go about the business of removing myself from a blacklist. One day these firms will become croppers. As well as writing to B & Q and Halfords, I also wrote to my Member of Parliament, including, as an update, when I had paid and in this second letter I wrote that this is a political issue.

Flimsiness of the case parking companies can assemble for a court is a common theme... I noticed a legal firm offering a fixed fee that would get the parking company off your back for good. I thought I would test this out - but in the real not virtual world. Meanwhile I am not sure that the driver is at fault: the driver may be at fault but the property on the car park is that of the registered keeper. It may be that the registered keeper is the parking firm's direct contact. This must be the issue behind clamping: the property clamped means the owner must deal with the matter.

Good friends of mine (including one who has a good grasp of legal issues as he faces many as a daily necessity) said these parking firms have thought of everything. It is all contractual and at best it is a gamble. However, your credit rating can be damaged. Pay up, and just take the hit.

I went to a solicitor on March 19. What I needed was a reaction to show me that these parking firms are pulling a fast one as their modus operandi. The receptionist took the document to the solicitor. The message came back that he would be interested, as he has got one of these documents himself. The rest for me would be to pay up for the ifs and buts of advice. Ah... Had he come out and said he has one and they have not a leg to stand on, that he would take them on with this as well, and he would take his cut from me less than them, then I would have gone for it. But he did not. Presumably he has all the legal resources necessary and can work the civil law. I thought I shall let him do it. He probably has a big pile of chips for the poker game too. He can take on the ambiguity. So I went away, had a cheque made and posted it with the payment slip that day and without delay.

All I can do is to extend my lifetime ban on Currys (because of their returns policy and refusing to quickly take back a CD radio that did not have a headphone socket) to B & Q and Halfords too as users of this parking firm. B & Q wrote to say I was in and out of Halfords and direct all enquiries to UKPC Ltd. I think B & Q should manage their own car parks and not employ others to do their dirty work. They are both beneficiaries of this parking company and they would be included in actions against parking control companies when they are employed by them (though they may be employed by the property owning company).

Also I must read signs more carefully, including altered ones, and try to select single owner car parks with own control (not farmed out to a firm worried about its own profits) with specific rules. Also it is better to pay something, especially if that is then returned by a purchase - so then there is a fair exchange for use of parking resources. We have the privatisation of public space, and private spaces that appear to be public, and we also have a serveillance society. That car park used to be unrestricted. I never had a problem finding a space there, even on a busy Saturday. Then they introduced two hours. It catches those who thought the rules were the same and who assume and read at the same time.


Adrian Worsfold