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UK information index

May 23, 2022
United Kingdom

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Victory over rogue parking company APCOA
(Now German owned - Airport Parking Co. of America!)

Nobody likes to receive a parking ticket and I don't either, especially when as far as I knew I was doing nothing wrong but the company that issues it, in this case the German owned APCOA, happens to be breaking the law on several counts.

There is a retail park in St Thomas, Exeter, behind it, a station. I had been using the parking at this relatively quiet station for about four years. When I say 'at' this station I mean under the railway arches, directly under the platform.

Now lets make one thing perfectly clear, I would not have parked all day (and sometimes all week) if I thought for one moment that I was risking any kind of penalty, but the signs were inadequate, which is also an offence...

(The Private Parking Company (PPC) must make the terms clear to the user of the car park. Therefore they are obliged to place ample and appropriate signage about the car park to make those persons using the facilities aware of the terms. The signs must be clear and unambiguous and it cannot be obscured, faded, covered up or in any way difficult or impossible to read and understand.)

I wrote to them, explaining that there were no signs in sight, until you actually leave the area and that I naturally assumed it was part of the station and didn't know it was regulated as part of the shopping complex. They upheld the penalty, but this angered me greatly. There was simply no way I was going to pay an extortionate fee for parking.

After researching online I discovered that they were in fact, breaking several regulations themselves. When I wrote pointing out the fact, they then having "considered the circumstances" dropped the case, probably hoping that I wouldn't take it any further as I had then suffered no actual loss. (The "circumstances" now being that I had rumbled one of the largest parking companies in Europe).

Since parking was deregulated, private companies have taken up the task of policing many station, hospital and retail areas, but there's a catch.

If you get issued a 'penalty' ticket, like I did out of the blue, for £70, it is not the same as one from the police, local authority or traffic wardens. You are, in fact, simply breaking a presumed contract between you and the owner of the land. If you refuse to pay it and they take you to court, the most they can claim for is to recover their losses. If, as in my case, it is a free car park then their losses for that whole day were, let me just calculate that in my head for a moment, oh, yes,



exactly zero. A big fat nothing, zilch. So the chances are they won't. (the terrible crime for which I am accused, is to be parked for longer than an hour and a half). Now that leaves only two other methods to extract the extortionate sum from the unfortunate - already overburdened motorist. 1. Bluff and 2. Harrassment. The problem is that both these tactics are in fact illegal. Yes, illegal. Why? because bluff involves making the ticket appear to be like the official one from the aforementioned authorities and, as stated in "The Administration of Justice Act 1970"...
Section 40 provides that a person commits an offence if, with the object of coercing another person to pay money claimed from the other as a debt due under contract, he or she:
(d) utters a document falsely represented by him to have some official character or purporting to have some official character which he knows it has not. also...
(a) harasses the other with demands for payment which by their frequency, or the manner or occasion of their making, or any accompanying threat or publicity are calculated to subject him or his family or household to alarm, distress or
(b) falsely represents, in relation to the money claimed, that criminal proceedings lie for failure to pay it;
(c) falsely represent themselves to be authorised in some official capacity to claim or enforce payment;"

The ticket is a CPN (Civil Penalty Notice) not the official PCN (Penalty Charge Notice) as issued by the local authorities or police. It is also in a yellow and black plastic envelope that looks almost exactly like the official one and the words "It is an offence ... to remove this notice" simply isn't true, and is an offence in itself.

When I made it clear to the issuing authority (APCOA), they dropped the case. (an admission of guilt?). They previously upheld it when I wrote saying that I had been parking there for four years without any knowledge of restrictions and hadn't seen any signs. (there is a small sign, impossible to read from a moving vehicle, 'lost' in a cluster of other signs, and on the retail park side of the road, opposite from my direction of travel).

So to summerise this rant, If you get one of these £70 invoices. I suggest that you tear it up, don't give them your details and report any harrassment to the police. You could also take your business elsewhere. When the establishment realise the negative effect of their private police force they may not have their contract renewed.

There is another issue here concerning the data protection act. If you didn't give a parking company your details then they must have acquired them from the DVLA without your permission. That's illegal too. Watch this space!!