Watchdog: Reader charged £150 for not parking

28 Nov, 2012 10:00am Darren Boyle

Private parking firm recorded our reader on CCTV, got his details from the DVLA and is now chasing him for money

You’d have thought that the 1 October clamping ban would force private parking companies to behave – but you’d be wrong.

Take the case of Phil Jenkins. He drove in and out of a private car park without parking up and getting out of the car – but is now being chased for a £150 charge.

Phil, from Odiham, Hampshire, was on holiday in Perranporth, Cornwall, when he drove into the car park of the Perran Bay nursing home. “I saw the sign inside the car park that said it would cost £80, so obviously I decided against parking there,” explained Phil. “I reversed my car and parked in another car park.”

But he soon received a letter from Premier Park Ltd, demanding £100 for using the car park after his car was seen on CCTV.

He immediately wrote back to the company, explaining that he didn’t actually use one of the parking spaces, and so couldn’t be liable for any charge. “I was only inside the car park for three minutes in total,” Phil told us.

That doesn’t seem to matter to Premier Park, which has now upped the charge to £150 and passed it to a debt collector.

Phil said: “They’re trying to bully me into paying. I contacted the debt collector, who refused to talk – although I was told if I was willing to settle immediately, the bill would be cut to £120.”

However, Phil doesn’t need to respond to these demands at all. As a Department for Transport spokeswoman told Auto Express: “Charges from a private parking company can only be enforced in court.” Premier Park would need to prove to a judge that Phil entered into and breached a contract. Then it would have to prove that the £150 it’s claiming is reasonable and proportionate.

British Parking Association (BPA) member Premier Park would have trouble proving either, since the BPA’s Code of Practice states “operators must allow the driver a ‘reasonable grace period’ in which to decide if they are going to stay or go and a ‘reasonable period’ to leave.”

Nobody at Premier Park Ltd has been available to speak to us about Phil’s case so far.

Phil's case: At a glance

The problem 
Phil Jenkins entered a car park, but left as soon as he saw there was an £80 charge. Premier Park then billed him £100 after filming his registration on CCTV.

The response 
Premier Park increased the bill to £150, despite Phil explaining he hadn’t actually used the car park. The company has yet to respond to our calls.

Legal advice 
Private parking companies are not allowed to fine motorists. They can claim ‘reasonable and proportionate’ costs for breach of contract – but they have to take the driver to court and prove that in front of a judge.

Our verdict 
It’s unacceptable that Phil is being hounded for any money – let alone such a large amount – when he didn’t even use the car park. Behaviour like this is what gives private parking companies a bad name.

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" Behaviour like this is what gives private parking companies a bad name."

No, fleecing the public with hundreds of thousands of legally unenforceable invoices is what gives these crooks a bad name.

Tell 'em to F off...

The government are at fault - yet again. The public should be properly protected from racketeers. This chap will now have to go to court to prove he is innocent. Once again inadequate civil servants i.e. legislative draughtsmen can't get it right. Parking companies don't care about getting a bad name (or should I say worse name than they already have); they are just like the Tabloid newspapers they revel in having a poor reputation. They both think they are invincible and the government does nothing and I throw my hands in the air - once more.

There is no legislation for this sort of hassle by post, but good on AE for promoting the fact that these are merely bits of paper until the matter goes to court...

I get a TV Licensing scare notice at least once a month... and letters to past tenants from unpaid creditors threatening visits from bailiffs...

They all just go straight in the bin now without opening them, so that I don't waste any further of my time thinking about them.

No he won't HAVE to go to court to prove anything. Firstly if it were to go to court the burden of proof is still on the parking company to prove they have a valid claim. More importantly these companies are very very shy of court as they know that what they are demanding is an unenforceable penalty which is not valid in law.
In 2011 1.8 MILLION of these fake tickets were issued by the private parkng industry , how many got to court ??? Only 49 !!!! Of those the parking companies lost 25 !
All this guy has to do is chill out and ignore all the meaningless demands /threats he will receive , it really is just junk mail.

Fair enough Sirdan - you obviously have a greater knowledge of common law than me. I'm simply a motorist who was reacting to the AE 'Watchdog' report. Perhaps you could explain how these people are able to operate in this fashion when there are supposed to be regulations in place governing their activities. I would prefer a 'black or white' situation whereby, if they transgress, they would be prosecuted by the Police or the LA. I believe it should be possible for the chap who received the bill to take it to someone in authority for them to initiate a prosecution against the parking firm.

Anyone who gets a speculative invoice from private parking cowboys should Google the name of the private company and do a little digging round before thinking about paying anything. If you are still unsure join Pepipoo and post a thread in the private parking tickets forum. As mentioned before in the region of half a million to six hundred thousand speculative invoices went unpaid in 2011, out of 1.8 million issued. Of those 49 went before a judge and the private parking cowboys lost over half (25) of those cases.

Even if you did owe someone some money for your parking. It would be an amount far, far smaller than the private parking cowboys claim.