We need zero tol­er­ance of this park­ing scan­dal

The Observer - - Cash - Anna Tims

I was in­trigued by the case of the reader MR who lost his ap­peal against a park­ing in­fringe­ment charge be­cause he mis­took a zero for the let­ter O when en­ter­ing his car num­ber plate.

I had an al­most iden­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence when I re­ceived a £60 ticket for typ­ing an “O” for a “0” into a carpark ma­chine, even though I had paid the cor­rect amount.

I took my case to the in­de­pen­dent ap­peals tri­bunal, POPLA, ad­mit­ting the er­ror, but sug­gest­ing that jus­tice re­quired le­niency in my case.

Amaz­ingly, it up­held my ap­peal. But its com­ments to MR’s case sug­gest in­con­sis­ten­cies in its logic!

JH, Keyn­sham, Som­er­set You are right. POPLA han­dles ap­peals against charges is­sued on pri­vate land, and the for­tunes of mo­torists seem to de­pend on which ad­ju­di­ca­tor as­sesses the pa­per­work.

In the case of MR, POPLA told the Ob­server that be­cause he con­fused the zero and the O his pay­ment was in­val­i­dated. “The fact that he did make a pay­ment, alone, is not enough to can­cel the charge,” it said.

In your case, how­ever, the same ap­peals ser­vice de­cided that your iden­ti­cal er­ror was “so tri­fling that the ‘de min­imis’ prin­ci­ple would ap­ply and such a mis­take would not con­sti­tute a breach of the terms and con­di­tions”.

An­other reader, DG of New­cas­tle upon Tyne, re­ports that he too won his ap­peal af­ter he was charged £60 for the same er­ror. This time POPLA ruled that since the 0 and O were iden­ti­cal on the ticket ma­chine key­pad the charge was un­jus­ti­fied.

POPLA’s ex­pla­na­tion fur­ther mud­dies the wa­ters. “We recog­nise that mo­torists may well have made a valid pay­ment, al­beit us­ing a ve­hi­cle reg­is­tra­tion slightly dif­fer­ent to their own. While POPLA is un­able to al­low an ap­peal based purely on mit­i­gat­ing cir­cum­stances, we are able to re­fer the cir­cum­stances back to the op­er­a­tor to ask it to de­cide if it wishes to con­tinue pur­su­ing the mo­torist. If they de­cide to con­tinue, we will need to de­ter­mine whether the park­ing charge is valid based on the other as­pects of the ap­peal.”

The fact is, con­fused Os and 0s should al­ways be deemed a mit­i­gat­ing cir­cum­stance as they are in­dis­tin­guish­able on UK num­ber plates and only driv­ers with knowl­edge of how reg­is­tra­tion plates are for­mu­lated can tell the dif­fer­ence.

It’s a prob­lem read­ily solved if the DVLA were to amend its type­faces. It, how­ever, has no plans to do so.

“The font has been in use since 1935 and hasn’t caused prob­lems,” it says, ig­nor­ing the fact that ticket ma­chine key pads and Au­to­matic Num­ber Plate Recog­ni­tion (ANPR) cam­eras were not around for most of the last cen­tury.

The cases ex­pose the scan­dal of pri­vate park­ing en­force­ment which levies ex­pen­sive charges on driv­ers who can show that they paid in good faith. The charges are sup­posed to de­ter mo­torists from mis­us­ing car parks. In truth, ad­vances in ANPR tech­nol­ogy have turned them into a lu­cra­tive source of in­come.

Emma Lewis, se­nior as­so­ciate in the com­mer­cial lit­i­ga­tion team at Hill Dick­in­son, points out that a court or­der is re­quired be­fore a com­pany can en­force a park­ing charge. “If pro­ceed­ings are is­sued, a mo­torist can de­fend the claim by re­ly­ing on the wider prin­ci­ples of con­tract law,” she says.

“Con­sid­er­a­tion can be given to the rea­son­able­ness of the term, the se­ri­ous­ness of the breach and, im­por­tantly, whether any loss is caused to the park­ing com­pany.

“So far, at least, two such cases have been suc­cess­fully de­fended and it is likely the court ac­cepted that an in­cor­rect reg­is­tra­tion is not a breach which war­rants a penalty.

“It was also demon­strated that the mo­torists paid so there was no loss.”

Is the promised 50% dis­count all talk?

I was a Talk­mo­bile cus­tomer and, as it’s be­ing taken over by Voda­fone, I went to a Voda­fone store to up­grade my phone. I was told I had to call Talk­mo­bile for a PAC code to trans­fer my num­ber and when I did, the op­er­a­tive said that if I up­graded over the phone, I’d get 50% off my £24 monthly bill for the en­tirety of my two-year con­tract.

Voda­fone, how­ever, says this is in­cor­rect, and that when my con­tract is taken over, the 50% deal would cease to ap­ply.

Some­body is wrong here. Who? JT, Ox­ford

Voda­fone ex­plains that while it owns Talk­mo­bile, the brand op­er­ates its own price plans and pro­cesses, and ex­ist­ing cus­tomers can con­tinue their Talk­mo­bile con­tracts.

The com­pany can no longer of­fer new deals or up­grades, how­ever. In­stead, it can grant cus­tomers who re­quire ei­ther of those things a dis­count to trans­fer to a Voda­fone price plan for the re­main­ing length of their con­tract, but this can only be im­ple­mented over the phone by Talk­mo­bile, not in a Voda­fone store. Be­cause of the con­fu­sion, Voda­fone has agreed to hon­our the 50% dis­count for the re­main­der of your orig­i­nal agree­ment.

If you need help email Anna Tims at your.prob­lems@ob­server.co.uk or write to Your Prob­lems, The Ob­server, Kings Place, 90 York Way, Lon­don N1 9GU. In­clude an ad­dress and phone num­ber. Sub­mis­sion and pub­li­ca­tion are sub­ject to our terms and con­di­tions: see http://gu.com/let­ters-terms

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.