Spanked – it’s the only word for it. Sheffield parking company Vehicle Control Services dragged Rachael Finn to court demanding £735 for unpaid tickets – but the judge threw out the case and ordered the firm to pay all her costs.
It was a humiliating defeat for the company – and one which shines a light on the way the private parking industry operates.
Many people believe such firms fire off demands for payment which threaten legal action on the basis the majority of people cough up. But those demands fail to stand up to scrutiny in court.
It is the biggest issue we deal with on Action Desk.
Rachael’s ordeal started when she parked in a free car park at Berkeley Precinct on Ecclesall Road in Sheffield.
She returned after more than two hours in Pizza Hut to find a ticket on her car demanding £60.
The 40-year-old mother of two picked up a second one soon after, this time for spending too long chatting in Costa Coffee.
Furious at the massive demands for money, she says, she ‘dug her heels in’. And before long she had seven tickets. Then a court summons for £735 arrived – each ticket was now worth £100, plus £35 costs.
Rachael, of Nether Green, Sheffield, said: “I ignored them all. You could argue I’m in the wrong but I wanted to make a statement. I don’t like the way they operate.”
Rachael attended Sheffield County Court with parking expert Phil Hilsden – and the judge threw VCS’ case out. She added: “He said VCS had not proved that each breach had cost £100. VCS tried to pass on the cost of CCTV and software systems. But the judge also said that if each one cost £100 to process why ask for £60 initially?
“In total, I probably overstayed by an hour that’s not cost them £735. I just thought, ‘if you want it you will have to fight for it’.”
Rachael was awarded £90 for loss of earnings, £1 for petrol – and £4 to pay for parking at court.
But the cheque from VCS failed to arrive before the court-appointed deadline.
Rachael added: “I’m disappointed.”
The cheque arrived at Rachael’s house the day after we rang Vehicle Control Services. Director Martyn Attwood said: “This judgement does not set any precedent on any other cases that we take to court as each case is heard on its own merits.
“We have taken similar cases to Sheffield County Court on the same matter and have won without issue – as an example Vehicle Control Services versus Mark Bainbridge in December 2013 where we successfully pursued the matter for an award in excess of £2,000.”
n Parking expert Phil Hilsden helped Rachael in court with free advice. He also runs a parking ticket appeals service for motorists: www.parkingticketappeals.org.uk/. He had this advice for drivers who receive a ticket on private – not council controlled – land.
“It is no longer recommended to simply ignore parking charges due to a change in legislation. The Protection of Freedoms Act made clamping illegal but allowed companies to chase the registered keeper even if they weren’t the driver at the time. The question is not really how should car parks be policed but do they need to be policed? Parking operators have gone to large retail park owners and told them they have a problem for which they have a solution, when in fact the problem never really existed in the first place.
“Where you have small car parks like Berkeley an ideal system would the use of automated barrier, you spend money, ticket validated, free parking. You don’t spend money, or are overdue, you pay around £5 , this works very well for some supermarkets.”