Excel Parking plan to outsource legal work looks dead in water

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IS this Excel Parking’s worst ever month?

The company has suffered two court drubbings – and in striking out one claim a judge ordered managing director Simon Renshaw-Smith to explain why the firm brought a case for trespass when it had no legal right to do so.

Meanwhile, Sheffield County Court has confirmed that a series of names Excel sent to The Star as evidence of the ‘many cases’ it has won were mostly default judgements issued after drivers failed to respond. In such cases the papers don’t even go before a judge.

It now seems its ambition to outsource legal work to solicitors around the country, to combat the avalanche of non-payers, could be scuttled.

Private parking companies such as Excel generate ill feeling among motorists with tickets demanding £60 or more for breaking rules, backed by threats of debt collectors, bailiffs and court action.

The British Parking Association says 69 per cent pay up, but 31 per cent refuse, believing the law doesn’t allow private firms to impose a penalty charge – and the number is rising.

In February last year Ron Ibbotson stopped in a car park patrolled by VCS – part of Excel – offering two hours free. He returned after 40 minutes, he says, to find a ticket for £80 payable within seven days.

He ignored all threats and phone calls and VCS took him to court. The case went before Judge McIlwaine at Scunthorpe County Court last week.

Ron said: “The judge read my defence and spotted something in VCS’s contractual terms and gave their representative a good roasting over it.”

The claim was struck out. Mr Renshaw-Smith, boss of VCS, said he responded to the court on Monday advising the firm had lawful authority on behalf of its client.

The decision comes after VCS lost an appeal at the Upper Tax Tribunal to keep the VAT on the ‘fines’ it levies.

The tribunal said VCS did not have the right to pursue an action for trespass and its Parking Charge Notices were not damages, so VAT must be paid.

VCS pays VAT on all PCNs he insisted. If the tribunal hearing had gone in VCS’s favour it would have reclaimed the VAT already paid to HMRC.

His legal team were reviewing whether they would continue to launch trespass cases, he added.

Last month Excel sent Action Desk details of 23 cases it claimed were proof it can win in court. But, according to Sheffield County Court, in 15 cases the motorist failed to respond and the company won by default and in two cases motorists paid up before a hearing. So Excel sent just six examples where it won a contested hearing before a judge.