Sunday, 14 February 2021

ANYTHING BUT FINE

 

READING BETWEEN THE LINES

Every day the Government sells the addresses of 23,000 drivers to private parking companies so they can send them a £100 bill for breaking their rules. And it is a bill, not a fine, because these companies have no right to fine anyone for parking their vehicle. Only local authorities or the police can do that. What these firms send is an invoice. Called parking charge notices, they are designed to look like the legal penalty notices issued when you break street parking rules. But they are not. They are simply an invoice for payment.

The parking firms say that when you enter their car parks you agree to a contract under which you pay a fee, park between the lines, and leave within a certain time. If you break these rules, they send you a bill for breaching that contract.

Sometimes the parking charge notice is put under the windscreen wipers. But in many cases the first you know about it is when it arrives in the post.  Many car parks have no barriers or attendants. Cameras at the entrance and exit register your number plate and compare it with the one you give when you buy your ticket. If you are deemed to have broken the rules then the firm pays £2.50 to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and sends the notice to the address it gives them.

Most people pay up at once because you are bribed to do so. A fee of £100 is reduced to £60 if you pay within 14 days. But that is not a sensible approach.

Of course, it is reasonable for a private landowner to charge people for the convenience of parking on their property. The Supreme Court decided five years ago that they may also impose a reasonable penalty if you break the rules laid down. However, if you get a parking penalty on private land do not pay it without reading it very carefully.

Check the Notice

Were you – or your vehicle – there at the times stated? Are the rules set out clearly, not just at the entrance but around the car park where you can see and read them? It is useful to have photographs.

Most car parking firms belong to the British Parking Association (BPA) which has a Code of Practice. Has the notice broken any of those rules? For example, you must be given time to read the rules before parking and a grace period of up to 10 minutes after your time runs out before a penalty is charged. Other firms belong to the International Parking Community (IPC) whose Code of Practice also has a grace period in some cases.

If the penalty notice seems correct are there mitigating circumstances? Was the car park very busy so it took a long time to buy your ticket? Did you leave without parking? Did you have a good reason to overstay such as an urgent phone call about a sick relative? Did just half a tyre stray outside the marked parking bay? Did you make a minor error entering your car number? Had your car broken down? Send supporting evidence – with photographs if you can.

On the back of the notice there will be details of how to appeal – normally within 21 or 28 days. However, once 14 days has passed you will lose the discount on your charge. If your appeal is rejected you can go to a further appeal. The BPA uses an independent service called the Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA).  Around half of those who appeal to it are successful. IPC uses the Independent Appeals Service (IAS). A firm that does not belong to either of the trade bodies cannot get your address from the DVLA and will find it much harder to enforce the charge.

A more militant way to challenge a parking notice is to ignore it. In England and Wales the person registered as the vehicle’s ‘keeper’ (usually the owner) is liable for the penalty if the driver does not pay. So, the firm will pay for the keeper’s address from the DVLA and send them the notice. That must be set out in a very precise way and firms often get it wrong which invalidates it. In Scotland and Northern Ireland the keeper does not have to pay. That makes enforcement much harder.

If you do not pay the only way to make you is a civil action in court. That is expensive and time consuming for the firm and it may not bother. Even if it does you may win, especially if it has behaved unreasonably. If you lose you will have to pay the full charge and possibly some costs as well, but as long as you pay your credit rating will not be affected.

Private parking firms may soon have to obey new rules designed to end the “poor practice and behaviour of some parking operators”. The Government is consulting on a legally enforceable Code of Practice and a new appeals service to apply in England, Scotland, and Wales. No start date for that has been set.

If you get a parking fine from a local authority, Transport for London, or the police the rules are different. Fines are easier to enforce but if you feel the ticket is unfair challenge it and then appeal to the independent adjudicator. More than half who do win.

Further information

MoneySavingExpert.com or CitizensAdvice.org.uk search ‘parking tickets’.

parkingcowboys.co.uk has useful information about possible defences.

britishparking.co.uk – the BPA website

theipc.info – the International Parking Community website

popla.co.uk – for appeals against firms that are BPA members.

theias.org – for appeals against firms that are IPC members.


This blogpost first appeared in Saga Magazine in November 2020.


Paul Lewis

14 February 2021

vs. 1.10

 

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

FLIGHT DELAY COMPENSATION NOW A UK RIGHT

If your flight is delayed by three hours or more or is cancelled you now have a right to compensation of up to £520 per passenger under UK law. The rights to compensation were given to air passengers in 2004 by a European Directive. Now that we have left the EU those rules have been brought into UK law with some amendments. 

The new rules apply to passengers in three circumstances.

1. They are on any flight which departs from a UK airport.

2. They are on a flight which departs from an airport outside the UK if it

    a. lands in the UK and the carrier is based in the UK or the EU.

OR

    b. lands at an airport in the EU and the carrier is based in the UK.

The compensation applies if a flight arrives at least three hours late. The amounts of compensation are

•        £220 per passenger for flights of 1500 kilometres or less

•        £350 per passenger for flights between 1500km and 3500km

•        £520 per passenger for flights over 3500km.

Similar rules apply to cancellations at the airport or within seven days before the flight was due to leave. If you are given a replacement flight you will normally still be entitled to compensation if that arrives more than two hours later than the original flight - or departs more than one hour earlier than the original flight.

The rules are a bit more complicated than that largely because airlines have tried to find ways to avoid paying and lawyers have taken cases to court to establish what the law really means. 

One key escape airlines like to use is if the delay or cancellation was due to 'extraordinary circumstances'.   

separate blog looks at some of those complexities. Where decisions of the European Courts are referred to these still apply as they were all retained in UK law from 1 January 2021. The primary UK law is the European Directive EC 261/2004 as retained in UK law but it has been amended by the The Air Passenger Rights and Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing(Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 SI 2019/278.


Get help
An online claiming tool is provided by Resolver. It makes no charge for its service. Never use a claim management company. It will take 40% of your compensation and may or may not be good at the job.

The consumer organisation Which? also has a useful guide to claiming compensation yourself.

You can get some advice free from the Civil Aviation Authority. If an airline has refused your claim the CAA offers an arbitration service. Its decision is not binding on the airline - though they usually follow it - and there have been long delays in the past as the CAA had inadequate staff numbers to handle the volume of cases. 

If you feel you need professional help you can use the lawyer Bott & Co which specialises in compensation for flight delays. It has an online checker to see if you have a claim or not. If it takes a case then it charges 25% plus VAT (so 30%) of any compensation obtained plus a £25 administration fee (including VAT) per passenger. Altogether that will be more than a third of your compensation. There is no charge if you lose.

Brexit

Now that the UK has left the EU and the transition period has ended you should apply under the UK law if you can. However, the EU regulations still give all passengers rights to compensation where flights leave from or arrive at EU airports and you can apply under those rules if your flight is outside the terms of the UK regulations. 

Now that the UK has left the EU a UK government will be able to change these compensaation rules. There is no sign of that happening.  


18 January 2021

vs. 1.1