Readers’ emails: Wrong registration failed appeal

From: Tom
Subject: Failed appeal – what next

My recent appeal to POPLA failed because I hadn’t done exactly what the signs said in the car park (I paid, displayed and parked properly but I entered the wrong reg number in the machine by mistake). I appealed on the basis that I had paid in full and not caused the car park or its users any problems whatsoever – it was obvious I was not intending to do anything wrong and I did nothing ‘wrong’  – just entered the reg number of our other family car through absent-mindedness. All provable through camera and DVLA records.
I asked them what the next part of the appeal process was and they told me there isn’t one. ‘Pay up or it gets worse’.
I thought POPLA had been set up to make sure common sense – even ‘justice’ – prevailed. But I can’t help feeling they’re more on the side of the car park companies than the consumer.
I want to take this further on a point of principle.
Is there anything I can do?
(I wish I’d checked this site before making my appeal in the first place!!).

Hi Tom, this is an blatant example of profiteering by the parking company. As you say, you were a genuine customer who made an honest mistake. The parking company have all of the evidence to prove that it was an honest genuine mistake and that you had paid, but yet choose to ignore it and try to chase you for what amounts to a penalty. Personally, I find this disgusting.

As you have now learned, POPLA don’t consider mitigating circumstances. They instead take a black and white view of the contract, and, as you admit, you technically contravened it. There’s plenty of discussion elsewhere on the internet about the rights, wrongs, impartiality, and transparency of POPLA, so I won’t discuss that here.

You’re not the first person to fall foul of these parking machines. The thing to remember here is that these machines are only used due to the way these companies choose to ‘manage’ the car parks (typically for free using ANPR cameras, and make money by issuing tickets). If they had a traditional barrier system, then they would have no need to put in such machines, and there would be many fewer tickets issued. The key point is that you’re being punished because they’ve put in a system that people are likely to fall foul of.

So, what happens next? Well, the POPLA decision is not binding on you. In order to make you pay, they would need to take you to court – some parking companies do, some don’t. Of those that do, they can’t afford to take every ‘ignorer’ to court, so it’s pot luck really. If they did take you to court, then they need to re-prove their case all over again – POPLA doesn’t have any authority or legal standing, so its decision is not binding or persuasive on the court. I note that Parking Prankster recently discussed a similar case to yours where the claim was successfully defended – see here.

Until you receive a claim, my advice would be to act as reasonably as possible. If this case did go to court, then demonstrating that you acted reasonably may support your case, and would limit any costs they could claim (even though this is limited in the small claims court anyway). One way to demonstrate this might be to offer to reimburse the parking company for any actual losses that you have directly caused them up to the point of informing them of your mistake. For example, the cost of getting your details from DVLA and postage (£3.50?). Any costs they have incurred after that time (i.e. when they ignored your appeal and continued to chase you), or any normal operating costs of their business (e.g. cameras, signage, staff costs) would not be a part of that offer because they would incur that anyway.

I would also make as big a stink for the parking company as possible – complain to everyone you can. Complain to Trading Standards about this sharp practice, complain to DVLA that they didn’t have reasonable cause to access your data, complain to the land owner about their contractor’s behaviour, and complain to your MP about this shameful industry. This is the kind of stuff that will (eventually) cause most damage to the parking company and force change in the industry.

Best of luck with it, and let us know how you get on.


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