Readers’ emails: Rental company being taken to court

From: Steve
Subject: Being taken to court – No notice to owner or charge cert issued.
I’m being taken to Small Claims court on septemtsebr 30th by Combined Parking Solutions, Bilston and would appreciate a little guidance please.
I work for a vehicle rental company of sorts, in that we supply vehicles to other rental companies, not the general public.
The penalty was issued to the driver in December 2013, but the first we as RK were aware was when the blue letter from Northampton CCBC arrived in June. We’ve not had any of the regular NTO or charge certificates, and despite trying to resolve the matter by supplying the lease details, CPS have effectively railroaded us into court. I’m happy to fight it myself, but could do with a little guiadance on what angle of attack to use – procedural failings, 6 month lease precendent, inadequate signage, or NGPEOL.
Many thanks,

Hi Steve. For contract-based parking tickets, any contract that exists is between the driver and the parking company. A court would only find the keeper of the vehicle to be liable if:

  1. On balance of probabilities the court found the keeper to be the driver -or-
  2. If the requirements of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 are met to enforce keeper liability

From reading your email, if the vehicle was on hire, you should be able to demonstrate who the vehicle was on hire to, so 1) would likely fail. For keeper liability to be enforced, then your company can discharge liability if you have provided a serviceable address for the hirer, so 2) would likely fail too. As a result, I can’t see how their claim could be successful.

On the procedural failings, for keeper liability the Protection of Freedoms Act specifies rules that must be followed. If you don’t think they have been followed, then that should be called out in your defence. Only the court can decide whether or not that would cause their claim to fail (some judges are more pedantic than others). You should also consider complaining to the BPA and DVLA if you don’t believe they are following the Protection of Freedoms Act. Combined Parking Solutions have previously been banned from accessing the DVLAs database for 3 months for not following the BPA’s Code of Practice.

As you note, their are many other arguments to use to fight one of these cases, such as genuine pre-estimate of loss. However, Combined Parking Solutions, whilst very much a small-time operation, have been more successful than others in court.  Importantly, Combined Parking Solutions tickets tend to be based on a contractual charge, rather than damages for breach of contract, so the genuine pre-estimate of loss argument won’t work against them.

For a court case, it’s very difficult to provide detailed advice, since each case will be decided on its own merits. You may want to post your case on the Pepipoo forum to get detailed advice from the posters on there. Beware though, this company’s staff are believed to monitor the forums – so be careful what you say, and who you take advice from…

It sounds like you have a strong defence if you can demonstrate you weren’t driving and you have provided a serviceable address for the hirer. I wonder whether they thinking that you as a hire company will roll over and pay rather than go to court, as some of the large consumer car hire companies do?

Anyway, best of luck with it. PC.