Landowners: Parking companies are not your friends

Whist most of the parking world has been focussing on the Beavis vs ParkingEye case at the Supreme Court, POPLA slipped out their 3rd annual report on the state of their appeals system. The report, written by Henry Michael Greensalde (Lead Adjudicator), discusses themes and issues arrising over the past 12 months, and provides statistics for the service. The report can be found here: POPLA Annual Report 2015

Inevitably the British Parking Association ‘welcomed’ the report. However, given some of Mr Greenslade’s observations, I’m not sure it would have been particularly comfortable reading.

Amongst a number of issues identified with operator behavior, Mr Greenslade devoted an entire section to the way parking operators had dealt with appeals against hospital parking charges, and the lack of compassion (and common sense). Two example cases are reproduced below:

In one instance the appellant’s case was that he was suffering heart attack symptoms and drove to the emergency clinic but, being afraid of a possible collapse, he parked in the nearest parking bay which was a disabled bay and rushed to the clinic. The appellant was apparently kept overnight at the hospital and said he was wired to the monitoring machines and thus unable to move the vehicle and not discharged until the next morning. The appellant had provided a discharge letter from the hospital to support his case.

The Assessor referred the matter back to the operator, who rejected the appellant’s representations because, they said, by parking in a marked disabled bay without displaying a blue badge, the appellant had breached the terms and conditions of the parking contract and that by not being a blue badge holder, the appellant was not entitled to occupy a free charge blue-badge space. Furthermore, the operator added, the appellant had driven himself to hospital, and presumably considered himself capable of driving safely and so, in their view, the appellant was therefore capable of parking in the paid car park directly adjacent to the free disabled bays.

And another:

In another appeal it was the appellant’s case that, as an obstetrician and gynaecologist he was attending a medical emergency at the hospital in the labour ward where the patient was bleeding very heavily after giving birth. It was, explained the appellant, crucial that he went back in urgently to save the woman’s life, having been called out of the Labour ward by the senior midwife when he saw that a patient from the Mental Health Unit was lying on top of his vehicle. Security officers were called who led the patient back to the Mental Health Unit.

The parking charge notice was apparently not received by the appellant as the patient may have taken it from the vehicle. Photographic evidence submitted also showed that a man was lying on top of the appellant’s vehicle with what appears to resemble a parking charge notice in his hand. After the individual was removed from the appellant’s vehicle it was moved into a designated parking bay. Further, on the same day, the appellant visited the operator’s office and was informed that no parking charge notice had been issued.

The operator declined to exercise discretion and said that the appellant’s vehicle was not parked correctly within a designated parking bay, that photographic evidence supported their contention that there was signage at the site to inform motorists of parking terms and conditions and that there was also photographic evidence to support that the appellant’s vehicle was not parked correctly within a designated parking bay.

Now, obviously the vast majority of readers will be disgusted having read those stories, although possibly not surprised since the media regularly call out such behaviour. However, the key point here is that it highlights that ticket revenue driven parking enforcement simply never works for anyone but the parking company.

If you’re a business or a public service, who do you want the parking company to ticket? The shopper who spends an hour extra in your shop? The doctor who rushed to theatre to save a life? A resident whose permit dropped off his dashboard?

You might say that these people have the right to appeal? Well, hello BPA, your very own appeals service is calling out that your members aren’t cancelling tickets for mitigation, even in life and death cases like the ones above!

You might say that you need to issue tickets to stop your land being abused. Well, this is the perverse thing – this business model needs people to get ticketed. It is not in their interest to stop people breaching the parking terms! In the Beavis case, the car park is so lucrative that ParkingEye reportedly pay the landowner £1,000 per month to operate on the site. It isn’t in their interests to get car park users to adhere to the rules.

What this highlights is that this business model simply doesn’t support business goals. If you’re a hospital, your number one goal is to keep people alive – well, ticketing your doctors for rushing to theatre doesn’t help that. If you’re a supermarket and your shoppers are staying for a cuppa in your cafe, do you want to penalise them for that?

Irrespective of how the Beavis Vs ParkingEye appeal goes, the parking industry needs to mature into a genuine service industry. Operators need to be rewarded for supporting the client’s goals, not make a quick buck off (soon to be ex-) customers and staff.

When the wheel clamp ban came in, some people thought the knuckle-draggers of the parking industry had gone away. Think again.