ISPA concerned about Wright Hassall’s independence
Last month we wrote about our concern for Wright Hassall being appointed as the BPA’s private parking appeals service provider for the ‘GPEOL 3,500’. In short, these were the 3,500 cases that London Councils stayed pending the outcome of the ParkingEye Vs Beavis case. Rather than ask London Councils (the old POPLA service provider) or Ombudsman Services (the current POPLA service provider), the BPA gave the contract to Wright Hassall, a solicitors firm that also offers debt collection services in the private parking industry. To any reasonable person, this would appear to be a conflict of interest, with Wright Hassall determining judgements for cases involving existing and potential clients!
ISPA, the BPAs independent scrutiny board for private parking appeals, has also stated their concern in a press release on their website reproduced in full below:
ISPA statement on appointment of Wright Hassall to operate PoPLA for adjourned casesIt has recently been confirmed that Wright Hassall Solicitors has been appointed by BPA to deal with the parking appeals which were adjourned by London Councils awaiting the outcome of Parking Eye Limited (Respondent) v Beavis (Appellant)  UKSC 87.
The role of the ISPA Board is to independently oversee the decision making process to ensure that it is fair and independent. ISPA is not responsible for the operation of the appeals scheme and is therefore not involved in, or responsible for, the appointment of the appeal service provider.ISPA acknowledges that the BPA and Wright Hassall Solicitors have worked together to try to establish an appeals system that is fair and independent of other work conducted by Wright Hassall Solicitors, including the enforcement of unpaid Parking Charge Notices.Wright Hassall Solicitors have assured ISPA and the BPA that they take seriously concerns regarding their independence in providing this appeals service, and are putting in place substantial measures to mitigate these concerns, including issues around conflict of interest. Wright Hassall Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority and are therefore bound by the Code of Conduct set by that regulator which includes the proper handling of conflicts of interest.Nevertheless, the ISPA Board remain concerned about the potential for the public to perceive bias in this process given the work conducted by Wright Hassall Solicitors in their wider business.ISPA Independent Assessors have already visited Wright Hassall Solicitors and undertaken an initial assessment of the systems and processes proposed to consider these appeals, with particular emphasis on proposals to mitigate any conflict of interest. The ISPA Board has commissioned a further series of early visits to independently audit appeal decisions, and will maintain auditoversight of the process and decision making throughout the term of this contract.April 2016
ISPA aren’t new to making public criticisms of the BPA. Originally the BPA wanted to get these cases heard on the basis of genuine pre-estimate of loss only – presumably the cheapest way to get them decided. However, ISPA pointed out that the cases needed to be heard in full since they had not been fully assessed originally, and so they needed to be heard properly in order to be fair to the motorists. One might suggest that ISPA are the ones ‘raising standards’, rather than the BPA whose tagline that is!