The Letter Before Claim (LBC) is a letter sent by a private parking company when attempting to ‘encourage’ payment of a private parking ticket. The Letter Before Claim may also be called a Letter Before County Court Claim (LBCCC) or Letter Before Action (LBA), depending on the parking company.
If you have received a Letter Before Claim, this would typically be because you have previously ignored requests for payment from the parking company. At this stage, the only way a parking company can recover the charge is to enforce it in the county court. The Letter Before Claim is issued as a pre-requisite of issuing a claim, as laid down in the Practice Direction on pre-action conduct. The aim of the of the Practice Direction is to attempt to get the parties to settle the issue out of court.
Since late 2012, parking companies have been much more active in issuing court claims. Before then, very few parking companies attempted to enforce tickets in the courts, due to it not being financially beneficial and the fact that there was only about a 50% win rate. At the time, the ‘ignore private parking tickets’ advice had become so widespread that it was seriously threatening their income. Since then certain parking companies, such as ParkingEye and Civil Enforcement Ltd, have attempted to change this perception by issuing many more court claims (see here on Parking Prankster’s blog), giving the impression that they are much more serious.
It should be made clear though that enforcement in court is still not financially viable; the parking company will most likely lose money by taking the claim to court. The parking companies are taking claims to court in order to change the perception (and as a result their overall conversion rate of tickets to payments), not to recover money from those specific cases.
The Letter Before Claim forms part of the image the parking companies are trying to project; they are trying to make you believe they seriously intend to take YOU to court and that they are serious about it. You should bear in mind that the Letter Before Claim will be a template letter that they send to hundreds of people in your position every day. It has not been written specifically for your case, and they aren’t expecting at this stage to take you to court. However, it shouldn’t be ignored; if you don’t act upon it, then you might just be the unfortunate person that does get taken to court.
So, what should you do if you receive a Letter Before Claim (or Letter Before County Court Claim or Letter Before Action)?
Firstly, you could go to a solicitor. However, the cost of that given the amount being demanded may be prohibitive. Further, generalist solicitors won’t necessarily have knowledge of the private parking industry.
Over on the Money Saving Expert forum, a retired solicitor has provided a guide on what to do if you receive a Letter Before Claim. It discusses how to use the Practice Direction for pre-action conduct to your advantage – i.e. how to make the parking company’s life difficult, and make them realise you’re knowledgeable and serious. Reading this should be your first course of action.
Another option would be to search for similar cases on the internet forums, and see what advice is being given to people in similar positions.