In another blow for the Private Parking civil recovery industry, a Manchester county court
judge refused to award £240 claimed by parking eye
car park management company in respect of two alleged private parking contraventions.
Awarding a mere £15 the judge apparently found that the rest of parking eye
's claim amounted to an unenforceable penalty as it exceeded any actual losses suffered by the car park owners as a result of the parking infraction.
Parking Eye was also awarded £95 costs which presumably was calculated on the cost of a claim valued at £15 plus the reasonable costs of travel for a single representative.
Unfortunately for Parking Eye, it seems that they may have decided to use this claim as some kind of show-case and had instructed Pannone solicitors who have offices in the Manchester area.
It seems that Pannone turned up mob-handed with four solicitors confident of glory. On the basis of their technical victory, Pannone asked for the costs of travel for their entire team. (Luckily they didn't have far to come and no doubt they all shared the same vehicle.)
The judge refused to award these and agreed with the defendant that he couldn't understand why so many lawyers were needed for a claim worth a paltry £15.
This result may have come as a surprise for Parking Eye and their extensive legal team but the Manchester judge has come up with precisely the reasoning which has been argued on many consumer forums throughout the internet over many years; the Civil Recovery Industry is premised upon the extraction of unenforceable penalties from ordinary members of the public who very often have made some human mistake in the way that so many of us do.
It is a sad fact that Civil Recovery has become an increasingly common feature of our society over recent years. Civil Recovery companies operate as a kind of modern day "bounty hunters" – bringing the Evil to justice, and pocketing the change. Civil Recovery seems to be a growth area in the fields of retail store security, file-sharing and of course car park management. A novel development which has been appearing over the last couple of years has been the use by the TravelLodge hotel chain to pursue their guests for alleged violations of their no smoking policy.
No one doubts that there is a legitimate interest
to be served in controlling the use of private car parks or apprehending shoplifters etc, but surely no one can question the principle that explanations should be given, that sanctions should be proportionate and that their should be an element of humanity and understanding in all cases. However, these desirable characteristics appear to be missing in most of the civil recovery cases which I have seen.
The fact is that the civil recovery industry has an extremely poor reputation – to the point of being thought disreputable by some. It is a puzzle as to why companies with household names and decent reputations for quality and customer service should choose to be associated with this "bounty hunting" industry. Even Bob Diamond, CEO of Barclays
very recently spoke about the need for his Bank to start practising citizenship, but there seems to be very little hint of this sentiment within the civil recovery industry. One wonders whether civil recovery clients really know what is going on.
Of course, Parking Eye have the option to bring an appeal if they want to - but is this a risk which they are prepared to take?
At the moment they run their legitimate business in a legitimate way. Even though a county court judge has found against the legitimacy of their charges, this decision is not binding on other courts. In theory there would be no particular impropriety if parking management companies generally continued to try and get the biggest chunk of lucre they could, for themselves and for their clients. However if the matter were to be decided against them in, say, the High Court then serious issues would be raised if the industry continued its practices unchanged.
It may be time for the parking industry and for the civil recovery industry as a whole to start asking itself some serious questions.
Parking Eye v Smith – Manchester County Court – discussed variously at: –
This piece is based on information contained in the above two threads.
Pannone (pronounced approximately as in Punani
The Consumer Action Group Transport forums
***Also see the latest scandal of Parking Eye's way of doing business****