We recently received a letter styled as a “Parking Charge Notice” from a company identifying themselves as Parking Eye Car Park Management. You can see it here. I’ve removed identifying details of the car.
So what do we do about it?
Here are the basic facts.
- We weren’t driving the car. Not me or anybody working for me, with me or similar.
- We had sold the vehicle prior to the alleged offence, have an invoice proving as such and know who now owns the car.
Private parking charges are breach of contract, not fines or penalties
As this offence allegedly occurred on private land, it is not a crime. This is a civil matter. If it were issued by a council, DVLA or the Police then this would be different.
So their charge is based on contract law. That is to say they believe the driver of the car breached a contract which was made when they entered the car park.
The contract in question is that of “Don’t stay longer than 1 hour 20 minutes or we’ll charge you”. Without getting over the top with details, the land owner is then allowed to charge a driver in breach of this contract for the loss he or she suffers due to the driver’s overstaying his/her welcome.
The driver in question did overstay this welcome. They were there for just over 1 hour 30 minutes according to the timestamped photographs of entrance and exit.
So the letter received is not a fine, or a penalty; it’s an invoice. They are requesting money they believe they are owed. Now if I send you an invoice in the post for something you’ve never heard of, will you just pay it? No, and you shouldn’t and here’s why.
Only the driver and not the car owner or registered keeper is responsible
The law says that only the driver of a vehicle can enter into a contract by parking on private land. So if you lend your car to your mum and she gets a ticket like this, it is she who has breached the contract, not you. But of course cars are registered to keepers and not drivers and you’re more than entitled to lend your car to whoever you like.
But how do they get the details of who to send the letter to? The DVLA make a rather tidy sum each year by charging companies such as Parking Eye to access their records, in order to dish out these charges. That’s perfectly acceptable in the eyes of the ICO, the office that controls data protection. In fact when I spoke with them they told me it would be perfectly acceptable for me to pass details of the new owner on to Parking Eye.
So why didn’t I? Because I don’t have to. Legally, this private company, Parking Eye, cannot make me disclose information about the new owner of the car. Even if you are the owner of the car and you weren’t driving, they can’t make you tell them who was.
Can’t you contact parking eye and explain?
I thought I would give them a call. Unfortunately the number they provide is an automated payment hotline and their website offers no telephone number (Update – I did find a phone number, keep reading). The address they offer is a PO Box so I emailed Parking Eye and let them know that I don’t own the car and that they shouldn’t bother me again.
They offer the email address of [email protected] on the notice. Of course, I wasn’t appealing against anything. This isn’t the ICC in The Hague. I checked their website, www.parkingeye.co.uk and I sent the email to [email protected] and received an automatic response stating that if this was an appeal it would not be dealt with at this address. That’s fine, it isn’t an appeal.
I didn’t appeal, but it was unsuccessful anyway?
A week later I received a letter. It told me my appeal had been unsuccessful and I should tell them who the owner is and prove I sold it. This raised two interesting questions;
- If I sent it to info@ and not appeals@ and if they said they wouldn’t respond if it was an appeal, how did I make an appeal?
- Am I now being required to prove my innocence to a private company in order to be let off an invoice I don’t owe?
I sent a further email to info@ stating quite clearly the following:
- I have not and am not appealing anything.
- I didn’t have the car, this isn’t my problem, check the DVLA database.
- Don’t bother me again, I won’t reply.
Of course they did reply. They sent another letter telling me my appeal had been unsuccessful. The evidence I provided (none) did not meet the criteria (printed on £20 notes?) of the landlord of the site. So I didn’t reply, I did this instead, but I did email them the link. They said they couldn’t open it. They’ll probably have seen it by now.
Why have you sent this invoice to me?
It was surprising that I received this charge almost two months after the alleged offence occured. We always send the logbook away to the DVLA at the latest a week after we sell the car (we save them up and send them all together, saves envelopes and stamps), so why would DVLA still hold our details?
In fact, being a motor trader, we never register the cars in our names. We send away the yellow motor trade section or where we buy from other traders this is already done. The invoice received states:
Your details have been requested and provided by the DVLA as you are the registered keeper of the vehicle which has been parked without a permit; payment of the appropriate tariff; and/or overstayed the free stay period of the on the day in this private car park.
Yes it does say “of the on the day” on the letter. But after contacting DVLA to ensure they had received the logbook and make sure we weren’t registered as the keeper they told us not only are we not the keeper, we never have been.
So how did they get our details? I think this is where the two month gap comes in. Most likely, as the dates between selling the car and the offence were quite close, it was still registered to it’s previous owner. They send him the letter, he sends it to the garage he got it from, they send it to us and we’re supposed to send it to the new owner.
So what happens now, will it be court action?
I’m choosing not to provide the information they have requested. Mostly because of their your unsuccessful appeal approach, but also because if they check the DVLA database again, they will have the information they need. I’ve written two emails and one blog about this so I’m not giving them any more of my time.
There will be no court action, mostly because these companies have a terrible record. It’s hard to prove somebody was driving without CCTV evidence or similar. Even if they have that, how do they know that person on video is the registered keeper they’ve been invoicing (some say harassing).
Furthermore, how can a limited company be the driver of a car? The police and other legal bodies can force companies to disclose who was driving the car in the case of speeding tickets and other motoring offences; or fine the directors. A private company issuing invoices for breach of contract has no such powers.
So to sum up; Parking Eye have a contract with a person, who has breached that contract. That person is liable to a charge under that contract. But Parking Eye don’t know who the person is and have no legal way of forcing us to tell them.
Update: This was true at the time of writing but things changed in October 2012. They can now hold the registered keeper liable if they fail to disclose who was driving. They still can’t force you to pay. They’ve just made the “I don’t know who was driving” defence a little harder to use. Read more about this here.
So if you get a charge in similar circumstances, you know what to do. File it in the shredder. If you’ve had similar issues, let us know in the comments. I’ll keep this updated with whatever they do next.
If you would like to get in touch with Parking Eye their registered address is:
40 Eaton Avenue, Matrix Park, Buckshaw Village, Chorley, PR7 7NA. Be aware that there are also several accountants registered here and this may not be their actual working address. The parking eye phone number is 01772 885800.
Get the straight-forward guide to Private Parking Charges and why you shouldn’t pay them now for just £4. The guide tells you everything you need to know about how PPCs operate, the laws under which they do business and explains exactly why you shouldn’t pay.