Last month, we received a "parking charge" for apparently waiting in a double yellow line in a BP garage outside of Stansted Airport.
The charge of £ 100 would be reduced to £ 60 if Dani – my fiancee and the registered keeper of the vehicle – paid within 14 days to a company called MET Parking Services, based in London.
The date of issuance of this notice was July 12, 2018. The date of the alleged contravention was June 3, 2018, about 39 days prior.
Needless to say, we were furious. But after letting it sink, I rolled up my sleeves and prepared for battle.
Driver frustration: a "parking charge" of £ 100 for a few minutes at a gas station without feeling good. Is that fair? (Image Stock)
The details of the charge included the following: "Please note that we have obtained the name and address of the registered owner of the DVLA vehicle for the purpose of enforcing this unpaid charge."
The DVLA charges £ 2.50 to private firms to provide details, and is earning around £ 1.5 million per month.
The burden of grief sounded some alarms, so we decided to fight against it. This is how the action was developed:
The parking charge
On June 3, our car was photographed in a double yellow line at BP Connect, Stansted.
This was apparently a "violation of the terms and conditions shown on the signs in prominent places around the parking area."
The photographs, with rudimentary timestamps on them, show the car there.
But the main picture that is included in the letter is so small that you can not even see the vehicle: you must go to its website to see other evidence, extremely unfair for those who do not use the Internet.
I can not tell you who was driving (I'll approach it shortly) but the person behind the wheel was picking up a loved one from Stansted Airport and stopped briefly.
A quick online search shows that many others have been trapped in this BP garage for stopping there, no matter how long it takes.
The letter: this is what the MET Parking Services sent (with personal data removed). I circled the picture of what is apparently our car
There are a number of reasons why I believe that this charge was incredibly unfair. I decided to appeal only to one of them, knowing that I was strong enough.
The ones I did not use were the signage, in my opinion, it is incredibly small (as shown in the photo below), and that the amount of the charge is too high to supposedly break the terms and conditions for a few minutes.
There is also the question of double yellow lines away from the public road.
According to rule 238 of the Highway Code: "the double yellow lines indicate a prohibition to wait at any time, even if there are no vertical signs".
This applies to the public highway, not the private land. You can paint double yellow lines on your land if you wish, but they are not required because they are on the road.
The one I used was the following: the charge was sent 39 days after it supposedly happened.
The Freedom of Protection Act of 2012 has a full section dedicated to the recovery of unpaid parking charges, in section 56.
I used the following legal jargon after reading online forums about the same situation:
9 (4) The notice must be given by: (a) handing it over to the guardian, or leaving it at a current address for the guardian's service, within the relevant period; or (b) sending it by mail to a current address for the guardian's service to be delivered to that address within the relevant period.
(5) The relevant period for the purposes of subparagraph (4) is the period of 14 days from the day after the end of the specified parking period.
Clearly, the demand for money was sent some time after 14 days. This could suggest an accumulation of similar charges that drivers are receiving.
Also, when you appeal and seek advice online, it is clear that you should always refer to being the registered custodian, not the driver, as there is no legal obligation to reveal who was behind the wheel.
This is a golden rule when appealing a charge from a private company.
BP Stansted: Here are the yellow double lines in question: the terms and conditions are below the "do not leave" sign
Our appeal was sent to MET Parking Services. We quickly closed with the signature saying: & # 39; after careful consideration, we have decided to reject your appeal & # 39 ;.
He continues adding: "Parking terms and conditions are clearly indicated on the signs that are prominently displayed in this area.
& # 39; These include that vehicles should not park, wait, load or unload in yellow lines. It was noted that your vehicle violated these terms and conditions, therefore, we believe that the notice of charge was issued correctly and we are complying. "
The company did not mention our reasons for appeal. I had something called POPLA verification code attached. POPLA, he says later in the letter, is an independent appeal service.
If we chose to appeal through POPLA, he told us in bold: & # 39; If the decision of POPLA is NOT in your favor, you will be asked to pay the total amount of £ 100 & # 39 ;.
That felt like scare tactics to squeeze other unfair £ 40, give up and pay.
All he did was add more fuel to the fire. I was determined to win.
Unfair charge of a private company?
Have you received an unfair charge from a private parking company?
Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dealing with POPLA
Still feeling that we were right, I quickly launched an appeal with POPLA, which was easy to do online.
I cited exactly the same reason as before.
The appeal lasted two weeks (I think it should have been faster: any adjudicator would have seen that the charge had been sent out of the required period as established in POFA 2012).
And here, MET Parking Services withdrew the charge indicating "good will". and I did not want to challenge it.
There are dozens of other cases of this happening at BP Stansted, and I am grateful to investigate online to get the basic legal jargon required to challenge it.
I urge everyone who receives a bill from a private company to do the same. I think many are afraid that I can go to court and just want to pay to put him in bed, but the appeal process is there for a reason.
In this case, the private firm tried its luck knowing that it was outside the established time limit for contact established by the Law on the Protection of Freedoms. It's worth taking into account.
The real loser? BP
Private parking companies have a reputation for what I consider to be unfair charges.
What I really do not like is that large corporations like BP apparently allow them to operate in their facilities.
This whole case has left a bitter taste in the mouth. We have a BP garage just minutes from the road from where we live with an attached M & S.
Previously, we resorted frequently to buy fuel and collect some essential items when there is a rush, such as bread and milk.
However, we simply refuse to go further.
Sure, that sounds bitter and petty, but if a company ever bothers you, it seems better to vote with your feet.
BP executives are hardly going to lose sleep, but honestly I think you should question whether allowing private parking firms to try to intimidate people into paying unfair charges is the direction you want to take.
This case has taught me a valuable lesson. If you ever receive a charge like this from a private company, do not get discouraged and panic.
Take your time, investigate and do not let them win; Otherwise, drivers will slowly panic when stopping or parking anywhere in Big Brother Britain.
There is a possibility that you may cancel your appeal. They trust that people are worried about paying their ridiculous accusations without questioning them.
Picking up on Stansted and waiting
The reason why a private parking company is likely to target land owners to register in this area is Stansted Airport.
Like many airports, it now has high charges distributed to the people it collects. But, of course, airplanes often do not arrive at the assigned time and passengers are often late in checking passports and baggage, making it impossible to predict exactly when they will arrive.
This leads to people needing to wait in vehicles to collect people. Instead of recognizing this simple fact of life at the airport, Stansted has decided to earn extra profits from customers.
In Express Set Down (which technically is for leaving people, but drivers also use it to pick up) it costs £ 3.50 for ten minutes.
For 10-15 minutes, it is an additional £ 1 per minute and for more than 15 minutes it is £ 25.
In the green and orange short stay parking is £ 5.50 for up to 30 minutes and £ 10 for up to one hour.
In the blue zone it is £ 4.20 up to 30 minutes and £ 8.20 for up to one hour.
You have a free pick-up and return option through your mid-stay car park, which is five minutes by courtesy bus from the terminal service station.
However, all of the above has limited availability & # 39 ;.
This leads to drivers being fluttering in their pockets outside of Stansted while waiting for the arrival.
These drivers run the risk of being captured by the cameras of private firms that seek to distribute the charges on private land.
Presumably, some have tried this in the BP garage, but if you are going to split a fine surely the company can differentiate between someone stopped momentarily and someone sitting waiting for a prolonged period.