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Private PCN / Parking Ticket - Wild Bean Cafe BP Gatwick Connect Petrol Station!, BP Plc / Civil Enforcement Ltd - Extortion for filling up
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Uktrailmonster
post Fri, 15 Sep 2006 - 11:01
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Hi everyone, this is my first post on this forum so please be gentle!

Totally out of the blue I recently received an official looking PCN from a company named "Civil Enforcement Limited". My first reaction was that it must be a mistake. But on investigation of the dates of the alleged parking charge I remember stopping for a coffee at a busy BP garage near Gatwick Airport. The marked parking bays were all occupied when I arrived, so I simply parked on the forecourt making sure I wasn't causing any obstruction. Anyway I wrote to BP explaining the situation and that I had received the PCN and they wrote back with the following:-

"At this store we have a number of clearly marked car parking bays intended for the use of our customers. In the past we have experienced severe problems with illicit parking on our forecourts resulting in cars being parked for long periods of time, thus occupying valuable spaces. Therefore, reluctantly we have taken the steps of employing a parking control company to help alleviate this increasing problem"

It then goes on to say that I will have to take the matter up with Civil Enforcement Limited, so in other words they are not interested at this point.

So I then wrote to CEL asking them to withdraw the parking charge because I was a genuine BP customer and not using the forecourt for illicit parking. They wrote back with this:-

"We have considered the matters raised in your letter, but regret to advise that we are unable to cancel this ticket"

It then goes on to state BP's sad woes regarding illicit parking on their forecourt and then finishes with:-

"The strict 20 min parking restriction must be adhered to by all vehicles and on this occasion, unfortunately, you considerably exceeded it. Please pay the amount due within the next seven days. If payment is not received, we will have no option but to issue proceedings against you in the County Court, to recover the amounts due to us. We will add our additional costs, interest and fees to the claim"

It's fair to say I wasn't best pleased with this response! I immediately started seeking advice on the matter before making my next move (I received this letter 2 days ago). I came across this excellent forum and I've read through several related cases, giving me confidence that I can fight these little parasites.

From my research on this forum, I've already learned a lot of useful facts relating to this industry and their dubious methods of operation. I've drafted the following letter below and would really appreciate feedback before firing it at the weasels! My letter covers most of the details of the PCN itself and the way in which I received it. My only concern is the possibility of losing an expensive court case further down the road. At present the PCN charge is for £150 and they will accept £75 if I pay immediately. Bargain! Unfortunately, I'm not in a position to check the warning signage on the forecourt, as it's not local to me.

Needless to say BP will not be providing petrol for my car in the future!!! Including my wife that's around 50,000 miles worth a year down the pan for their company. As an interesting aside, I very much doubt anyone else who receives a PCN from BP will ever buy petrol from them again, whether they parked illicitly or not! So BP are surely going to lose revenue over this little parking charge scheme.

Draft letter:-

Take formal notice:

Dear Weasels,

I am writing again with reference to PCN number XXXXXX which you recently issued directly to my home address without prior warning. I was disappointed with your last reply dated 12th September in which you state that you are “unable to cancel this ticket” as described in your own words.

I have since taken legal advice regarding this private PCN and have several legitimate grounds on which to contest its validity. These are outlined as follows:-

The PCN simply states that my vehicle was parked at Gatwick North Connect on the 01/08/2006 from 12:48:42 until 13:21:34. It then states that therefore I am responsible for the payment of this PCN in accordance with the terms and conditions prominently displayed at the entrance and around the car park. There is no statement on the PCN explaining either the terms and conditions I am supposed to have agreed to or in what way I have specifically breached any such terms and conditions. So there appears to be no basis for the charge other than being present at the petrol station between those stated times.

The PCN format itself quite obviously purports to be of an official nature with a misleading title “Civil Enforcement Notice” in bold red font. This document is nothing more than a notice from your company sent unsolicited to my personal address. It is also of a threatening and intimidating nature with comments such as “Failure to pay the amount due within 28 days will result in Civil Enforcement Ltd forwarding your account to a debt recovery agency and you will incur additional costs” written in large capital letters and clearly aimed to cause alarm. It would be interesting to see how the police would view such documentation if I made a complaint of attempted extortion, blackmail and deception.

Your PCN refers to a car park, when in fact I was actually using a petrol station. I think you will agree it is not customary to be charged for parking when using the facilities of a petrol station in a normal manner and I was totally unaware of any of the terms and conditions you say were prominently displayed in the “car park”. I do not recollect any such notices and neither do any of the group of friends who I was with at the time.

Your conduct in this instance is in direct breach of the DVLA code of conduct pertaining to the enforcement of parking restrictions on private land. Specifically, point 3.2 of the code states:- “Notices giving full details of the parking contravention and the proposed course of action to be taken by the enforcer should be placed in a prominent position on the ‘offending’ vehicle without causing it damage. Vehicle keepers should be made aware that their name and address will be requested from the DVLA”. No such notice was ever placed on my vehicle but you clearly obtained my personal details from the DVLA without my prior knowledge in order to send your PCN to my address. Under these circumstances I will consider writing a strong letter of complaint to the DVLA regarding your abuse of this system. If pressed they may decide to withdraw your company’s right to obtain vehicle keeper information.

From a legal standpoint, I understand that private charges can only be based on contract. You will have to prove in court that I agreed to a contract, agreed to park under the terms of the contract, that I agreed to pay a charge if I breached the contract, that I actually did breach the contract and that the charge is both fair and not an unenforceable penalty charge which is not a reasonable estimate of your loss. I deny that such a contract ever existed and I believe this is an unenforcable charge.

I hope you will now agree that not only is this an inappropriate penalty, but you are also in breach of the code of practice as stated by the DVLA. I am sure your company would have due regard for its reputation for operating both ethically and within regulation, particularly as you are effectively representing the interests of a high profile company. I now expect a full written apology and notification in writing that you are going to withdraw your charges with immediate effect.

Your failure to respond appropriately to this letter within the next 12 working days will result in the following actions on my part. I will report your company to the DVLA for your failure to comply with the code of practice. I will report your company and BP to the office of fair trading. I will write a strong letter of complaint to both my local MP and contact the local press. I will write a strong letter of complaint to BP (your client) regarding your conduct and methods used in an unlawful attempt to extract money. I will report this entire incident to the police for nuisance and harassment and for attempting to extract money using threatening documentation purporting to be of an official nature.

You should also take note that further threats for money will most certainly be reported to the police under the protection of harrassment act 1997.

Take that!

This post has been edited by Uktrailmonster: Fri, 15 Sep 2006 - 22:30
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post Fri, 15 Sep 2006 - 11:01
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Teufel
post Fri, 15 Sep 2006 - 13:47
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good letter

i would take out blackmail - its a very specific offence and not really
relevant

you should copy to the company secretary of BP
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Uktrailmonster
post Fri, 15 Sep 2006 - 13:56
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Cheers! It's basically a compilation of points and arguments that I noted from previous threads, several of which are from your own contributions. Many thanks.

The more I think about these idiots, the more angry I get angry.gif
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Ziltro
post Fri, 15 Sep 2006 - 16:48
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I presume by "PCN" you mean "Parking Charge Notice" as opposed to "Penalty Charge Notice"?

I would make sure BP know that their parking enforcement has caused them to loose a customer. (or two)


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Andrew.
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Uktrailmonster
post Fri, 15 Sep 2006 - 16:52
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One question I had on this was the difference between a parking penalty and a parking charge. It appears that they have issued me with a parking charge rather than a penalty. Does this change anything from a legal perspective and give them any possible advantage in court?

QUOTE (Ziltro @ Fri, 15 Sep 2006 - 17:48) *
I presume by "PCN" you mean "Parking Charge Notice" as opposed to "Penalty Charge Notice"?

I would make sure BP know that their parking enforcement has caused them to loose a customer. (or two)


You read my mind! I just posted at the same time to ask about the difference. It is indeed a Parking Charge Notice. Yes I will be writing to BP again for sure! My draft letter for that one is coming along nicely smile.gif
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Ziltro
post Fri, 15 Sep 2006 - 16:52
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A Penalty Charge Notice is a legal thing defined in the Road Traffic Act/s.

I believe a civil Parking Charge Notice is pretty much another word for an invoice... They are asking you to pay the parking charge you argeed to pay by entering into the contract you entered into by reading their easily visible and obviously placed signs and chosing to park where you did.


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Andrew.
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Uktrailmonster
post Fri, 15 Sep 2006 - 16:58
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Ok, so does that mean they don't have to display a ticket on the car at the scene?

Do they have any chance of proving that I agreed to such a contract?

I never saw the signs by the way and I can't check them because I'm not local to the petrol station in question.
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Insider
post Sat, 16 Sep 2006 - 21:02
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That would be interesting for them to enforce.

A Petrol station could IMO (especially if it's a 24hr 7 day one) be classed as Public Highway.

Useful doc from York Council

Hence I don't believe that BP have the right to impose "parking fines"..

Wan*ers.

Write to the BP Chairman telling him what you think and also visit their website and leave some real baad feedback


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Teufel
post Sat, 16 Sep 2006 - 21:16
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not true

a highway requires a public right of way

there is no such thing as a right of way into a piece of land
and back out again - a right of way must go somewhere

key case is known as stonehenge cant remember formal citation
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Insider
post Sat, 16 Sep 2006 - 21:37
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Wrong IMHO,

You have a public right of way, thats why it's a petrol station.

You'd certainly get done for Drink Driving on that land as it's classed as such. The document from York Council is quite clear imo.

QUOTE
What is a highway?
A Highway is an area of land which the public at large have the absolute right to use to ‘Pass and Repass without let or hindrance’.
Any area of land where this right exists therefore have equal status irrespective of the use made of it or its appearance. The status of Parliament Street for example is identical to that of a public footpath across a field.


This post has been edited by Insider: Sat, 16 Sep 2006 - 21:41


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Ziltro
post Sat, 16 Sep 2006 - 22:29
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QUOTE (Insider @ Sat, 16 Sep 2006 - 22:02) *
That would be interesting for them to enforce.

Are you saying that although these civil parking charge thingies based on a contract ("By parking here you agree to give us £200 and your left arm") can be done on private land they can't be done on a public highway?

I suppose it would be a bit like me erecting signs saying "By driving past my house in a Porche you agree to give me your car" and expecting to be able to enforce it.


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Andrew.
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Insider
post Sat, 16 Sep 2006 - 22:41
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QUOTE (Ziltro @ Sat, 16 Sep 2006 - 23:29) *
QUOTE (Insider @ Sat, 16 Sep 2006 - 22:02) *

That would be interesting for them to enforce.

Are you saying that although these civil parking charge thingies based on a contract ("By parking here you agree to give us £200 and your left arm") can be done on private land they can't be done on a public highway?

I suppose it would be a bit like me erecting signs saying "By driving past my house in a Porche you agree to give me your car" and expecting to be able to enforce it.


Exactamundo wink.gif


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Teufel
post Sun, 17 Sep 2006 - 09:01
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firstly there is no right to pass without hinderance over the petrol
station forecourt - they can and will close it whenever they want

secondly a right to of way for vehicles is not a right to stop
and park - again established caselaw such as no right
to picnic on a public footpath over private land

this is not IMHO it is the law
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Uktrailmonster
post Sun, 17 Sep 2006 - 18:36
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I found out today that one of the friends I was with at the time also got one of these parking charge notices. Like myself he had parked on the forecourt rather than in the designated parking bays because they were all occupied.

It seems that BP are saying that we overstayed our welcome by parking there for 32 mins. They say 20 mins is their strict limit. If that was the case you would have thought they should put a huge notice up inside the cafe saying something like "If you do not finish your food and beverages and bugger off within 20 mins we will charge you £150 for the privilege of staying longer".

Now both BP and the parking enforcement cowboys clearly stated in their letters that their intention was to prevent illicit parking on their forecourt, due to the nearby airport. Fair enough. So the parking control is intended to assist their customers in parking to use their facilities. Not helping me much is it? When I get there all the parking spaces are occupied and I'm the one who ends up with a fecking charge for spending money in the service station!!

A further bit of nonsense in the letter form BP states that they had their parking signs up for 1 week before actually taking any action, so that their customers could become accustomed to the new regime. Are they stupid? This is a petrol station next to an international airport. Did it not occur to them that most of their customers would not be regulars? I've only ever been there once in my entire life (and it will be the last for sure) so it wouldn't have mattered if they'd had the signs up for 10 years previously. But more importantly the 1 weeks grace seems to be an admission that it would take a few visits to get used to the idea that they may charge £150 to use their facilities.

So hands up who thinks I should pay them?
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Teufel
post Sun, 17 Sep 2006 - 18:44
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do not pay them

you have not entered into a contract
if you had it did not inlcude a clause to pay a penalty
if it did then the penalty is an unenforceable penalty
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zamzara
post Sun, 17 Sep 2006 - 18:50
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QUOTE (Uktrailmonster @ Sun, 17 Sep 2006 - 19:36) *
But more importantly the 1 weeks grace seems to be an admission that it would take a few visits to get used to the idea that they may charge £150 to use their facilities.


Excellent point. I certainly wouldn't pay them.


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Posts by me are intended as a discussion of the issues involved, as these are of general interest to me and others on the forum. Although it is hoped such discussion will be of use to readers, before exposing yourself to risk of loss you should not rely on any principles discussed without confirming the situation with a qualified person.
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Uktrailmonster
post Mon, 18 Sep 2006 - 19:09
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Ok, I've sent my letter to these guys (I took out the blackmail part as advised) and also sent a letter of complaint to BP. Let's see what happens next!
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bigbad
post Wed, 20 Sep 2006 - 11:19
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I know two taxi drivers that have had tickets here. One guy has had two tickets the other one ticket. Even McDonalds at the south terminal has a time limit with a clamping firm. (but they tend to have someone who tells you to move on if you've been there too long)
I,ve been to Heathrow twice today but not Gatwick. Will see if any of the drivers I know can take a picture of the signs there.
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ffc fan
post Wed, 20 Sep 2006 - 13:36
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hi their

My mother runs a taxi firm in Epsom, for which we have 5 drivers, where 3 of them use a vehicle provided by my mother. On Tuesday morning she received 3 PCN parking notices in the post for 3 of her vehicles, that were issued at BP petrol station at Gatwick North. Needless to say, she is fuming about this at the moment. My mother was driving one of the vehicles, while the other 2 were driven by 2 other taxi drivers. ( who realise that they will have to pay their fine.)


The date in which they have charged us for is over 2 weeks ago, is their a certain time limit in which they have to notify us by?

Like uktrailmonster, we werent aware of these signs, in the past they have stated that you can park for 20 mins and then youre vehicle may be liable to be towed away.

Any help or advice would be appreciated.

Many Thanks
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Teufel
post Wed, 20 Sep 2006 - 14:00
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yes i advise you read all the other threads on private parking charges
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