As most folk will probably know, (private) wheel clamping was quickly outlawed by the Scottish courts almost as soon as it was invented, with the act of seizing someone's car by immobilising it until they paid to have it freed being described as blackmail or extortion on the part of the clamping company.
Our English and Welsh cousins did not fare so well, and their reign of terror at the hands of thugs and crooks running legal wheel clamping business is only now coming to an end (October 1, 2012).
However, it looks as if Scotland still allows drivers to suffer extortion at the hands of private parking companies, if this story that was published about the car park at Harry Ramsden's fish & chip supermarket is anything to go by.
It should be noted that although the story arises through the car park at Ramsden's, you should take care to read the detail as Ramsden's is not responsible for operating the car park. That is the responsibility of a car park operator.
And, if the Glaswegian story is accurate, it is clear that the Liverpool-based car park operator is running a scam little better than the wheel clamping that went on by operators bases south of the border :
A RESTAURANT whose customers are being hit with parking fines have spoken of their frustration at being unable to stop the problem.
Harry Ramsden’s, who are famous for their fish and chips, have lost customers since leasing their car park to Liverpool-based Civil Enforcement.
As reported previously in The Glaswegian, the firm have fined customers stopping by to collect a takeaway and others who were legitimately parked there while dining.
This week, Ramsden’s chief executive Joe Teixeira admitted the restaurant near Springfield Quay is haemorrhaging customers angered by the fines.
He said: “It’s becoming increasingly frustrating that car parking is outwith our control and that the actions of a third party are having a negative impact on the good relationship we enjoy with our customers.”
Teixeira promised to support customers through any dispute with Civil Enforcement.
He added that he was trying to get out of the five-year contract with the firm, which was signed by his predecessor. But he added that it was “exceptionally complicated” – the same claim levelled by his customers at the parking system.
Diners must enter their car registration on a machine in the restaurant to avoid a £150 fine. But one angered customer claims the machine doesn’t always work.
They will be penalties imposed by a private company which needs to go to court to recover if the victim does not pay up when requested. Courts often back the victim if the case goes to court.
One TV programme showed one company that had altered the firmware in the ticket machines so (I think) they printed the wrong time on the tickets.
Very odd that the restaurant cannot stop the company operating on their land. I can understand it being difficult to get out any money owed to the company but it should be possible to stop them going on their property.
While the Pedant's Society appreciates a loyal member resurrecting the 'fine' v 'penalty' coverage we had in another thread...
Playing such word games is unlikely to get anywhere in a real court (but then again, I'd also like to know the outcome if someone tried it - probably an increase!)
I saw the same prog on the doctored firmware, and hadn't really considered it in this case, as the (parking) company's line seems to be one more along the lines of "Our machines are never broken. If you say they were, you're lying."
There's no great oddness that the chippy cannot stop the parking co operating on its land.
There will be a contract giving the parking co the right to the land for 5 years (or whatever), and the chippy has no rights for that period.
The only way to stop them would be to break the contract, say by barring their access, in which case the chippy will probably be hit for the full value of the contract immediately, plus penalties - and the parking co would probably sue as well, for projected 'earnings' over the period.
And given the nature of the parking co, I am sure they will have plenty of 'small print' to fall back on if a client breaks or cancels a contract with it.
Sadly, I can attest to this from having suffered this one from a legitimate business contract, and when contracts have long lives such as this one, the implications of the 'small print' is often ignored, as neither side expects anything to go that badly wrong when such a long commitment is being made. So when things go awry before the period expires, it hits hard.
Pet hate of mine, this business - but there is actually something in the notion that these are not fines. A private company has no right to fine you, so it essentially falls under contract law - you are being issued with an unsolicited invoice, and it's up to the company to prove that you were aware of the contract and had consented to its terms and conditions, which must not be seen to be unfair. The arguments are that proving all of the above apply is so difficult that companies very, very rarely take people to court - they simply rely on an increasingly official looking set of letters designed to scare you into thinking that bad, bad things are about to happen to you.
They can set it to debt collectors all they want, but without a court ruling in their favour, you simply tell them that you dispute the debt, they can't seize anything or record whatever the Scottish equivalent is of a CCJ against you until they win the case. The only cases they tend to win are default ones where the people don't mount a defence (or bother to show up).
My sister got a ticket about 14 months ago for overstaying by a few minutes in Rutherglen Shopping Centre. Told her to ignore it, haven't heard anything since.
I could put at the end of this post that I consider this advice to be worth 50 quid, and your reading it is consent to this, then send you an invoice for it - that, essentially, is the business model here. Loads of websites out there that will offer advice (usually to completely ignore!) on this matter, my preferred one is here:
It's a more succinct expression of what I was meant to say in a couple of words when I suggested steering clear of the 'fine' v 'penalty' aspect in this particular thread on the chip shop case.
There's little point it 'reheating' (sorry ) a subject which has been well 'grilled' (sorry ) in other threads and forums where better legal heads and folk who have actually suffered the effects have related their experiences.
It's a terribly long time since I last consulted Pepipoo and it had completely slipped my mind now (and that's a small hook to hang anything on these days )
I was told once by a lawyer that private fines have no legality in Scotland, that here they are legally an "invitation pay", an invitation which can be ignored. It seems these crooks are trying to enforce English law where it does not apply, just like the previous criminals who are told by a sheriff that the next car clamped in Scotland would incur a lengthy jail sentence for the clamper.