I usually blog about online scams, but this is an offline scam you can fall in to SO easily, it’s actually quite scary!
Smart Parking Ltd
My friend was driving in a town centre and fancied some lunch. He saw a Toby Carvery, pulled into the car park shared with sofa shops etc, and had a rather nice lunch. Usually in these car parks you have to be visiting a business or have actually bought something – but lunch at the Toby Carvery firmly ticked this box!
He came out to the vehicle to find a yellow ticket on his windscreen claiming to be a ‘PCN’ and a bloke dressed up in a traffic warden costume next to the vehicle.
It is perhaps important to digress slightly here and say that Smart Parking Ltd acted illegally in calling the ticket a PCN. Only councils and government departments are allowed to use the word PCN. In reality Smart Parking’s PCN is just a speculative invoice.
The ‘PCN’ and the idiot dressed up as a traffic warden claimed that the vehicle was guilty of “obstructive parking”. The ‘warden’ took my friend to the front of the vehicle to reveal he had parked no more than FOUR INCHES over a crooked and broken white line that had random criss-crosses in it. “That path is for a wheelchair and you have blocked it”, said the idiot parking man in his thick Nigerian accent.
Of course, in reality this couldn’t possibly have been for wheelchairs as there was a curb and the end of the ‘path’, a flounce of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, neither was it properly marked. Nevertheless the ‘warden’ told my friend “just dispute it, they always cancel them”.
So my friend wrote to Smart Parking Ltd, and said this was clearly nonsense and he wouldn’t be paying the ‘fine’ of £90 (reduced to £45 for good behaviour – how nice of them!) and asked them to cancel it. Of course, Smart Parking Ltd wrote back saying in fact that it was valid and demanded payment.
Smart Parking Ltd even stupidly sent a picture of the terms and conditions displayed on a car park sign. However, there was a problem with this… The photo of the sign was taken in an indoor car park – yet the vehicle was parked in an outside car park. Duh!
Smart Parking Ltd’s letter droned on about how they did no wrong and how anyone who enters the car park agrees to the terms and conditions – yeah right!
Unfortunately for Smart Parking Ltd, the friend they tried to scam is a legal genius who eats scammers for breakfast and smashes spurious legal claims to pieces. Smart Parking Ltd don’t know this at this point….. but they soon will 🙂
A few weeks went past a letter arrived from Debt Recovery Plus Ltd, although of course it wasn’t a letter it was a NOTICE (lol). This letter threatened if the ‘debt’ of £136 was not paid it would be transferred to the “legal team for their consideration” – frightening!
…The letter was ignored.
Then another letter arrived from Debt Recovery Plus Ltd, this time it claimed it was the “final chance” to settle the case with Smart Parking Ltd. It even kindly reduced the amount from £90 to £136; no seriously, I have that the correct way round!
Then he received the original letter from Debt Recovery Plus Ltd again, now demanding £160.
Then another letter from Debt Recovery Plus Ltd. This time it was a NOTICE (lol) of “intended court action”. It still demanded £160, although Debt Recovery Plus Ltd has never stated how the amount has nearly doubled from the purported ‘PCN’!
Then another NOTICE, which was back to the original letter from Debt Recovery Plus Ltd, and demanded £160.
And then another…
It’s perhaps worth stating at this point my friend, being the legal genius he is, told Smart Parking Ltd he did not wish to have his details passed on. He also said further contact from Smart Parking Ltd and/or their servants/slaves or agents would be considered harassment.
Six months later and 12 letters later from Debt Recovery Plus Ltd, a NOTICE (lol) arrives from Zenith Collections. It claimed to be “Without Prejudice”, although unclear as to what it was without prejudice to. It said that this time Smart Parking Ltd would accept £100 for the £90 ‘debt’, which inexplicably was claimed to have increased to £160.
Laughably, this letter said at the very bottom in extremely small writing you cannot read “Zenith Collections is a trading name of Debt Recovery Plus Ltd”. No surprise there then.
Suspiciously, the following can be noted between the two letters:
- Debt Recovery Plus Ltd have a trading address of Dukinfield (Manchester).
- Zenith Collections have a trading address of Ashton Under Lyne, you guessed it, also in Manchester.
- Despite supposedly trading from two different offices in the Manchester area, both ‘registered offices’ for Debt Recovery Plus Ltd (trading as Zenith Collections) and the actual Debt Recovery Plus Ltd are in London, W1H 1DP.
- Debt Recovery Plus Ltd and Zenith Collections both use 0208 numbers to call for ‘payment’. Odd for companies clearly based in Manchester!
- A 2 second Google search of W1H 2DP has as the first hit “Virtual Office Services in London” – well, well…
Give these scammers their due, they do like a registered office in London to look big and professional.
Then he received a letter from Debt Recovery Plus Ltd being Debt Recovery Plus Ltd this time.
And then another…
And this is where it gets really exciting! A letter from Gladstones Solicitors! We all love a solicitors letter as they are a usually full of shite and overly threatening and aggressive – and usually when cases to get to Court, the Judge tells them off for it!
This time the letter claims the £160 is owed. But of course fails to explain how the claimed debt has risen from the original £90 ‘PCN’ to £160. That is, by the way, a breach of the solicitors code!
The letter claims that a payment should be made to Debt Recovery Plus. But hang on… the top of the letter says the ‘Claimant’ is Smart Parking Ltd? So how can Debt Recovery Plus Ltd instruct Gladstones Solicitors on behalf of Smart Parking Ltd? As my friend points out, they can’t.
Debt Recovery Plus are not Solicitors and have no legal right to practise litigation on behalf of Smart Parking Ltd. It should be Smart Parking Ltd instructing solicitors themselves, and of course if they should, seek the sum of £90 not the £160.
More fundamentally than that, Gladstones Solicitors should never have taken instructions from Debt Recovery Plus Ltd, as they (DR+) have no legal entitlement to work on behalf of Smart Parking Ltd.
Anyway, as to the rest of Gladstones’ letter, it was complete BS. They threaten that defending the claim their client (presumably, actually Smart Parking Ltd) may make, will increase the cost – which is basically another tactic to unjustifiably threaten and intimidate someone.
They claim that costs are likely to increase the debt, which may be: Fixed Costs, Court Fee(s), Judgement Costs and even Warrant fees and costs.
Once again this is complete rubbish to write in a pre-action letter. The costs they refer to are ONLY recoverable if they WIN the case. So these threats are simply more nonsense to make you pay a company who has no legal entitlement to act for the other company whose “debt” it actually is.
Of course what Gladstones do is try to threaten you in to paying, and make all kinds of stupid claims to stop you from defending your case. This is a breach of Solicitors Code and if you receive a letter like this you should report it to the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Basically Gladstones is yet another dodgy solicitor firm, and seem to get away with it through threatening people.
My friend is baiting Gladstones and Smart Parking a bit more, before whacking a massive injunction against them in the High Court and suing them for harassment.
However if you have received a ‘PCN’ from Smart Parking, it is advised you follow the POLPA appeal process, and ‘do it by the book’. There are plenty of websites for appealing these ‘PCNs’ on the internet.
If your appeal is refused and you are being harassed by Smart Parking Ltd, Debt Recovery Plus Ltd or Gladstones Solicitors over a debt you do not owe (or do not think you owe), contacting a solicitor is advised, as Gladstones on occasion have been known to issue vexatious claims.
Hopefully this article is of use and watch out for scammers when you park your car in retail outlets!
P.S I wonder how long before I’m threatened with defamation action again…..