Smart Parking Ltd SCAM – Car Park Ticket PCN SCAM

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

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.

And another…

And another….

And another…..

And another……

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 Ltd utilising "The Chewbacca Defense"

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…..  

Sup yo

22 thoughts on “Smart Parking Ltd SCAM – Car Park Ticket PCN SCAM”

  1. I enjoyed reading this lots, thanks. Just one bugbear; is the (I presume guessed) nationality of the parking attendant relevant? Feels like a bit of lazy stereotyping…

  2. Hey I’ve had several letters from death recovery plus and I have ignored all of them. I parked in Matalan car park. I have now recieved a letter from zenith collections stating if I refuse to pay then client may take legal action against you…. do I continue to ignore? Horrible people!!!

    1. I parked on what i thought was a Matalan car park, ive just recieved from SCS Law, London, E14 5LQ ! A pay up or a CCJ be obtained. It s a scary looking letter.

  3. Depends on the grounds of the ‘fine’ really. Did you contest it at the time?

    So it’s on record Id write and say you owe no money and intend to defend any intended legal action.

    Completely ignoring the letters is a bad idea. But writing an equally threatening one back telling them to do one or else you’ll make a harassment complaint against them may work…..

    1. Interesting. I’ve just filled in the appeal section at Smart Parking on behalf of my 17yr old daughter pointing out that their ‘contract’ with ‘me’ (my 17yr old daughter) is invalid, unenforcable and void. However, I’ve added that, in reading the appeal, they are entering into a contract (which is enforcable in that direction) whereby:
      1) they send a letter confirming withdrawal of the charge within 7 days
      2) immediately remove her details and her vehicle’s details from the system
      3) don’t make any further attempt at correspondence. A first attempt will result in them being invoiced for £250 to compensate for annyonance
      4) Any further attempts will result in legal action being considered for harassment and they will be reported for the ICO for contravening the GDPR.

      Etc

  4. I’m very familiar with these scum, however you are wrong in saying “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.” Yes, if the document inside the envelope claimed to be a “PCN – Penalty Charge Notice” it would be illegal, only councils, the police and some government organisations can issue penalties. However the Private Parking Companies are legally allowed to mark their envelopes “PCN” as long as the documentation inside the envelope, and subsequent NTK (notices to keeper) refers to “Parking Charge Notice”, the word “Penalty” must not be used, and nor is it. There isn’t a single Private Parking Company who use anything other than “Parking Charge Notice” on all of their paperwork.

  5. You could also consider action for breach of the Data Protection Act. Part of the rules of the parking company being able to apply for the DVLA keeper data is that they don’t pass it on to any third party, which they have clearly done here. Current compensation being awarded in the Small Claims court is around £750.

  6. I am currently appealing a Smart Parking ‘PCN’ for driving through a car park twice on the same evening without even stopping!
    A camera caught 2 images of my car 3 hours apart and assumed I have parked there for 167 minutes.
    POPLA is my next option.
    Smart Parking are a joke!

    Blyth

  7. I parked in the car park on flowers way and the machine was broke so i left my car for an hour as i didnt realise it was joint to the car park next to it,i recieved a letter from the dept collectors a month after saying because i had ignore the letters from smart parking(i never got any letters)i now owe them £160.. i did contact the dept collectors plus and explained i was willing to pay the original ticket however i was not paying the £160.That wasnt good enough and now they keep ringing..do i ignore them?

    1. HI Paige, I was in that flowers way car park very briefly on the same day , I can confirm that the ticket machine was out of order, I too got a pcn from smart parking and I have appealed it.

  8. We parked in Riverside Erith which is operated by Smart Parking. looked at the board on the way in:
    up to 3 hours FREE. Didn’t think anything more. Went to collect my order from Argos and left the car park 14 minutes later. A couple of weeks on and we got a PCN from Smart Parking for £100 reduced to £60 if paid within 14 days because although it is free to park for up to 3 hours, you still have to get a ticket. There is a * beside FREE and you have to read the small print. They have cameras on the carpark and sent us timed pictures of us entering and leaving the carpark. We appealed and they of course rejected it. We have appealed now to POPLA.

    I have written a letter of complaint to our Councillor and our MP.

    1. Hi Frances

      My wife is going through similar issue Riverside Erith how did your case end would know how you about it to escape from this scammers call themselves smart parking and debt recovery plus

  9. I innocently parked in what I thought was an ASDA carpark. Lifeboat Quay Poole. I received a letter/notification asking for £160 a month later from DRP Ltd. This was the first communication I had received so did not have knowledge of my error, or that I could appeal or that the original fine/charge was for £45 – (if I paid within 14 days) which obviously had passed by. Several letters/phone calls/ demands later from DRP and Smart Parking I have noow received a letter from Gladstones solicitors threatening court action. I don’t think it is fair to ask for £160 – I could have paid £45 if I had got the original, even though my disability and lack of mobility may be extenuating circumstances against the charge, but now I am a bit scared and worried and don’t know what to do. I have contacted Citizens Advice -Consumer rights who did not help much and also Community Legal advice who gave me the number for citizens advice, Popla were not much use as I have not got a verification no. Can anyone advise me what I should do next?

  10. Hi I’ve just received a notice from Smart Parking showing a photo of my car entering & leaving the car park in question a quarter of an hour over supposed parking time. I know I paid for two hours parking as I paid a £60 fine to them last year when I realised I’d stayed over my hour slot & thought I don’t want to get caught again.
    Trouble is I’ve thrown my ticket away. After reading various articles about the scam company they are I wonder where I stand? Do I ignore or appeal?

  11. I parked in a car park in the centre of Billericay for an clinical appointment and saw the cameras, notices and other cars with tickets on the dashboard. I always get a ticket in car parks, or check to see if charges are payable at the time I’m parking there, so proceeded to the machine and bought one.

    About 3 weeks after parking there, a letter arrived from Smart Parking with a picture of my car arriving and another of it leaving 37 minutes later. Their claim was that I hadn’t bought a ticket, or had over-stayed – the minimum charge is for one hour, so I knew they were alleging that I hadn’t bought a ticket. What they hadn’t banked on was that I park in pay-and-display car parks so infrequently that I keep all of the tickets for up to 3 months. I pulled out the ticket and to my amazement, it even had my registration number on it (that I had input into the machine).

    Of course they couldn’t argue with the valid ticket, but it started me wondering how many of the speculative parking charge notices they actually send out and how many are paid by people that are either frightened of the consequences of not paying, or doubt their memories and whether that they had failed to comply with the car park’s T&Cs.

    This company clearly has something wrong with it’s systems if it doesn’t know that a ticket is issued, even when the registration mark has been given to the ticket machine. Or, could this be a scam? Surely not 🙂

    I’m now wondering if I can have any fun with this? I’ve already written to the DVLA complaining that they have given out keeper details without justification and asked for full details fo the request and reply – any other ideas?

  12. I had to take my Mother to Aldershot Health Center, as we were running short on time I dropped her at the main entrance and then went to the parking lot. I parked in the disability area, my blue badge was on full display, made a couple of phone calls and wandered over to the health center, met Mum on the way out so we went back to the car. Is this a good place to mention that parking with a valid blue badge is free?
    well about 3 weeks later the infamous letter arrived and I had 2 days to get in an appeal. All I ever received was an email because I had attached my drivers license instead of front an back of blue badge, no biggie sent them off. Never heard another word until Friday saying they were going to press charges on me.
    So because I didn’t register my blue badge, I never did get inside the health center they now want £160.00 for a free parking space. I could understand a warning and if I was stupid enough to do it again then could try and fine me.

  13. I went to collect my parents from the railway station, in Hull, and parked in the small Royal Hotel car park which is attached to the station. They have a photo of me entering the car park at 13:08. I bought a ticket, which has my registration number on it, at 13:12, from the machine about 5 cars away from where I had parked. I left the car park at 13:38 according to their photo. A few weeks later I received a PCN claiming I had not paid for the parking. I went onto the Smart Parking website, which would not allow me to upload a scan of my ticket, so I gave the all of the details instead. They declined my appeal. I then contacted POPLA and sent them a scan of the ticket – they also declined, claiming I must have bought the ticket elsewhere! I am not an Olympic athlete – in 4 minutes to enter the car park, run to an adjacent car park (not even sure where that would be) and then go back to the original car park to collect my parents! I now have DRP letter. I am prepared to go to court with my evidence but I would rather not. This is making me quite ill with the stress but I don’t see why I should pay a fine when I have done everything correctly.

  14. I went on a Universal Credit SIA course at Challenge House, Mitcham Road, Croydon back in June 2018 and on two days my wife parked in the front car-parking bay for 4 minutes and 12 minutes respectively staying in the car waiting for me to come out. There were no signs to say No Parking but after I appealed my ‘PCN’s’ in July low and behold, brand new large blue and white signs appeared in August . Despite meeting one of the Partners and being given a ‘special’ email address to explain my circumstances, nothing was heard until a Debt recovery letter from said ‘Debt recovery Plus Ltd. arrived for £320.

    I am a Veteran stressed out with rent payments and actively looking for work (on behalf of the agreement I made with the Job Centre) while these people are making a living on the proceeds of TaxPayers money through the DWP who in turn (according to my MP) cannot intervene.
    Something is very wrong here that the Authorities cannot ensure that this kind of immoral practice (i.e., theft in their name) is allowed to carry on in broad daylight without any repercussions or laws, something I thought I had put the uniform on to protect. So much for the Forces Covenant.

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