‘No entitlement to the sums claimed’

From: Gregor Woods

Sheffield S11

I write to express my whole-hearted agreement with the sentiments expressed by Oliver Dempsey in relation to the activities of Excel Parking Services.

Excel’s sister company, Vehicle Control Service Ltd, control parking at Berkley Precinct, Ecclesall Road, Sheffield. I am one of no doubt many people have found themselves on the recieving end of demands for very large sums of money from that company for alleged infringements of their “rules”.

I am the registered owner of a vehicle that was photographed by VCS’s cameras leaving the car park after allegedly being parked for a little over twohours. I received a letter from them claiming that the driver, in staying beyond two hours, had breached one of their conditions and was now required to pay them £100. The sum would be reduced to £60 if paid within 14 days. How generous.

I consider that the company has no legal entitlement whatsoever to the sum claimed, or to any sum. They must first prove that the user of the car park had agreed to enter a contract with them, a term of which was that he or she would not park beyond two hours. That presents a number of difficulties, not least proving that the term relied upon was sufficiently brought to the attention of the user.

Even if they surmount that legal hurdle, however, what exactly is the loss they claim to have suffered? If someone breaches a contract with you, you are entitled to claim as damages a sum equal to the loss suffered as a consequence of that breach. What is your loss, VCS? It is a free car park. The sum claimed sounds rather like a penalty. Penalties are unenforceable.

I would be interested to read a response from a representative of VCS setting out precisely what they consider to be the legal basis for their claim. I have requested this in writing from them directly, but they are yet to illuminate me. I would also be interested to hear whether anyone has actually been sued by Excel or VCS and had the dispute resolved at a court hearing.

I suspect that huge sums of money are made by these companies because most people feel they have no option but to pay, without any of the claims being properly tested.