Q. I used Vodafone’s online chat facility to buy an iPhone 5s, ahead of my contract upgrade date. I was informed the new contract would replace my existing contract. I paid £159 for a new phone and contract. I went into a Vodafone shop to arrange the transfer of my existing number onto the new handset and the staff told me this had been done for me. But later I found that I now had two Vodafone contracts. When I phoned Vodafone I was told that I had to return the new phone or pay a penalty fee to end my original contract. I paid this fee. I asked for my old number to be ported to my new telephone and was told it would take 24 hours. I was asked to call the next day to complete the process, but when I phoned back I was told this had not been done and there would be a further delay. I phoned again later in the week and was told this had still not been resolved. Repeated long phone calls the next week were also unsuccessful. Eventually, days later, the phone worked with the correct number, but for ten days I had no mobile number, yet I was charged for a series of 087 numbers that I did not dial. I had to pay £264.79 to buy out my old contract and the new contract and phone cost me £171. JH, Cornwall.
A. This is now resolved. A spokeswoman for Vodafone says: “We have been unable to locate the webchat, so we cannot establish what went wrong here. It could simply have been a misunderstanding and the customer’s request for an upgrade was misinterpreted as a new connection. We’re sorry we didn’t sort this problem out sooner. We’ve spoken to [the reader] to confirm that we will remove the early termination fee of £268 and we’ve offered her a £50 credit by way of an apology.” You have accepted Vodafone’s offer.
Q. We have received a parking charge notice issued by a company called Parking Eye relating to an unpaid parking charge. The notice was issued to the registered keeper, my husband. I wrote on 18 September to explain the circumstances in which the car was parked there. I did not receive a response, but instead received a notice reminder. I assumed this had crossed with my letter, but then in October we received another payment demand, which had been increased to £100 payable within 14 days. We have been threatened with further action, including the use of a solicitor and court proceedings. Is the charge enforceable? This seems very heavy handed. JH, by email.
A. There has been a lot of publicity and controversy over the issue of penalty charges for parking in private car parks, including in out of town shopping centres. The legal situation in England and Wales was clarified by the Protection of Freedoms Act, 2012. David Smith of the trade association the British Parking Association says: “It is important that a motorist understands clearly the process they must go through when receiving a ticket issued by a BPA Approved Operator on private land. 1. When a motorist is issued with a ticket they must decide whether they are in the right or the wrong and make a choice of whether to pay or appeal. 2. If a motorist believes that they are in the wrong then they should pay the charge – taking advantage of the discount offered by the operator for early payment. 3. If the motorist believes that they are in the right and that the ticket should not have been issued then they should appeal to the operator stating their case. 4. If the operator accepts the motorist’s case then the ticket will be cancelled and the motorist will owe nothing. 5. If the operator does not accept the motorist’s case then the motorist will be informed and offered the opportunity for an independent appeal to POPLA. [POPLA, the Parking on Private Land Appeals, is a dispute resolution service.] 6. At this point, the motorist has another choice – they can still pay the charge at the discounted rate or they can appeal to POPLA – but will lose the opportunity to pay at the discounted rate should they choose to do so. 7. If the motorist wins at POPLA then the ticket is cancelled and the motorist will owe nothing. 8. If the motorist loses at POPLA they then have another choice. They can pay the full charge or ignore the POPLA decision and face potential court action. If they choose to ignore the POPLA decision and are taken to court it is likely that it will cost them even more in terms of money and time. In this case the motorist has neither paid the charge nor appealed.”
We also requested an independent legal opinion on the situation, to confirm that in your case the charge is enforceable. Sean Joyce, partner at Stephensons Solicitors LLP, replies: “The short answer is yes, the charge is enforceable, as long as they [Parking Eye] have complied with all the conditions under the new law, the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (schedule 4) which has a section called the Recovery of Unpaid Parking Charges. Under the old rules, unpaid parking charges could only be recovered from the vehicle driver, however this act also allows car park owners to make the registered keeper liable subject to many conditions. There are various conditions that must be met in relation to what the notice must specify (such as accurate time, date etc) and when it is given. The notice must be given to the driver before the vehicle is removed from the land, but there is a 28 day limit on notifying the registered keeper.”
For further details on the legal situation on the collection of charges imposed for car parking on private land, see: www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/9155/guidance-unpaid-parking-charges.pdf