Important note! this post purely refers to non-local authority (council) tickets. And it also refers to statute in England and probably the United Kingdom. If you are not from here you should check your local laws.
In 1961 a psychologist known as Stanley Milgram began a series of seemingly barbaric experiments, but they served a purpose. The world had begun to try Nazi war criminals and the question of how the German people could have for the most part been so complicit in what was regarded as some of the most heinous acts of evil since the French reign of terror, was raised.
The experiment paid ordinary people to participate in the experiment with the experimenter, Stanley Milgram, an actor playing the recipient (learner), and the teacher whose job was to obey the instruction passed down by Stanley. The learner was asked several questions and if he got an answer wrong, the teacher was ordered to shock him. The shocks were administered in 15 volt increments.
The actor would yell in pain in a display of agony as the voltages increased and when the teacher would question the experiment or express a desire to check on the learner, Stanley would say the following in this order;
- Please continue.
- The experiment requires that you continue.
- It is absolutely essential that you continue.
- You have no other choice, you must go on.
65% of all the teachers administered the 10th shock which was 450 volts, often trembling, biting nails, having laughing fits or seizures. In all cases they stopped if the learner started banging on the walls and demanding to leave. At this point I should point out that the learner was an actor and the volts were not real, but the teacher was totally unaware of this.
So what is the point of mentioning this experiment in the context of this blog? Am I trying to draw a parallel between the Nazis and parking wardens? No not at all, the point I am trying to illustrate is that as humans we have an innate need to comply with those we perceive to be in a position of authority.
So I got a parking ticket at my office a while ago from my friends at OPC, the ticket in its bright bumble bee theme colouring, a natural symbol of danger with various threats about the £50 fine doubling if payment is not made within a specified timeframe, the ticket issued by a man in a nicely pressed uniform carrying expensive equipment and probably brandishing some kind of identity card as an aegis of authority.
If I purchased a parking inspector outfit from ebay and slapped a ticket on a car parked in the private road outside my house, legally speaking what would be the difference between me and the OPC parking inspector? Absolutely nothing.
That’s right, they are civilians working for a private enterprise subcontracted on behalf of the land owner to generate revenue and prevent people from parking when they have no right to do so, they work on a commission so are therefore incentivised to attach a ticket to anybody who breaches their rules regardless of whether it would be morally questionable.
Take my situation for example, my company rents the office and are allocated a number of spaces. The company therefore has defacto permission to allocate those spaces to a member of staff as they see fit. One day my permission slip falls off my dash without me realising so it is not on display and I get a ticket. Despite me emailing them directly explaining that I was authorised at the time of the alleged contravention they insist I have to pay them.
So I told them that they were welcome to start civil court proceedings against me and let a judge decide who was right and who was wrong, funnily enough I never heard anything about it ever again. Even the figure they come up with is ridiculous, did someone just put their finger in the air and come up with £50? Or did they hire an actuary to calculate a figure that was as high as possible before the total income generated would be offset by people challenging the tickets? A nice goldilocks zone where they slip under the radar and people just think ‘well I’m pissed of and it’s unfair… but sod it…’.
My friend got a ticket the following week and that is exactly what she said, when I tried to enlighten her she said she didn’t want to get a CCJ. Not only that but then it backfired on me when word got about that I had snubbed my own ticket and everyone tried to assure me that my credit rating would be ruined and I would never be able to get a mortgage because of the CCJ.
Lets backtrack for a second, I am not allowed to challenge what I think is an unfair ticket because of the risk that it will ruin my whole life? surely such a ridiculous system couldn’t exist…. could it?
No it couldn’t. What actually happens in a civil proceeding is that a judge decides who is right or wrong or in what proportions etc and the loser has 30 days to make payment otherwise it is recorded as an unsatisfied CCJ on your credit file until payment is made when it is changed to satisfied. However it is a moot point since the parking company has to take you to court in the first place and then win, and in my situation they would almost certainly not even if they argue that a contract was pinned up somewhere in the carpark, not only would they lose money from the time and legal expenses they would also lose face in the light of an underdog humiliating them in court making the headlines. And even if they do win they would have to prove that the damages were equal to the sum that they are asking for, otherwise they will be awarded less,.
So does it make business sense to pursue every ticket especially the ones that are completely unjustified? of course not. These companies are like a cancer, and when people chuck money at them, they grow and thrive, perhaps its time for people to take a stand and say enough is enough so that our resources can be better spent on things that allow us to prosper.
Don’t want to take my word for it? there are several online sources of information to check out, here is one I checked out to add to the end of this blog but there are probably better ones out there.
Please add your thoughts in the comments section.
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