6 February 2017

RingGo = Wrong Go

It happens reasonably often that motorists, who have used RingGo in other boroughs, turn straight to it as the default App for paying by phone and then find they have paid to park in some distant location, far away from Barnet. Each council probably wins as much as it loses from these errors and could take a stance of cancelling PCNs at least once a year for any motorist to whom this happens. Of course they don't, they make motorists fight them all the way to the tribunal. Twice in a month two different adjudicators came to the same conclusion, that the motorist should not suffer a penalty. Here are the two decisions in the words of the adjudicators.

The appellant and the driver, Mr L attended the hearing.

Mr L made payment through Ringo for the correct location and correct VRM. Payment was not made through Pay By 'Phone.

Crucially the payment was accepted and Mr L received a receipt for the payment.

When he returned to the vehicle and found the penalty notice he found the officer, who had issued it.

According to Mr L the officer said, "Lots of people make the same mistake. Appeal and they will cancel it!" (The traffic warden will lie to you. Ask them politely but firmly to put the facts in their notes on their hand held equipment in front of you).

On the basis of this statement by the officer, Mr L believes that the instructions, namely the signage is misleading.

The local authority has provided evidence of the time plate. There is no other evidence of a payee, apart form the telephone number on the time plate.

There is no evidence of a PayByPhone logo that you see on payment machines.

The wording on the time plate "Pay by phone" is an instruction. It does not indicate the payee, 'PayByPhone'.

There is of course a telephone number on the time plate.

Had that been followed then the correct payee, it is assumed, would have been located.
Nevertheless the evidence shows that the payment went through and the appellant was given an expectation that he had duly paid.

Mr L showed me in the hearing room that such payments are now blocked by the Ringo system. He demonstrated it on his 'phone.

This blocking suggests to me that there was something wrong with the payment system when Mr L's payment was made; that it was faulty.

It has been held that signage must not be misleading.

My finding is that the instruction on the time plate is open to misunderstanding and therefore misleading.

This together with the fact that the system now blocks such misunderstandings permits me to allow this appeal.

The appellant attended the hearing arranged for 6 December. The Council did not send a representative.The appellant is an experienced user of electronic systems for payment of parking charges.

I will mention at the outset that in the Council case summary prepared for this hearing I believe there to be an error on the second page where the Council referred to a Bay Locator number 5928. This I think is a clerical error for 5828 but it is not an error fortunately which is significant to the issues which are at the heart of this case. (Mr Mustard thinks this demonstartes how easy it is for an error to occur and is why councils should not punish little errors, as they also make them & don't have to pay a penalty).

The officer responsible for the penalty charge notice was not at fault as he checked the relevant system and could not identify any record of relevant payment.

What happened was that the appellant used the Ringgo app which took payment for Bay Locator Code 5828.

The Council emphasises that the Ringgo software advised him that this was payment for a Harbour Drive (a location in Enfield).

The relevant location where parked was however Station Road Edgware in the Borough London Barnet.

As I understand it there are broadly two principal firms which are providing services to London boroughs for electronic parking. One is Ringgo and the other Pay by Phone.

Occasionally councils change their contractor which gives rise to potential scope for mistakes, but there is nothing I have seen emerging in this appeal which gives rise to issues of that type.

The feature which emerges in this appeal and is at the heart of it is that the two firms do have in use some Bay Locator Codes which are identical.

On hearing from the appellant and considering the evidence overall I was initially surprised that Barnet had chosen to insist on payment of the penalty charge despite the obviously honest nature of the appellant mistake. There was no appellant intent to avoid payment and he had not made similar mistake before I believe.

The Council has advanced its case on the basis that it should have been very apparent to the appellant that he was required to transact with Pay by Phone and the Council has argued that there is very sufficient signage in the locality to indicate which is its contractor.

The appellant has shown me the lamppost a colour photograph of lamppost zero near the post near no 179 in the road concerned which shows the bay plate with without any supporting information about which particular contractor is in use.

The Council for its part has not brought photographic evidence to support its claim that the identity of the contractor was clear and obvious.

I have decided on that basis there is insufficient evidence to justify me in upholding the penalty charge. I have not identified sufficient evidence to prove the alleged contravention. I have thus recorded the appeal as allowed.

I have decided to add that the appellant in this case has vigorously pursued the dispute as he wished to reduce the scope for other motorists falling into similar position. I am not sure how practicable it would be for the major firms involved to introduce in cooperation a system of unique numbers which could reduce errors of this type. If it is not practicable, and it may be too late now for convenient changes, I believe that councils should at least look leniently on motorists who fall into this type of mistake, on the first occasion at least.

In any event I have decided to record this appeal as allowed on the basis that the Council has not sufficiently supported its arguments about the clarity of information given in Station Road.

Other providers of a payment by mobile telephone service are available. I expect that they all cost as much, if not more than, what a suite of parking meters would cost to run (one interim parking manager told Mr Mustard they they did not save money). Even with what they do charge, some don't even make a profit, as the published Accounts clearly show:

Punishing people who have made an innocent error is not the way to drive improvements to the satisfaction index of the public with Barnet Parking Services. 

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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