Parking operator says ethical debt recovery is vital for effective enforcement and encouraging behavioural change

“To deliver ethical and reliable debt recovery we need to be accountable, approachable and comply with best practice and regulatory requirements,” says Louis Ellis, Director of TRACE Debt Recovery UK.

“Of course, delivering excellent parking charge recovery rates is the primary objective. But, it’s not just a case of pursuing unpaid charges. We believe it’s vital to keep clients informed at all stages of the debt recovery process and to maximise direct contact with debtors so they are fully aware of their obligations, options and entitlements. And we are demonstrating how close engagement with client and debtor alike not only improves recovery rates but also reduces areas of potential conflict, frustration and discord.”

The refreshing approach employed by TRACE is helping to transform the effectiveness of debt recovery for car park operators and parking service providers right across the country. Frustrated with the delays and poor outcomes from previous debt recovery arrangements, Bournemouth-based Countrywide Parking Management (CPM) switched its debt recovery to TRACE earlier in 2017 and according to CPM’s co-Founder and Director, Tom Williams, the results over the past year have been “outstanding.”

“Our overriding goal is to provide estate and facilities managers with an effective solution to the recurring abuse and misuse of limited or restricted parking facilities,” says Williams.

“Our growth reflects our unwavering commitment to provide reliable permit schemes and very strict enforcement of all car parks we are assigned. But enforcement does not end with the issue of a Parking Charge Notice – it has to be followed through to ensure charges are paid or appropriate legal action is taken. Failure to enforce a justified PCN undermines even the most stringent car park enforcement arrangements. So reliable and robust debt recovery is absolutely vital.”

CPM recovers full payment within 14 days for 40% of the PCNs it issues. A further 25% are paid at the higher charge rate that applies up to 28 days and after issue of the Notice to Keeper and final demand.

The remaining 35% of outstanding PCNs are passed on to TRACE for debt recovery action. After verifying the accuracy of address for correspondence and updating details as required, TRACE makes direct contact with the motorist to emphasise the importance of settling the overdue payment and to explain the options available.

“We want to speak to people and we do everything we can to open and maintain constructive dialogue,” emphasises Louis Ellis. “Fairness and transparency are vital and we will always seek a resolution that reflects the requirements of both parties and takes full account of instances of vulnerability and potential sensitivity. After all, with one in ten of us changing our address every 2 years, there will always be instances where initial correspondence has inadvertently been sent to an old address. By providing an approachable and responsive service we are showing what can be achieved without resorting to litigation unless absolutely necessary.”

“Parking is not a civil liberty,” adds Williams. “Just like a motorist has to adhere to the rules of the road, so too do they have a responsibility to respect the parking regulations that apply in the area they have chosen to park their vehicle and any parking charges they incur through non-compliance. Only a very small percentage of motorists break the rules and only a small proportion of those that do receive a Parking Charge Notice.

However, pursuing unpaid PCNs encourages correct behaviours and helps to drive improved compliance by acting as a clear deterrent to anyone who might be tempted to ignore parking rules and restrictions.

“It is a time-consuming and specialist task, so it’s important operators like ourselves work with a trusted and industry-approved debt recovery partner that is committed to ethical practices and matching our commitment to service integrity. At all stages, however, the real-time remittance and status reports provided by TRACE help to ensure we are always aware of case progression and recovery rates and enable prompt and decisive actions to be taken at any time.”

Where motorists continue to ignore efforts to make contact, or are being obstructive, TRACE is authorised by its clients to instruct its litigation partner, BW Legal. Both companies then work together to select cases for litigation where there is a good prospect of successful recovery, using an analytical approach to interpret volume data while also adhering to regulatory compliance. “Many debt recovery companies will send out letters threatening court action, but never actually follow it through,” adds Ellis. “Such practices are principally unfair to members of the general public who may not be aware of their rights, and not only fall foul of The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 but also risk a report being made to the Trading Standards Institute.

“BW Legal is a dual regulated company and its processes are designed to treat defendants in an ethical and fair manner, which reflects our own commitment to best practice. TRACE and BW Legal actively identify vulnerable individuals who may have become caught up in the process, and handle all cases with care and attention to ensure fairness, which ultimately protects the reputation of parking operators like CPM.”

Countrywide Parking Management provides car park management and enforcement services for clients in the residential, retail and commercial sectors all over the UK. In the majority of cases, its services are provided free of charge and all schemes – from warden patrols and ANPR enforcement to Pay and Display and full permit management – are tailored to meet the specific needs and priorities of clients.