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Cowboy parking firm making Hampshire motorists lives a misery
TODAY the Daily Echo can lift the lid on a cowboy parking firm operating in Hampshire charging sky high fines and misleading drivers into coughing up cash.
Shoal Enforcement Ltd, which once clamped a police car guarding the Queen and an AA rescue vehicle, is still making life a misery for motorists.
Clamping on private land has been banned since October 1, but the Hampshire-based firm is now slapping tickets on vehicles demanding up to £180, and threatening to track down drivers using debt collectors.
But our investigation revealed that it lies on its tickets about being able to use Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) data to track down motorists.
The only way it could have access to the data was if it belonged to the British Parking Association (BPA).
However, in December it resigned from the BPA.
A BPA spokesman said: “Shoal Enforcement used to be a member – they are no longer. They left after the BPA disagreed with a number of their practices.”
A DVLA spokesman added: “We can confirm that Shoal Enforcement Limited is not permitted to request information from our vehicle record as they are not members of the BPA.
“While the DVLA cannot regulate directly the manner in which a parking management company is operated, it has now asked Hampshire trading standards to investigate.”
It comes after the Daily Echo launched its Fair Deal for Drivers campaign, which calls for a clampdown on firms that are unfairly targeting drivers in Hampshire.
Already our campaign for tighter regulation and local authority licensing of the industry has won the backing of the AA, Southampton Itchen MP John Denham and city council leader Councillor Richard Williams.
Paul Watters, head of public affairs at the AA, said Shoal Enforcement was proof former clampers were carrying on their money-spinning activities.
He said: “It’s what we warned would happen. If I saw what was on their bill and I did not know what the law was I would be scared by it. They are trying it on big time.”
In one of Shoal Enforcement’s hunting grounds, behind the Water Lane shopping precinct in Totton, wardens are pouncing on motorists popping to the shops.
They return to find tickets demanding £120 plus another £60 if it is not paid within 28 days. There is no right to an independent appeal.
The parking tickets claim to use another firm, A1 Recovery, to collect the charge.
Both A1 Recovery and Shoal Enforcement share a director. He is Michael Eames, 43, based in Havant.
The ticket also uses the word “penalty” despite the fact that the firm has no statutory powers. One victim told the Daily Echo she paid up immediately because of the spectre threat of bailiffs scaring a family member at home who was battling an illness.
She did not know that Shoal Enforcement cannot access DVLA data to track her or any of the other victims down and, crucially, would have no evidence to pursue a civil court claim. The firm directs people to send money to an office in Oxford Street in the heart of London’s West End. But official records show its headquarters are in Havant.
Examination of official records at Companies House reveals that the firm is about to be kicked off the register because it has not provided the required information since a July deadline.
Once removed the firm cannot legally trade as a limited company.
Shoal Enforcement was given an opportunity to answer questions about its operations and comment but did not.
Shop owners and businesses operating in the area said they have had concerns about Shoal Enforcement’s activities hurting their trade.
Katie Homes, from Bubba Dees Tan Shack, said her customers had been unaware of the ticketers and had been fined. She said: “They leave and then don’t come back.”
None of the businesses renting shops in Water Lane could confirm who owns the land that Shoal Enforcement is patrolling.