Consumer Empowerment Partnerships

Consumer Empowerment Partnerships. Ever heard of them? No, me neither!

Apparently, in addition to taking over the telephone service for Trading Standards, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau has now taken over some of the educational and information functions as well.

So they have created ten regional CEPs (I’m not typing all that again!) to help educate and inform the public about issues such as scams, rogue traders in their area, etc.

(Although most of the information appears to only be available on a members-only (password-protected!) part of the Trading Standards Institute’s website!)

I get the impression they’re supposed to have been around for some time, but they can’t be doing much if even I haven’t heard of them!

If you are interested in finding out more about what is being done in your local area, there is a list of all ten and their contact details and webpages available by clicking here.

I’ll let you know if and when I hear of one doing anything!

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Parking tickets – NEVER just pay up

Parking tickets come in two forms. Most people never realise there is even a difference.

The first is that issued by a Statutory Authority, such as the local council or the Police. These are called PENALTY Charge Notices, PCNs, and are quite serious. They are a fine for a parking offence. They mean you have broken the law. They can be appealed, nonetheless.

The second, and by far the most common, is that issued by a Private Parking Company (known as PPCs), and these are not the same at all. They are called Parking Charge Notices (so that their acronym is also PCN, sneaky, eh?), but these have, and pay attention to this bit, NO LEGAL BASIS WHATSOEVER. They are a con, and they are a deliberate attempt to trick you into thinking you are paying a statutory authority for a genuine parking offence, which you are not. Their only claim is that you have somehow breached the contract you entered into by using the car park and this can ALWAYS be questioned, and usually overturned.

You must ALWAYS appeal any kind of parking notice, whether you find it on your windscreen or it just magically appears in the mail.

You may receive some scary letters, and the appeal process is made as complex and daunting as possible, with the intent to deliberately put you off and make you give in and pay. They may threaten you with Court proceedings, even.

If a Statutory Authority pursues you and rejects your appeal, you should pay up.

But you should NEVER pay if a private company threatens you in the same way.

The process to follow is too complex to go into here, and anyway, others have already explained it far more clearly than I ever could.

The invaluable starting point is MoneySavingExpert.com. Your first port of call should be this flowchart, which shows you the essence of the route you must follow.

You should then read this thread for further guidance. It particularly lists the different type of companies that may be issuing the tickets and it is important to ascertain which type of firm you are dealing with.

There are even template letters for you to send off to launch your appeal. It really is all laid out for you.

If you have any questions, contact either MSE.com’s forums or this website, and we will do our best to help you.

NB. There are firms that offer to do all this for you, which you will find at the top of any search on the topic. But they will require payment, so you’re better off doing it yourself with our help. Otherwise you may end up spending more than the ticket would have cost!

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