After my previous advice blog, I was hoping that consumers would send my template letter, and that Parkdean would then see sense, do the right thing, and provide a reduction/refund in pitch fees. It would appear that this was wishful thinking.
Instead, Parkdean seem to be standing firm, quoting “we’ve taken advice, we don’t need to provide refunds or reductions” and “the pitch fee only includes use of the pitch and nothing else”. On both counts they are, in my view, wrong.
Your questions answered
I have been receiving lots of questions on twitter, facebook and via www.theconsumerlawyer.co.uk from Parkdean customers/owners. I have rounded up these questions below with my responses. If you have a question which is not covered below, please send a message to our facebook team.
Why have you advised that we write to the ‘park manager’?
Parkdean’s terms contain a dispute resolution procedure, and this provides that you should write to the park manager. If you fail to do this, and therefore go against the terms you agreed when you purchased the pitch, you will be handing Parkdean an ace card.
If the park manager is failing to respond, there is no harm in then sending a copy to the head office.
How long should I give Parkdean to respond?
In the current climate, it would be unfair to expect a response in the usual timeframes. You should therefore allow at least 14 days.
There has been no grass cutting at maintenance at my site, what can I do?
If you have concrete evidence of this (such as a statement from someone who is at, or has been to the park in question during the lockdown, and can confirm this or provide pictures), it will be good ammunition to claim a partial refund/reduction. This will be a prime example of a service you have paid for/contributed to, but have not received.
I pay my pitch fee by monthly direct debit, should I stop paying?
NO. It is important that you do not do this, as it will put you in breach of contract. When you have a legal battle, it is always desirable to do everything ‘by the book’, and not to give the other side any cause for complaint.
My contract was with the original owner of the site, before Parkdean purchased. Does Parkdean’s terms apply to me?
It all depends on what you have agreed. Parkdean would not have had any legal right to force the new terms upon you. It is likely that they informed you of the terms, and advised that you would be bound by them if you continued to remain at the park past a certain date. They also would probably have stated that the new terms took account of further investment and better maintenance into the park.
Can Parkdean use the force majeure clause and the Coronavirus law implemented by Government to wriggle out of refunds?
NO. This is either a myth created by Parkdean themselves, or the result of poor advice. If Parkdean’s force majeure clause is legally valid, it will only operate to protect them from breach of contract claims.
Parkdean has changed its website in relation to what is included in pitch fees. Does this change anything?
I take this as a sign of weakness, and an indication that they read my last guide (where I said that Parkdean’s site provided evidence that access to entertainment etc. was part of the pitch fee), and agreed with it! For those who haven’t see this, the screenshot below illustrates the issue. On the right is the original text from the website, and on the left, the revised text.
This is nothing to worry about, as the fact remains that the text on the right would have been present when many of you agreed to enter into the pitch licence agreement, and we have the evidence to prove it.
I have not received a response, should I take the matter to court?
NO, not yet. I have seen other websites and experts saying you should do this but with all due respect to them, they are incorrect and have dispensed this advice without fully considering the situation, and reading the documentation. You also have an ace card which you can pull out if you do not do this (see below).
All the Parkdean contracts/licence agreements that I have seen have a dispute procedure, and a reference to alternative dispute resolution (ADR), as I explained in my last guide. One of the flaws of the Parkdean clause is that it fails to stipulate if the parties have agreed not to litigate in times of dispute, and instead to deal with the dispute via ADR.
Nevertheless, there is always a danger that when a contract contains an ADR clause, that if one party ignores it and issues legal proceedings, that the judge could: i) stop the proceedings and direct the parties back to ADR; and/or ii) make a cost order against the party that ignored the ADR clause.
Court proceedings can also be costly and take a great deal of time. By contrast, ADR is cheap and quick.
In my view, this is a relatively straightforward matter that should be easily dealt with via ADR.
UPDATE – 3 JUNE
I had been given information about an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme that Parkdean licence holders could use in time of dispute. However, I have now been informed that Parkdean use a different scheme. The NCC, who facilitate the ADR scheme showed me the scheme rules and it appears that there are very few (if any) circumstances in which it can be used. I have put a number of key questions to them about this and they have promised to respond by Thursday. I will update this blog following their response.
If ADR isnt available it just means that you may have to go lodge a claim in the small claims court or potentially, everyone could club together and take out a group action (known as a ‘Group Litigation Order’). However, I’m hoping that Parkdean will be sensible and negotiate a fair reduction following the letter below.
This is time to send Parkdean a further letter pointing out the above. I have agreed to do this on behalf of circa 2700 Parkdean pitch licence holders. I hope to be able to negotiate a sensible solution that is acceptable to all parties.