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News & views

Consumer loses landmark parking case

[25 Nov 2015] The Supreme Court has ruled that a parking charge of £85 imposed on a motorist for overstaying in a privately run car park was fair and reasonable. The landmark decision, in ParkingEye Ltd v Beavis, appears to overturn accepted legal wisdom that such a charge must be a 'genuine pre-estimate of loss'.

Beavis had overstayed 56 minutes in a Chelmsford car park where two hours' free parking was offered by ParkingEye, acting as agent for the landowner, BAPF. ParkingEye was paying BAPF about £1,000 a week for the privilege of collecting the charges from drivers who overstayed, obtaining their details from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.

The court considered whether the £85 charge was a penalty, which would not normally be allowed against a consumer. But it found that it was more of a deterrent contractual charge, which was allowable because it was commercially justifiable as ParkingEye had a 'legitimate interest' in charging overstayers. John de Waal, QC, who acted for Beavis, told The Times on 5 Nov that, 'The decision is a setback forconsumers, making it more difficult to challenge large charges when a contract is breached, affecting everything from phone contracts to parking your car at the supermarket.'

The full judgment is available at  https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2013-0280-judgment.pdf. The dissenting judgment from Lord Toulson runs from paragraph 292 to 316. A summary of what the judgment may mean for the 'penalty rule' is given at: http://www.technology-law-blog.co.uk/2015/11/the-chips-are-down-for-barry-beavis-but-what-does-it-mean-for-the-penalty-clause-rule.html

We have covered private parking battles in numerous articles in Pikestaff and under 'Publications' on this website. Our main beef is with unclear signs and systems that appear designed to trap motorists into breaking car-park rules. In the Beavis case, this was not a concern as all agreed that the signs were clear. 

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