Private parking fines are on the agenda in the high court as one unhappy consumer is challenging the law. But we feel this case goes beyond parking, which is why we’ve been permitted to intervene…
A parking fine is an annoyance all drivers have probably experienced. That sinking feeling when you return to your car to see that yellow notice under the windscreen wiper is never a welcome one, yet we pay up nonetheless.
But Barry Beavis who received an £85 parking fine for over-staying by 56 minutes, has decided to take the private car park operator to court.
What the law states
Since the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 came into force, the law states that private land owners are banned from towing, blocking-in, clamping or immobilising a vehicle without lawful authority. This was put in place in an effort to control clamping by rogue firms.
However, fines can still be issued, for example, if a vehicle owner stays longer than their allotted time. While the fine is meant to be proportionate, sometimes they can be over £100 a fine and it’s the excessive amount of these fines that Barry Beavis is challenging.
Split opinions on parking fines
His lawyers have argued that ‘to be lawful, charges should be set at levels meant only to compensate for any loss in achieving the aim of deterring over-stayers and not to make large profits’. They felt that ‘the losses to ParkingEye were very small administrative costs, and its charges were so excessive as to be unenforceable’.
However, the Independent Parking Committee has argued that fines are ‘the only protection that landowners have short of installing expensive barrier equipment’. While also adding that people have a ‘choice’ if they want to park there or not. It’s for those reasons that the private car park operator feels the ‘level of charges are neither extortionate nor unconscionable but within the bounds of reasonableness’.
This is bigger than parking fines
We’ve decided to intervene in the case because it has ability to set a precedent well beyond the parking industry. If Mr Beavis were to lose the case, it could have a wider impact on the law for penalty charges and unfair terms, which is why the Court of Appeal has granted us permission to share what, we feel, will be the wider implications of any decision.
The worry is that any decision in favour of the parking operator could perhaps see a relaxation of the law on penalty charges. There’s then potential for higher fines and charges to creep in across a whole range of consumer markets.
Even if the final results of the case could see the Court ruling in favour of the private parking operator, we hope they’ll take our views on penalty charges into account.
Have you had a parking fine you think was an excessive amount? Or do you feel it’s fair for parking companies to fine if you over-stay your time?
[UPDATE 04/11/2015] – The Supreme Court today gave its judgement on Barry Beavis’ case. Disappointingly, he lost.
We intervened in the case to ensure important consumer rights that protect people from excessive fines in all sectors were not watered down. However, parking fines issued by private companies have been ruled as fair and proportionate by the Supreme Court..
Our executive director Richard Lloyd said:
’This is a thoroughly disappointing judgment based on a narrow interpretation of the law. It will cause chaos if cowboy parking firms choose to take advantage of the ruling by hitting drivers with even more excessive charges. Our advice to consumers is to be on your guard and always appeal if you think a parking fine is unfair.’
We’re now planning to take the issue up with government ministers since a reversal of the judgment will require changes to the law.