The private parking enforcement industry scored a major victory over the rights of the motorist this week after a 48-year-old chip shop owner had his challenge to an £85 fine overruled.
Barry Beavis, from Billericay in Essex, took private parking enforcement operator ParkingEye to court over an £85 for overstaying a two-hour free stay by 56 minutes.
He asked Court Of Appeal judges to declare the fine ‘unenforceable’. He maintained that the charge was disproportionate and that the ‘bullying’ tactics of private car park companies should be prevented in law.
But after more than two years of fighting the ticket, Mr Beavis heard the judges rule that the charge was ‘not extravagant or unconscionable’.
For their part, Parking Eye argued that the level set for the charges for Riverside Retail Park in Chelmsford was reasonable, given the city centre position close to a rail station, in order to deter abuse or mis-use of the car park.
Mr Beavis is not going to give up on his case – his next move is to take the issue to the Supreme Court – but the important question is how this affects the everyday motorist.
A key part of Mr Beavis’s defence of the ticket is that the charge set under the law should merely compensate the parking contractors for costs incurred in deterring parkers from overstaying.
Mr Beavis and his Lawyer argue that the fine itself amounted to a ‘penalty’ for parking and that this is not how the law ought to work.
So how do you fight a fine like this? Well, the latest ruling does make it harder, but it’s important to remember that any private parking contractor should have a clause in its contract with the landowner that specifies how much an overstayer costs the business.
This is known as a pre-estimate of loss, and should inform how much any parking contractor charges for its ‘fines’.
Another important point to remember with private parking contractors is that, by parking on their land, you have entered into an unwritten civil contract with the parking contractor. By overstaying, you breach that contract.
This means that any penalty invoked by the company is technically an invoice for breach of contract rather than an invoice. Therefore, if you do not pay the ticket, it cannot affect your credit record and the issuers cannot send bailiffs to recover the money. If they want to force you to pay, they will need to take you to court, which is costly and time-consuming.
As this week’s Chelmsford case proves, sometimes fighting a ticket won’t be easy. Raise your issue direct with the company first – you can do this via resolver.co.uk, where you can keep all your correspondence in one focused place. If the company rejects your dispute, then you can escalate to the firm’s trade member association. You must have an official reference number from the company and their reasons for rejecting your dispute. They will refer you to POPLA, the Independent Tribunal for Parking Fines.
If you want to work out whether or not you are likely to be successful in your appeal, talk to family members or friends. Explain the situation to them, and ask them if they think the charge levied against you is unfair. If they don’t think so, it’s unlikely you’ll have a case…