Parking Fine Dispute Sets Consumer Contract Law Precedent
A Billericay business owner’s failed Supreme Court challenge to an £85 parking ticket is likely to set a new precedent in consumer contracts law.
This recent ruling occurred in the case of Beavis v ParkingEye. The case received some attention in the press back in April after the Court of Appeal’s initial ruling.Mr Beavis received an £85 fine after overstaying a Chelmsford car park’s two-hour parking limit by an hour.
ParkingEye (a parking management company) issued a fine, which was chased several times without response. They eventually issued Court proceedings against Mr Beavis. He disputed the charge. Owing to the legal points the case raised it was ultimately referred to The Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court was asked to consider:
- Whether a charge of £85 for exceeding a maximum car parking period is an unenforceable penalty?
- Whether a charge of £85 for exceeding a maximum car parking period is unfair under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999?
In this case, the company did not incur any loss from an overstay.
Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger and Lord Sumption ruled that the charge was fair. Penalties for overstaying were found to be a ‘normal feature of parking contracts’. The fine was ruled as not being a penalty because the charge authorised ParkingEye to control access to the car park in the interest of customers and the wider public so that an element of deterrent (and not just pure loss) was justified in the fine levied.
The judgment stated that fines benefited motorists by making parking spaces available to them which might otherwise be taken by long-stay users.
“The risk of having to pay [the fine] was wholly under the motorist’s own control. All he needed was a watch.”
This ruling should provide clarity to motorists and landowners, in that it states commercially justifiable charges can be made against motorists who break parking terms. The principles of this decision will apply to any form of consumer contract where an extra charge or fine is levied as a deterrent but whether those will be upheld will depend on the amount and the context in each case.