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Supreme Court dismisses parking ticket challenge

ParkingEye Limited v Beavis (2015) UKSC 67

A motorist took the Supreme Court challenge after an £85 parking ticket was imposed upon him by the private parking management company, ParkingEye, for overstaying in a two-hour free slot at a retail shopping centre car park.   The question for the Court was whether the fine charged by ParkingEye was a penalty, which would make it unlawful as penalties need to bear a relation to the actual loss suffered.  In this case, as the car park was free, there was no economic loss to the company. 

The Court ruled that the fine was not a penalty as the charge allows the company to control access to the car park which benefits the shopping centre’s customers and the wider public.  It held that the charge was neither unfair nor excessive as overstaying fines are a ‘normal feature of parking contracts’.  The Court concluded that ParkingEye had acted reasonably in the circumstances. 

The case has been seen as setting a new precedent in consumer contracts law.  Counsel for the motorist John de Wall QC, who acted in the case pro bono said:

Until today, charges which had been agreed in advance, payable for breach of contract, were disallowed as unlawful penalties unless they could be justified as a genuine pre-estimate of loss.  Today’s judgment sweeps away that rule and says that deterrent charges will be allowed if there is some commercial justification for it.’

The AA said that they hoped the ruling would not lead to private parking enforcement companies taking advantage of those who overstay in ‘free’ car parks.  It called on the government to regulate or license private parking enforcement. 

Read further commentary from John de Wall QC here.

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