Friday the 21st of February 2014 will go down as a dark day in the world of private parking. There were two significant court cases scheduled, and both of them were lost by the respective parking companies.
Civil Enforcement Vs McCafferty
First up was Civil Enforcement Ltd appealing against a case they had already lost against a motorist. The motorist claimed the £150 charge was in fact a penalty, and therefore unenforceable under consumer contract law. CEL turned up to the appeal with a QC (a sign of how desperate they were to win) to argue the case against an untrained member of the public. Despite this, the judge dismissed the appeal, finding that the charge was in fact a penalty.
The significance of this loss is that it was an appeal heard by a senior judge, and that judge has effectively ruled that this contractual-based charge was found to be a penalty. This ruling is not binding on other courts, but can be cited and should be persuasive.
Proserve and Ransomes Europark
The forums are full of people getting ticketed by Proserve at Ransomes Europark, Ipswich. People normally find the receipt of parking tickets upsetting, however Proserve have been issuing tickets of £150 or more! Quite often people have claimed they only stopped to ask directions, and yet still got an exorbitant demand through the post.
As some of you may know, the British Parking Association have set a limit of £100 on private parking tickets. Proserve get around this by not being members of the BPA (or any Accredited Trade Association), so have not been bound by its rules. The only real reason parking companies are members of ATAs is to get access to the DVLA’s database of keepers (i.e. so they know who to chase for money). Proserve managed to get around the DVLA’s ATA membership requirement by claiming they only deal with cases of trespass, and not parking enforcement services.
Proserve and Ransomes had set up quite a complex arrangement to attempt to get around the legal issues of trying to penalise motorists – the Prankster has written up a good explanation of this – and have previously had some success in court (for example, winning £900 from a truck firm). In this case they were asking for £300 against a motorist who parked their van on a path. Unfortunately for Proserve, in this case the driver in question was supported by a so-called armchair lawyer, and successfully defended themselves against the claim. Worse still for Proserve, the outcome of this case will help future defendants fight claims from Proserve.
Even worse still, in the process of taking this case to court, Proserve have issued statements that show they are in fact performing parking enforcement activities. We wonder what the DVLA will make of that…