Beavis loses, consumers beware

The Supreme Court handed down their judgement in the case of Beavis Vs ParkingEye. Unfortunately for Barry Beavis, the motoring public, and in fact, all consumers, the appeal was dismissed. Six of the seven judges found in ParkingEye’s favour, and in doing so have effectively re-written the doctrine of penalties to support this particular business model.

From a motorists perspective, if one wishes to appeal a private parking charge, points regarding penalties and unfair terms will no longer be valid point of defence, as Barry’s QC John de Waal explains. This does not automatically mean all parking tickets are enforceable, but it does mean that these significant points are no longer arguable.

There were celebrations at ParkingEye HQ
There was a celebratory atmosphere at ParkingEye HQ in Chordor

It does seem quite odd that the Supreme Court have taken it upon themselves to alter hundreds of years of common law and effectively nullify more recent consumer protection law in this case. When the Protection of Freedoms Act was introduced in 2012, the Government stopped short of legislating for civil penalties – and in the accompanying guidance explained that the keeper liability provisions were for landowners to recover genuine loss – not charge arbitrary amounts to make massive profits.

Most ironically the decision comes in National Consumer Week! The case was not just important to motorists – the decision is potentially applicable to all sorts of consumer contracts. For this reason, the Consumers Association (aka Which) got involved in the case, siding with Mr Beavis. Their concern is that other business models will now be developed to exploit this law.

As Which say:

The ruling – which has concerned Which? – could lead to people being more severely fined for things such as missing appointments, being late for nursery pick-ups or overusing wi-fi in a hotel. Which? is worried that the ruling has watered down the law on penalty charges and unfair terms, and could now pave the way for more fines and default charges. There is also fear it may encourage more firms to adopt business models based around default charging.

This author can imagine certain low cost airlines rubbing their hands together tonight…

On a slightly brighter note, we have heard rumours that the Government will now step in and create explicit legislation to cover private parking charges and consumer penalties (again).

In the mean time, all we can suggest is to avoid car parks where private parking companies are employed wherever possible. If you do receive a ticket, make sure the landowner and retailers know exactly what you think of them letting customers be exploited in this way. As regular readers of this site know, our survey showed that 85% of customers were less likely to return having received a ticket, and 50% said they never will. Your choice land owners…


2 Comments on “Beavis loses, consumers beware

  1. Reading John de Waal’s explanation he’s suggesting that a change to the POFA2012 to limit the parking changes would work. However, the flaw with this is that it would only relate to claims made using POFA2012 against the keeper; the PPC can simply bring a claim outside the act.

  2. I sent an email to the Attorney General’s office citing PE-v-Beavis and asking for an assurance that Consumer Law will be strengthened to prevent further misinterpretation and abuse of numerous Consumer Rights Acts.
    It is difficult to understand on what basis the SC.decided that existing consumer protection can be overturned and ignored, perhaps £85.00 is loose change to their lordships but to a lot of people (certainly in South Yorks. and Notts.)it is equal to-or more than-a day’s pay. Who in their right mind would agree to pay an extra £85.00 for overstaying 10-12 minutes in a PE.controlled
    car park?
    Car parking scammers must be jumping for joy after the perverse decision by the Supreme Court.