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.
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.
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…