Supreme Court rules £85 parking fine is not excessive

a packed car park of parked cars

A man who challenged an £85 parking fine by taking it to the highest court in the UK has lost his case, with Supreme Court judges ruling that private parking fines should stand as long as they are not “excessive”.

Beavis, a fish and chip shop owner from Chelmsford, was issued with the £85 fine in 2013 by ParkingEye after he overstayed the two-hour free parking offered by a retail estate car park in the city. He says the charge should be ruled unlawful as it is "unreasonable and excessive".

But he was forced to take his case to the highest court in the country after his claim was rejected by the Court of Appeal in April. That case has now been rejected by the Supreme Court

The Court’s judgment stated: “The charge was neither extravagant nor unconscionable, having regard to practice around the United Kingdom, and taking into account the use of this particular car park and the clear wording of the notices.”

John de Waal QC of Hardwicke law firm, who had advised Beavis during the case, explained: “The Supreme Court has decided that the charge is not a penalty because it is commercially justified, the reasoning being that such a charge is necessary to manage parking efficiently and deter overstayers. They decided that the charge was not excessive having regard to the level of charges imposed by local authorities. They also decided it was not unfair because it underpinned a business model whose object was the efficient management of the car park.”

Beavis said the ruling meant the law has been changed “for the benefit of corporate profit and to the detriment of the consumer.”

He added: “The doctrine of penalties has been re-written. Penalty charges are acceptable if they're not excessive. What's excessive? A Supreme Court judge thinks £85 is not excessive, but is it? To the man in the street? I guess if you earn £214,000 a year £85 isn't excessive.

“The change in the law paves the way for other businesses to levy fines on unsuspecting consumers.”

Beavis is now calling for the government to step in and introduce a regulatory body with a single code of practice, a single appeals process and regulatory powers to police private parking companies.

ParkingEye said in a statement: “ParkingEye’s advice to motorists remains the same. If you have a genuine appeal of the charge, appeal to ParkingEye as directed on the Parking Charge Notices sent. If not, a 40% reduction of the charge is offered for early payment.”

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Hmm, this seems to overrule a decision by the Master of the Rolls concerning a case in Truro way back when, which ruled, inter alia, that the penalty must be commensurate with the 'loss of amenity' suffered by the landowner.
I brought and won an action in the Small Claims bit of the County Court against a charge of £85 for un-clamping my motor from a factory car park on a Saturday afternoon, factory closed.
Arguments = a) inadequate signage (photos as evidence) and b) little or no loss of amenity to the landowner (who did show up in court seeking to defend it!)
Possible moral: go for the landowner, not the agent.

JRR you are right. The law in this country seems to be that you can charge what you like provided you put up signs. The judges were celarly wrong in this instance but as it is the supreme court, then we are bound by it. It will be interesting to see what theys tart to charge round here now.

Maybe Moneywise should start a petition to get the issue debated in parliament. These people are not contributing to society by charging such a ridiculous fee. It might also be worth trying to get a debate on the sanity of Supreme Court judges if this is the best they can come up with. They are cleRly detached from the reality of everyday parking. Otherwise they wouldn't think £85 to be a fair and reasonable penalty.

I think almost any reasonble person would consider £85 to be excessive.
The law needs to be changed to clean up the way these companies operate. They do display signs but in my experience they are usually mounted well above eye height and have masses of terms and conditions in very small print. If they were operating in a fair and transparent manner they wouldn't need to behave in this way.
Also in my view the DVLA should not be selling our personal details to third parties, this is simply wrong.