New Test on Private Parking Fines
Fish fryer, Barry Beavis, challenged a fine levied by the owners of a private car park when he overstayed his welcome by 1 hour. The penalty was £85 which he declined to pay.
Remarkably for such a small amount, the case ended up in the Supreme Court. Although the amount involved is trivial, the broader implications of this Judgment are not.
The argument hitherto has been that the fine was unenforceable because it amounted to a penalty rather than a realistic amount of compensation for a breach of contract. Now the Supreme Court has developed the law to make the penalty defence more difficult to argue for the errant parker.
The Court decided that the charge imposed authorised the company to control access to the car park in the interest of customers and the wider public. The test was not whether the fine represented a fair assessment of the loss. In this case the parking company did not suffer any loss.
Queens Counsel acting for Mr Beavis was downbeat about the prospects of challenging such fines in the future, saying “until today, charges which had been agreed in advance, payable on 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”.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.