How much would you pay to park your car? £2.00 an hour or maybe more? What would you say to £85 for just under 3 hours? We suspect you’d find that a little excessive.The Supreme Court in Beavis v ParkingEye 
has just ruled in support of these rather significant charges.Why?
In April 2013 Mr Beavis used a car park on a retail estate which was run by ParkingEye. ParkingEye had erected a large sign at the entrance to the car park, and at a number of other visible locations around it. These types of sign are ubiquitous now and can be seen everywhere from your local superstore to motorway service stations.The signs made it clear that the maximum stay was 2 hours and that failure to comply with this time limit would incur a charge of £85. This fact was not concealed, rather it was stated in large black letters. All of the signs included quasi-contractual language and pointed out that motorist agreed to comply with all of the car park rules and regulations by parking there.Unfortunately for Mr Beavis he parked for 2 hours and 56 minutes. As a result he then received a notice telling him he would have to pay the £85 charge, which would be reduced to £50 if he paid within 14 days.What happened next?
Mr Beavis ignored the notice and ParkingEye took him to Court. Mr Beavis fought on, often with a good deal of public coverage, to the Supreme Court. He alleged that the charge was a penalty clause because it did not compensate Parking Eye for any losses it might have suffered due to his overstaying his allotted time. He argued that the Claimant had suffered no financial loss as a result of his extended stay.ParkingEye agreed that it was not a genuine estimate of their loss in this instance. In fact they accepted that they made profit from these charges.In normal circumstances, the award of damages in breach of contract cases is centred on the actual loss that the party suffers as a result of the breach. One of the underlying concepts of damages is that they should put the party back in the situation they would have been had the breach not occurred.So how does this case sit with that guiding principle?
ParkingEye allege that they had solid commercial reasons for setting the charge. The car park was used to provide parking to customers at the adjacent retail park. The charge was levied, according to ParkingEye, to ensure that the car park was used efficiently and was not clogged up for long periods.The other purpose of the charge was purely profit motivated and allows the landowner to profit from their control of the carpark.The Court found that the interests of the landowners, the public and ParkingEye were sufficient to ensure that the charges should succeed. The Landowners wanted to ensure available parking for customers; the public wanted to be able to park; and ParkingEye wanted to be able to sell their parking control services. Those three interests combined to lead the Court to find against Mr Beavis. The Court also found that such penalty parking charges are quite common and that Mr Beavis should have been aware of the unilateral contract in to which he was entering by parking there.So, If a Claimant can establish a commercial interest in influencing the conduct of people using facilities or services, that can be enough to justify a charge like this.The decision will be of benefit to landowners of parking service providers, but this type of “take it or leave it” contract should cause the public to be wary.So, next time you see a large notice in a car park, don’t ignore it or think that it’s an empty threat. The parking companies have the weight of the Supreme Court on their side and they will not hesitate to charge you for the pleasure.If you have any questions regarding the contents of this article please feel free to contact Scott Taylor of Setfords Solicitors on 07525 293 852.