UKIP Transport spokesman Jill Seymour has called for an urgent review of private car parking regulations after a landmark court ruling which she says may give landowners a licence to further hike penalty charges.
Chip shop owner Barry Beavis, from Chelmsford in Essex, launched legal action against a private car park operator after he was charged £85 for overstaying his allotted two hours of free parking by nearly an hour. But the Supreme Court rejected his claim against management company ParkingEye, which had argued that its charges were “fair, reasonable and legally enforceable”.
Mrs Seymour said: “I believe this decision is a travesty of justice. These private car parks are rarely full to capacity, so can the landowners really claim loss of earnings simply because a driver stays a few minutes over their allotted time period.
“Of course Mr Beavis should have been held to account for overstaying his permitted period. But a fine of £85? How can such a large figure possibly be justified?
“The worst thing about this decision is that it could give cowboy parking operators a licence to hike their penalty fees even further, testing the UK legal system, which they may think is now on their side.
“Parking penalty charges must be kept in perspective. And if operators themselves are not prepared to do this, then it is maybe time for the Government to step in and regulate the industry, to ensure proportion.”
Mrs Seymour added: “Private parking companies will keep pushing the boundaries, until Parliament prevents them from doing so, if the courts do not place a clear upper limit as to what is acceptable. Alternatively this could this be a power we devolve to local authorities.
“Even the British Parking Association agrees that there now needs to be a broader review of the private parking sector.”
Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger and Lord Sumption said in a joint written ruling today that ParkingEye could not charge overstayers ‘whatever it liked’.
But they added: “There is no reason to suppose that £85 is out of all proportion to its interests."
Mrs Seymour said: “Today’s judgement is hugely disappointing. Cowboy parking firms will be rubbing their hands with glee at the thought that they can hit drivers with even more excessive charges.
"My advice to motorists is to be on their guard – always check the small print on signposts if you are leaving your car on a privately owned car park. The sky must not be the limit, where penalty charges are concerned.”