Private Parking & Rogue Car Parking Companies

By 10/10/2019Criminal
Private Parking Signs Law

Is this the End of Unfair Private Company Parking Fines?

It’s never nice to be caught off guard when it comes to parking, especially when something isn’t as it seems. More and more, people are being ‘caught out’ with parking penalties due to no fault of their own. Private parking companies can be very sneaky with the way they use parking fee signs, often hiding them out of sight or making important information so small, it’s illegible. But, luckily for us, this is all about to change.

In Excel Parking Services Limited v Cutts in Stockport County Court, the Judge agreed with the Defendant that the parking sign used was not displaying its information clearly and correctly. The words ‘pay and display’ could not be seen from his car and therefore, it was fair to assume the car park was free.

The Judge said:

“If I look at the signs, they tell me very little. It is by no means clear, whether from the coloured photographs of the signs, nor, indeed, from the inspection of the signs that took place by me, that this is a pay and display car park”, suggesting that “perhaps the claimant’s real interest lies in a failure to comply, [rather] than actually seeking to bring to a driver’s attention the fact that they are about to enter a pay and display car park.”  

Private Parking Laws are Changing

The situation may be improved because on March 15th, 2019, The Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2019 received Royal Assent, approving a new “Parking Code” that protects drivers from unfair fines and will bring the ‘Wild West’ parking industry into line.

The Code is being introduced to make it more difficult for car parking companies to use less-than-informative signs in even less obvious places. Tactics sometimes include:

  • Hidden signs in spaces drivers cannot see, e.g. placing a sign on the left side of an entrance which a busy motorist is unlikely to see when turning in
  • Making information regarding fees too small to read
  • Not making clear outlines of where the parking rules are enforced

This year it is expected that £6.5 million worth of car parking fines are to be issued to a high amount of unaware and confused drivers. This is a severe rise compared to 10 years ago, when the figure for ‘Penalty Charge Notices’ issued by parking companies was £687,000.

What’s more… the DVLA pulls in £16 million a year by charging a £2.50 per driver ‘detail request’ from these parking companies. This joint scheme is charging an unfair whack from unsuspecting drivers who are none-the-wiser when it comes to unclear signs.

But, hopefully, not for much longer; the new code will enforce that any parking company that breaks it will be knocked off the ‘approved’ list by the government, meaning they can no longer source driver details from the DVLA.

It’s important to remember that these private parking notices have no statutory basis and depend on the common law of contract. As you drive onto their premises, the parking company makes you an offer to park on certain terms and conditions – which you accept by proceeding to park. If these terms and conditions are not clearly incorporated (as in the Excel case above), they cannot be contractually enforced…
Need help disputing a parking ticket? Check out what legal services we provide to help you win against unfair private parking.
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