Is this the end for hefty parking fees?

Private car park charge challenge

A chip shop owner is to find out whether he has won a landmark legal bid to sweep away "unfair, unlawful and disproportionate" parking charges.

Barry Beavis, 48, from Chelmsford, Essex, has taken on private car park operators who heavily penalise motorists who overstay their allotted time in parking spaces.

Where parking your car can cost more than your holiday

Court of Appeal judges in London are announcing their decision after he asked them to rule an £85 charge legally "unenforceable".

It was imposed on him by management company ParkingEye after he overstayed a two-hour limit at Riverside Retail Park car park in Chelmsford in April 2013.

ParkingEye argued at a hearing before Lord Justice Moore-Bick, Lord Justice Patten and Sir Timothy Lloyd, that the charges were "a commercially justified deterrent" for a city centre car park close to a station and a court complex where it was necessary to discourage overstayers.

Jonathan Kirk QC, representing the company, described the level of charges as neither extortionate nor unconscionable but within the bounds of reasonableness.

When he refused to pay, Mr Beavis was sent a court summons to appear at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court and informed the fine had been increased to £150.

His appeal is against a decision of Judge Moloney QC at Cambridge County Court in May last year. He ruled the £85 charge was lawful and did not breach the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations.

Sa'ad Hossain QC argued Judge Moloney had taken a wrong approach to the law and the charge amounted to "a penalty clause" not binding on Mr Beavis.

To be lawful, charges should be set at levels meant only to compensate for any loss in achieving the aim of deterring overstayers and not to make large profits.

The losses to ParkingEye were very small administrative costs, and its charges were so excessive as to be unenforceable, said Mr Hossain.

The AA has said it hopes the appeal "brings some clarity" to private parking enforcement and "rip-off" charges - or the Government will step in and impose a fairer regulatory system.

Following the appeal hearing, Mr Beavis said he hoped he would win "for motorists everywhere".

He said: "What makes me angry is that these companies currently extort money by threatening and bullying people into paying up.

"A fine of £85 is not proportionate to overstaying by 56 minutes. I hope common sense prevails and the learned judges see that what is happening is unfair and unjust."

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Is this the end for hefty parking fees?
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