Drivers could get back 'millions' in illegal parking charges

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Parking survey
Yui Mok/PA WIRE

Motorists penalised with charges for parking too long on private land could be in line for millions of pounds in refunds, according to the RAC Foundation.

Giving his legal opinion to the motoring charity, barrister John de Waal QC said that the charges, which are sometimes around £100 or more, could be unenforceable in court as the cost far exceeds compensation for any genuine loss caused.

The RAC Foundation has said it wanted to see this argument tested in the courts, while also calling on lawmakers to ensure that parking charges were "reasonable and enforceable", according to the BBC.

The issue surrounds the cost of fines, which if disproportionate to the losses suffered by landowners due to motorists overstaying in parking bays, could be regarded as penalties, rendering them unenforceable.

Under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, landowners are prohibited from clamping, towing or otherwise immobilising a vehicle without lawful authority.

The law was introduced to curb the activities of rogue clamping companies, though private car parks are now issuing penalty charges as an alternative. There is little in the way of regulation for this new system, which has resulted in a number of motorists receiving large charges for slightly overstaying their parking allowance.

A report by the RAC Foundation stated that if charges offered discounts for early payment, they could be unlawful, as they constitute a "price escalation clause". Parking charges could also be challenged on the grounds of unfairness if parking regulations were not displayed prominently.

A case due to be heard in the Court of Appeal this month, in which a motorist is contesting a parking charge, could set a legal precedent, resulting in millions in unjust charges being paid back to drivers, should he be successful.

However, car park owners are calling for a clarification in the law. John Davies, director of the Independent Parking Committee, said: "Parking charges are the only protection that landowners have, short of installing expensive barrier equipment.

"Providing the signs are clear and obvious and the motorist knows of the terms of parking at the time that they park, then they accept those terms. If they don't accept them, they have the choice not to park."

Have you been affected by unjust parking charges on private land? Did you contest the ticket? Have your say in the comments section below.