RAC Foundation Says Drivers Could Be Compensated
Drivers could receive refunds totalling tens of millions of pounds if they have been illegally overcharged for breaching parking restrictions on private land, the RAC Foundation has theorised.
The RAC Foundation is a transport policy and research organisation that publishes independent research to promote debate. It claims to champion policies “in the interest of the responsible motorist”.
The Foundation's legal opinion - which comes via John de Waal QC who is a barrister at Hardwicke – is that parking companies have been “levying huge charges on drivers out of all proportion to the losses suffered by landowners as a result of motorists’ actions.”
Mr John de Waal's report argued: “Payments at the level that operators presently demand as sanctions are unlikely to count as genuine pre-estimate of loss.” He added: “They should be seen by the courts as penalties which means they are unenforceable.”
Mr de Wall explained that European consumer legislation - which requires contracts to be fair – ensures the early payment discounts that pressure the public to pay quickly or face higher charges “are unlawful because they constitute a price escalation clause.” Furthermore, when parking restriction signs are “not clear or prominently displayed” the motorist could legally challenge the fine on the basis that it is unfair, the legal expert explained.
Legal Argument Should Be Tested In Court
Professor Stephen Glaister, Director of the RAC Foundation, said: “We would like to see this legal argument tested in a higher court so that a binding precedent is set. At the same time, we would like the government to do what it should have done at the outset and set out what are reasonable charges.
The British Parking Association and the Independent Parking Committee recommend that their members do not issue tickets of more than £100 to those that overstay their welcome, or breach other conditions.
Professor Glaister added: “If the courts agree with Mr de Waal then millions of drivers could be in line for a refund. We estimate that in 2013 alone drivers might have been overcharged by some £100 million.” He concluded: “Some parking operators have a business model which means they only make a profit if members of the public overstay and can be charged an excessive penalty. We think this model - which invites zealous enforcement - is unfair and not fully understood by the public.”