ParkingEye - Motorway Service Areas

ParkingEye will take people to court on the slightest pretext but one of their main sources of cases is Motorway Service Areas (MSA). Anyone using a MSA can be there for up to 2 hours without charge. This is in all the contracts the government has with the MSA operators and is unlikely to be changed. 

After 2 hours - as measured by ANPR cameras on entrance, not parking - MSA operators expect to pay for the additional time either before leaving or in some cases, no later than midnight same day. If you failed to pay at a ParkingEye site, expect to get a parking charge and even a court claim (see below)

Example Case: ParkingEye v "overstaying" motorist

This was a case where a driver had entered the car park of Welcome Break service on the M40 near Warwick, in 2015 at 23:18 and left at 06:20 the next day. A total of 7 hours and one minute, including 2 hours free parking. PE claimed the driver having paid £5 had underpaid and should have left the car park by 0518 hours. The fact was recorded by ANPR. The charges in place were: up to 2 hours free, 2-6 hours £5 and 6-20 hours £12. The defendant had underpaid by £7. A parking charge notice was sent to the registered keeper who admitted being the driver. He made an informal appeal which was rejected. The defendant refused to pay the PCN and after numerous letters a claim was issued. 

Defendant admitted being in the carpark at the time but, stated that until the morning of the trial he believed he had purchased 6 additional hours parking and that PE were claiming he’d overstayed by 1 minute which he submitted was due to large queues at the petrol station on leaving. He had arrived in the services in a mobile home with his family intending to pay to stay till about 07:00 the next day, he saw the signs indicating 2 hours free and that additional time could be purchased at the onsite WH Smiths. He told the staff at WH Smiths, ‘Jason’, how long he wanted to stay and was told £5 would cover an additional 6 hours. He purchased the ticket and left the following morning well before what he believed the cut time of 07:18.

Both the defendant and ‘Jason’ mistakenly believed he had purchased 6 hours extra time, (whereas it was actually to stay 6 hours which included the initial free 2 hours); this was the basis of the defence submitted to the court.

The defendant claimed PE had not read his appeal, as it clearly set out he believed PE was claiming for only 1 minute overstay. Had PE pointed out his error he would have reluctantly paid the PCN. Although, the DJ listened to the defendants explanation he ruled the defence submitted to the court had failed as PE clearly proved he had overstayed. He stated no evidence had been submitted from Jason, and discounted the fact Jason may have been acting as an agent for PE and/or Welcome Break; the defendant had made no submission regarding signage and had in fact admitted seeing the sign that directed him to WH Smiths.

DJ awarded PE the initial charge of £100 plus £100 costs.

Key issues

1. At any stage you can get whoever hired them (principal) to cancel so it is important to identify them and get them to intervene. If the defendant had contact Welcome Break, they will get involved.

2. The opinion of 'Jason' would have been useful but would have needed to be included as a Witness Statement if it was to be of any value. Judges cannot put any value on an opinion of an unidentified source. 

3. This case could have gone either way as the meaning of the words "2-6" hours is ambiguous. There is a legal principal called contra proferentem where any ambiguity in a contact is to the advantage of the defendant and not the claimant. A Witness Statement from 'Jason' supporting this may have turned the case away from ParkingEye had it been introduced properly.

4. In this case, the judge came down on the issue of ambiguity by finding for ParkingEye though it could easily have gone the other way. But unless you want a day in court to argue these legal points, it may be better to use option 1 and get Welcome Break or the other Motorway Service operator involved at the start. You can find their contact details online.

 

Note: Could we thank one of our court reporters for this article. We're it not for volunteers reporters donating their time, ParkingEye's actions would go unchallenged.

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