Private parking companies rely on us not knowing the law

JUST took a stroll as far as my first-ever Loughborough ‘local’ and noted it’s car park has recently been taken over by a private company.
No longer can I park at the Toby Carvery for as long as I wish. A sign under the name of Euro Car Parks, a firm I have crossed swords with in the past, limits parking time to a maximum of three hours. Customers are told to register their vehicles inside and an £85 fine is the penalty for over staying.
The ‘rules’ apply even on Bank Holidays, so if I should eat too much Christmas turkey and have an extra filter coffee, I could end up with an even more expensive bill.
I’m not actually arguing the rights and wrongs of the Toby’s new policy of doing business this way – although I fundamentally do disagree with it and will reduce the number of times I go there.
My point is that private parking companies rely on our naivety as individuals to basically rob us of money. The word ‘rob’ is, in this case, entirely justified.
Most motorists who receive a parking ticket after parking innocently enough at a supermarket, retail park, restaurant or wherever presume they are legally bound to pay it.
Even those who baulk at the initial charge will probably give in when they receive subsequent threats to increase the fine.
But we are NOT legally bound to comply. They are, in effect, pulling a fast one.
A parking ticket with a charge notice from a private company is not a criminal matter.
Note the phrase ‘charge notice’, this is legally-speaking far different from a penalty notice issued by the police.
It doesn’t even have the same gravitas as a council-issued parking ticket.
Here are the legal facts.
You are not found to be liable to pay a fine issued by a private company unless the issue is taken to court.
Less than five per cent of cases of unpaid tickets are taken that far – with the majority being found in the motorist’s favour.
Think of it like this.
You could draw up your own set of parking rules for your road. Limit parking to certain times and places and warn residents you’ll charge them £100 if they don’t comply.
Then go around next morning and dish out the tickets. No need to go to work for the day, you’d make a fortune.
Except, of course, you wouldn’t be that ignorant. There’s no way, in any case, your neighbours would pay up, would they? Yet they (or we) do exactly that when private companies make up their rules.
They do have the authority of whoever owns the car park – in this case the Toby Carvery – to do what they do.
But, crucially, they haven’t entered into a contract with you unless you meekly cave in to their threats.
Ask yourself this: would you pay your ticket if the charge was £1,000?
Of course, you wouldn’t.
And the law is actually on your side.
For if taken to court, the company must prove it has suffered financial damages because of you staying too long.
Should I park for three hours and ten minutes, have Euro Car Parks suffered £85 in damages?
It will be difficult for them to prove it has cost them more than a fiver to administer your fine.
Remember also that the private company in most cases is demanding money from you without offering any kind of service.
The notice concerned states that should your car be damaged in any way whilst you are parked at the Toby it’s nothing to do with them.
It pays to know the law and not to instantly cough up just because nearly everyone else does so.

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