The cases were:
B4GF26K6 PCM (UK) v Mr B (£914.67 claimed)
B4GF27K3 PCM (UK) v Mr W (£1559.82)
B4GF26K2 PCM (UK) v Ms L (£1067.15)
All the Claimant’s documents had been served by Gladstones, and Bargepole provided defence statements, witness statements and a skeleton argument to cover the three cases, all arguing essentially the same points. The main points of defence were that:
a) The claimant’s notices attempt to make a forbidding offer, which isn’t an offer at all, therefore no contract exists. Bargepole attached one of CPS’s signs as an example of how a contractual offer could be made by a parking operator, and a copy of the opinion on this from Professor Furmston, author of the contracts textbook.
b) The charges, which include an additional £50 per ticket (not specified on the signage), are arbitrary and an attempt to penalise motorists
c) There can be no legitimate interest in issuing charges to residents, who were told at a meeting when this scheme came in that it was aimed at external ‘abusers’. The Beavis test is therefore not satisfied.
The Claimant was represented by Thomas Samuels LLB, MA (Oxon), a barrister from Gough Square Chambers (the same chambers as Jonathan Kirk who represented ParkingEye against Mr Beavis). He handed Bargepole a skeleton in the waiting room, which didn’t raise any new arguments, and was simply a summary of the Claimant’s case. Also present was Georgina Philpot, the PCM employee who had signed their witness statements.
District Judge Glen opted to hear all three cases in a single hearing, as requested by us, and agreed by the other side.
DJ Glen had his own copy of the Beavis judgment in front of him, and was clearly familiar with the case. He started by identifying the main issues to be resolved, which were:
Was there a contract at all?
If so, was the doctrine of penalties engaged, and did Beavis apply?
Could the Claimant recover the additional £50 per ticket, stated on the signage as ‘enforcement action may incur additional costs’.
Mr Samuels presented his case, which was that this was a contractual charge, and that the wording stating ‘if you park otherwise than in accordance with the conditions you agree to pay consideration in the sum of £100 …’. This was, he asserted, a conditional offer. In the alternative, the £100 could also be considered as damages for breach of contract, in which case the Beavis judgment would apply, because PCM have a legitimate interest in enforcement in accordance with the wishes of the landowner. He also submitted that the additional £50 per ticket was covered by the Claimant’s evidence of incurring additional costs of enforcement.
DJ Glen did not allow any cross-examinations, so Bargepole abandoned the planned questions for Ms Philpot, and then presented the defence case.
His arguments were that as the sign stated no parking at any time, there was no offer of parking, and therefore there could be no contract. To support this, Bargepole cited Arrale v Costain, and evidenced an example of a sign from Combined Parking Solutions showing how an offer could be made. He also included the email from Prof. Furmston, confirming the analysis. He then said that if it was held there was a contract, PCM would have no legitimate interest in enforcing charges against residents, as this had never been the purpose of the scheme. Finally he said that whatever the outcome, the £50 was not communicated in clear terms, and would not be recoverable.
The Judge sent everyone out for 20 minutes, then back in for Judgment.
He started by referring to the Beavis transcript, at paras. 94, and 189/190, which made it clear that it was agreed by all parties that there was a contract between PE and Beavis. He said that analysis didn’t apply in this case, as the notice was absolutely prohibitive, and didn’t communicate any offer of parking. The landowners may have a claim in trespass, but that wasn’t under consideration here. He also dismissed Mr Samuels’ suggestion that if the court had copies of the leases, these might oblige the defendants to observe all parking restrictions, as these were not in evidence.
He stated he was dismissing all three claims, and then went on to make observations on other points. He said that the photographs evidenced by the defendants clearly showed that it was a wide roadway, and that parking vehicles on one side would not cause any obstruction. However, if there had been a valid contract in place, he probably wouldn’t have considered the £100 to be a penalty. He also would not have allowed the extra £50 to be claimed, under the contra proferentem rule.
No permission to appeal was sought by the Claimant.
The Defendants were awarded their costs for lost earnings, at £95 each for Mr Bl and Mr W, and £80 for Ms L.
This decision essentially blows the IPC signage model out of the water, meaning that pretty much all of their car parks will need re-signing.
It also confirms the Prankster's opinion that the IAS is essentially a kangaroo court. The IAS have been informed many times that IPC signage does not create a contract as the notice is forbidding, but the IAS baristas have proved unable to understand this basic point of contract law.
IPC signage is apparently verified and approved by either Gladstones Solicitors or the IPC.
Professor Furmston is of course the co-author of Law on Contract and his opinion can therefore be though of as compelling, and of far more weight than anyone from Gladstones Solicitors.
It may be that the IPC companies will therefore have a case against whoever validated their signage in the first place, and can recover the costs of reworking their signage.
Any motorist who has paid a charge in these circumstances may well have a case to sue the parking company to recover the payment. This will of course depend on the exact signage, and the circumstances of parking.
The Prankster hopes the judgment provides much needed clarity for motorists who receive private parking charges. Unfortunately, there have been a number of militant solicitor firms who have caused operators additional costs and worry prior to the judgment in declaring the charges as lawful and enforceable. Hopefully, those firms will now focus their efforts on properly advising operators on how to run a car park to provide genuine management as opposed to pillaging their customers rather than issuing blanket, erroneous, advice that all parking charges are enforceable.
Finally, we should all remember that PCM-UK are the company caught out by BBC Watchdog for making things up during appeals.