ParkingEye want a change in the interpretation of the law so that they can charge arbitrary penalty amounts for breach of contact. As the law currently stands, the remedy for breach of contract is to make good any loss. ParkingEye's average cost per ticket issued was established in the initial case to be around £18. However, they want to be able to charge an arbitrary amount of £85 (and £100 in some car parks), giving them a profit of £67 or more.
The Consumer Association are worried that if the interpretation of the law changes in this way this would open the floodgates for all consumer industries to charge what they liked for breach of contract. The simplest way would be to create service companies to act on their behalf to issue charges for breach of contract. These service companies could then inflate charges to arbitrary levels (in the same way ParkingEye do) and charge as much as they like.
Parking management is necessary and there are sound business models used by some parking companies, such as where they charge a management fee or take a share of the parking revenue. A change in the law is therefore not needed; parking companies can adopt these legitimate business models.
The problem arises in the way some parking companies structure their business. Companies like ParkingEye get their sole revenue for issuing tickets for breach of contract, and this encourages them to find creative ways to make motorists fall foul of the rules, such as providing poor signage, or inventing complex parking rules it is easy to trip up on.
This can often be seen at hospitals. ParkingEye have invented a scheme which requires the motorist to guess how long they have parked for, and to enter their registration correctly. This is despite other companies offering technology which informs the motorist what the charge is without requiring guesswork, and which does not allow an incorrect number to be entered. Enough people fall foul of these rules to net ParkingEye millions of pounds a year at hospitals, as an FoI request on Northumbria NHS showed.
On the dispatches program, Patrick Troy, chief executive of the BPA said this about hospital parking.
The incentivisation of operators to issue tickets is wrong. That shouldn't happen.[...] If you find evidence of that then please let us have that, because we need to investigate.
The Prankster has already got in touch with the BPA and offered to tell them all about their largest member, ParkingEye. However, as the BPA recently investigated one hospital ParkingEye were operating at and failed to notice anything wrong, and in fact commended them on following government guidelines, it is possible that Patrick Troy is pulling the wool over Dispatches eyes, and has no serious intention of doing anything about the abuse.
The Parking Prankster