It is clear that signage plays a big part in the judgment and that the basis the contract is not unfair is due to the 'clear and plentiful' signage.
Here are a few of the references to signage from the judgment:
Para 100: “The charge is prominently displayed in large letters at the entrance to the car park and at frequent intervals within it” and “They must regard the risk of having to pay £85 for overstaying as an acceptable price for the convenience of parking there.”
Para 108: “But although the terms, like all standard contracts, were presented to motorists on a take it or leave it basis, they could not have been briefer, simpler or more prominently proclaimed. If you park here and stay more than two hours, you will pay £85”
Para 199: “What matters is that a charge of the order of £85 (reducible on prompt payment) is an understandable ingredient of a scheme serving legitimate interests. Customers using the car park agree to the scheme by doing so.”
Para 205: “The requirement of good faith in this context is one of fair and open dealing. Openness requires that the terms should be expressed fully, clearly and legibly, containing no concealed pitfalls or traps. Appropriate prominence should be given to terms which might operate disadvantageously to the customer.”
Para 287: In so far as the criterion of unconscionableness allows the court to address considerations other than the size of the penalty in relation to the protected interest, the fact that motorists entering the car park were given ample warning of both the time limit of their licence and the amount of the charge also supports the view that the parking charge was not unconscionable
Here is a copy of the signage map filed by ParkingEye as evidence.
From this map it is clear that you can hardly move around the car park without bumping into one of the 20 huge blue or yellow signs.
Here is the judges finding of fact based on that information.
Para 90. At all material times since then, ParkingEye has displayed about 20 signs at the entrance to the car park and at frequent intervals throughout it. The signs are large, prominent and legible, so that any reasonable user of the car park would be aware of their existence and nature, and would have a fair opportunity to read them if he or she wished to do so.
But what if there were fewer signs? The judges may well have come to a different decision. One possible judgment would be that they still ruled a charge of £85 may be valid, just not in this car park. Another possibility might be that the case would have been thrown out due to false evidence.
At what level might the judges have changed their mind? If there was only one sign in the car park, then this would almost certainly result in the appeal being won. If there was one fewer sign than the evidence claimed, perhaps the judgment would have stayed the same. Somewhere in between will be the tipping point.
The Prankster can now reveal the actual signage in the car park. For clarity, signs are shown at twice actual size.
What? You can't see them? Ah, perhaps twice actual size isn't big enough. Here they are again.
Yes, that's correct - only 15 of the 20 signs ParkingEye claim are present in the evidence are actually there. Five of the twenty signs ParkingEye claim were present are not. Fully 25% of the signs claimed were missing. In addition one sign (number 5) was in the wrong place and there was one extra sign not mentioned, which means that around 1/3 of the signage evidence submitted to the Supreme Court was either plain wrong or misleading.
But would this have made a difference? Here is the map again, together with the area of influence of each sign. Parking spaces within 5 bays of a sign on the same row are shown in green. These are all close enough that the driver would almost certainly spot the sign. Parking spaces withing 10 bays are shown in orange. These are warning bays. A driver might well be likely to miss a sign. Parking spaces in red are danger areas. They are so far away from a sign that a driver would be very likely not to realise restrictions exist.
Although the Prankster has not done this, there is also a case for disabled bays to be given special treatment. A disabled driver isn't going to go mooching around the car park looking for signs; the driver is also likely to be in a wheelchair. Disabled bays could therefore be marked in red if there are no nearby signs low enough to read - disabled drivers are after all likely to need longer to shop than able bodied drivers. In actual fact for this car park, most of the disabled bays are classified as 'red' anyway, meaning there are no nearby signs.
So there you have it. 172 well signed spaces, 233 badly signed spaces, and 67 spaces which can only be classed as entrapment zones, including most of the disabled bays. Of the 472 spaces, 63% are badly signed and of those 14% are ParkingEye's cash cows.
What can be done?
The Supreme Court verdict is water under the bridge and Mr Beavis will not be getting his £85 back. However, there is real doubt that the Supreme Court would have ruled the way they did had ParkingEye not provided incorrect information. The rationale may have remained the same, but the verdict may have gone the other way for this particular car park and this particular set of signage.
This of course is not an isolated car park, and most other ParkingEye car parks have similar signage problems, with large areas of poor signage, together with distinctive entrapment zones. Worryingly, many of the entrapment zones are either in disabled bays, or are at the shopfront, where a motorist would just drive up, enter the store and so never see the signage far behind them.
ANPR car parks are not like warden patrolled car parks - there is no reason of risking parking a few minutes extra on the chance the warden will not visit. Every single overstay will result in a charge being issued. Therefore as no rational person would overstay, the only reasons this would happen is in the case of an accident, or if the motorist missed the signs and did not realise the time limit. Signage therefore plays a huge part. Unscrupulous operators have a huge incentive to provide poor signage, and the more canny of these will cleverly have good signage in some areas of the car park, while creating entrapment zones elsewhere.
The Government are currently consulting on the bad practices in the parking industry and so there are several ways this problem could be quickly and easily fixed - for instance by defining what the minimum acceptable standard of signage coverage is. Currently the codes of practice of the parking industry fall conveniently silent on any quantifiable standards, preferring instead to define the minimum size a sign must be.
Sign Barry Beavis's petition here to get this matter responded to by parliament
The Parking Prankster