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Bob receives a letter from Debt Recovery Plus about an overtime parking charge from a private “creditor”. What legal authority do they have to levy such fines and what is the worst that could happen if he does not pay it?

If it is under a private implicit contract under posted terms, are these not subject to unfair consumer contract term regulations?

The original overtime parking charge was £60 and they claim to have sent 2 precious letters which Bob did not receive. Due to not receiving a response to these, they have added £110 in administration fees. Are these not disproportionate and unreasonable compared to the original charge?

Furthermore, if it is a question of having accepted the posted contract terms by parking on the private property, why is the act of parking there deemed as acceptance of the contract terms and entering into a contract with the landlord rather than a mere civil trespass while rejecting the proposed terms of the contract?

The contract seems to say “I am the owner of this property. If you don’t accept these terms then you have no permission/license to be on my land.” If one goes on the land then the conclusion is clearly that Bob has either accepted the terms or is there without the owner’s permission (ie trespassing) for which damages are not generally available unless actual harm was caused. Why is one interpretation seemingly favoured over the other?

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    It is a really dodgy use of contract law combined with the protection of Freedoms Act 2012. There are forums dedicated to fighting them. It is well worth the effort, requires no professional help and has a high reported success rate.
    – User65535
    May 12 at 12:17
  • @User65535 while worth the effort, you usually don't get rid of the initial fee you have to pay, only the debt recovery fees which are usually grossly inflated.
    – Trish
    May 12 at 13:23
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    @Trish They report frequent success in the charge as well, because of mistakes in the paperwork if you look closely enough. Of course such reports have enormous self selection.
    – User65535
    May 12 at 14:40
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    They are not "fines" but "charges". A private body has no legal power to levy fines, and the "parking charge notice" you receive probably doesn't mention the word 'fine'. In the worst case, you'll get a County Court Judgement, which is a very undesirable thing to be in receipt of (have on record). In practice, many companies do not follow them up beyond threatening letters, as it is a great deal of work, and a lot of people in receipt of the charge just pay up. May 12 at 14:56

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Trespassing your car on a parking lot would cause damages

A car that occupies a parking space on a parking lot but for which no fee is paid causes damages: the loss of income from the parking fee. So technically, the owner could sue for damages in the amount of the lost parking fee, which is way more costly than it is worth.

You had a contract to pay them... and broke that.

The fees and terms are usually displayed very large on the entries to the parking lot. Ultimately it is a matter of contract law because the largely displayed signs constitute an offer of a simple contract. To accept the contract, the act of parking suffices.

The contract stipulates, that for the right to park (and not trespass with your car), you pay the fee displayed on the large sign at the parking machine, where the same terms and all other terms are repeated again. If you want to reject the offered contract, you can look for parking elsewhere and need to remove your car from the lot. If you don't pay (enough) but keep your car parked, you violated your contractual obligation, and are in breach of contract. See for example Thornton v Shoe Lane Parking Ltd, where the parking machine was ruled an Offer, not an Invitation to Treat.

In many installations, entry is not possible without getting a time-stamped ticket, and exit is not possible without payment of the fee. Here, enforcement of the fee is simple: you can't get in or out without a (paid) ticket. On the other hand, open lots do not always have such barriers, and rely on a person going there and collecting evidence by taking a photo of the car lacking the fee ticket. In those lots, the contract usually stipulates that a parker has to prove that they paid the fee (and until when) by depositing the fee ticket clearly visibly in the car front window.

Trying to collect such outstanding fees is very labor-intensive, and while the methods and fees demanded by the debt recovery company are often questionable, the initial charge for the parking fee is usually valid.

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    May 15 at 12:11

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