It should be noted that the following is no substitute for legal advice which is tailored to your own specific set of circumstances. If you are faced with a private parking ticket you should contact a solicitor immediately. Also, the following DOES NOT apply to fines issued by government, police or local authorities – these are entirely different. The following applies to private parking tickets, issued by landowners or parking companies.
Everyone has an opinion on private parking tickets. How many of these opinions are legally correct though? When someone says to “ignore that ticket, it’s an unenforceable invoice”, should you take that advice? In short, the answer is no. For a more detailed explanation, read on.
There is no specific Act of Parliament in Scotland dealing with private parking tickets. Private parking tickets are based on the law of contract.
When a driver parks in a space in a private car park and sees a sign that says how long they are allowed to stay and how much the fine is for overstaying or failure to pay, the driver is entering a contract. They might not have signed a bit of paper agreeing to any terms and conditions but this doesn’t matter, they have entered into a contract. A contract does not need to be in writing in Scotland.
The contract is between the landowner and the driver of the car. Not the owner of the car or registered keeper. If a carpark landowner (or parking company acting on their behalf) was to successfully sue the driver in court, they would have to prove on the balance of probabilities, that the person they are suing was the driver of the car when it was parked in their carpark in breach of the contract.
The onus is on the car park or parking company to prove that the contract was entered into and who entered into that contract (who was driving the car).
If it was proved that a driver breached the contract, they would be liable to pay damages. This is where the law has been clarified in the Supreme Court judgement of ParkingEye Ltd v Beavis  UKSC 67.
It was previously thought that landowners could only sue for what they estimate they lost because of a car being parked on their land. This would be nothing in the majority of cases as it would be almost impossible to prove that they lost money due to a car being parked in a carpark.
The Supreme Court, in that particular case, ruled that an £85 charge was not unreasonable. Indeed, in Scotland, one person has been found liable to pay £24,500 after ignoring many £100 per day fines (Vehicle Control Services v Mackie, Dundee Sheriff Court, 13 January 2017)
It does not follow however that all private parking tickets are automatically enforceable. A car park owner or parking company must still prove a contract existed, and, with whom that contract was with.
If you are faced with a private parking ticket, you should ignore all of the potentially incorrect advice out there and contact a solicitor immediately so that you are provided with the correct advice for your particular situation.
Blog by Iain Corbett, Aberdeen Lawyer
You can also listen to Patrick McGuire on BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland Programme giving his view on the legality of charges levied by private parking companies.