Home > Cases > Camden London Borough Council v The Parking Adjudicator [2011] EWHC 295 (Admin)

For a short period in 2009, the claimant local authority applied a 1.3% ‘administration charge’ (the charge) on payments by credit card of penalty charges for parking contraventions. The three interested parties all received penalty charge notices during the period in which the charge was levied.

In the first claimant’s case, the penalty charge notice made no mention of the 1.3% charge. However, in accordance with para 1(i) of the Schedule to the Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (England) General Regulations 2007, SI 2007/3483 (the General Regulations), the notice did set out four ways in which payment might be made, one of which was by credit card. The penalty was not paid within the specified period, and accordingly the authority issued a ‘notice to owner’, which did mention the 1.3% charge. The claimant appealed against the penalty charge, pursuant to the Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (England) Representations and Appeals Regulations 2007, SI 2007/3482 (the Appeals Regulations). A second penalty charge notice was affixed to another of the first interested party’s vehicles, on a separate occasion. The notice stated that the 1.3% charge would be levied if payment was made by credit card. The first interested party appealed, on the basis that the amount sought exceeded the amount payable because of the attempt to recover 101.3% of the penalty. The appeal was rejected and an appeal to the adjudicator was issued. The adjudicator allowed both the first interested party’s appeals, on the ground that the penalty charge exceeded the amount applicable in each case because the substance of what the notices were saying was that to discharge the penalty, a motorist would have to pay a sum greater than the penalty prescribed by law.

The third and fourth interested parties were served with penalty charge notices by post. Neither mentioned the 1.3% charge. Both motorists appealed to the adjudicator, who allowed the appeals on the basis of procedural impropriety in relation to the imposition of the 1.3% charge. In the fourth interested party’s case, the adjudicator also stated that the charge was not ‘legally acceptable’. In reaching their decisions in the first to third interested parties’ appeals, the adjudicators had expressly had regard to the decision of another adjudicator, G, who had found that in seeking to recover the 1.3% administration charge, ‘the penalty [had] exceeded the relevant amount’. The authority applied for judicial review of the adjudicators’ decisions in each of the four cases. For the purposes of the application, it was assumed that the imposition of the 1.3% charge had been ultra vires.

Held: Application dismissed but permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal granted.
(1) A parking adjudicator was obliged to allow an appeal if the sum required to be paid to an enforcing authority by the motorist exceeded the amount set by the statutory scheme, however the enforcing authority sought to characterise the additional charge (see [29] of the judgment). For the purposes of reg 4(4)(e), the 1.3% fee imposed by the authority in the instant case could not be separated from the penalty charge. In substance, what the authority had done was to increase the penalty charge if payment were to be made by credit card to 101.3 per cent of the sum authorised under the statutory scheme. It made no difference that the authority had identified four mechanisms of payment, only one of which included the surcharge. Having offered that method, all motorists were freely entitled to use it and were exposed to the potential demand for 101.3% of the appropriate penalty charge. In those circumstances, the authority had been demanding a sum to discharge the motorist’s liability which was greater than that prescribed by law. The adjudicators who had allowed the appeals by reference to reg 4(4)(e) had been right to do so. Those who had allowed them on a different basis were, as a matter of law, right to have allowed the appeals, even if that basis had not formed part of their reasoning (see [29] of the judgment).

(2) For the purposes of reg 19 (2)(c) of the General Regulations, the requirement to ‘state the amount of the penalty charge payable’ imported the requirement to state the amount in the correct sum (see [36] of the judgment).
The notices to owners in the first two appeals had not stated the amount payable in the correct sum, because they had identified the 1.3% surcharge which had the effect of increasing, and thereby overstating, the charge payable. Accordingly, there had been a procedural impropriety within the meaning of reg 4(5) of the Regulations.

(3) A parking adjudicator could not allow an appeal on the ground of ‘collateral challenge’ (see [54] of the judgment).

Click here for the judgment

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