How I got my parking fine cancelled

rachellacey's picture

I’ve had a bit of a bad run with parking fines lately and unfortunately not with the ‘nice’ transparent council ones. The ones I’ve been slapped with are the irritating ones issued for so-called offences on private land – which means the likes of hospitals, supermarkets and retail estates.

The first was for overstaying at my local Morrisons. I can’t argue that I didn’t breach the terms stated by ParkingEye, the company that runs the car park; however, the fine – which from memory was close to £100 – seemed disproportionate especially as I’d spent more than that in Morrisons for my weekly shop as well as entertaining my three-year old in their café, with a magazine, again purchased in-store.

My blood was literally boiling when I received the fine in the post. Telling people my woes, several other victims told me to simply ignore it. The charges aren’t legal, I was told. They can’t make you pay them, they said. They’re just being opportunistic. But ignoring the fine went against my (not terribly rebellious) nature so I turned to the master of all wisdom: Google.

That however, left me even more confused. While a great body of opinion urged me to ignore it, there were tales of caution warning me that if I did repeatedly fail to pay the charge I’d be taken to court. There was advice telling me how to appeal and how to word my letter – but it all seemed fiendishly complicated and there was no guarantee of success. So rather than appealing to Parking Eye, I turned to social media and sent the supermarket itself a tweet.

Very quickly I got a response back asking for a few details, and then the following day they sent me a direct message to tell me the fine had been cancelled. Phew!

But I was caught out again a few weeks ago in a gym car park. I was taking my son to a birthday party and, following the instructions of the host, entered my car registration number into a touch screen in reception, to register my car for free parking. All I can presume is that I entered the number plate incorrectly, because shortly afterwards I received another letter in the post, with another fine.

Again I was up in arms and decided there and then to appeal, but there was no information on the letter explaining my rights. The gym gave me an email address with which to appeal but I heard nothing for almost two weeks before eventually receiving a letter saying my appeal was being considered, then a couple of days later a more formal letter explaining that my appeal had been rejected.

It told me thankfully that I had a further two weeks to pay the fine at the lower rate but, outrageously, that I would lose that right if I decided to appeal again this time through POPLA, the independent appeals service for parking charges on private land.

With that in mind I returned to Twitter and sought out the gym in question. Very quickly they told me they would investigate on my behalf. A few days later I got the news that they had managed to get the charge waived.

While the law surrounding these charges seems to be decidedly unclear, I’d never urge anyone just to ignore a parking charge – even if motorists across the UK are doing so with no repercussions – but I would say don’t just pay up without thinking. These companies may use bullyboy tactics (the letter that failed to tell me about my right to appeal or provide any instruction on how to do so, did tell me that the charge could be passed on to a debt recovery agency if I didn’t pay up) but that doesn’t mean you can’t fight them.

My experiences tell me that the official appeals process seems to take limited note of mitigating circumstances (unlike fines issued by councils), and these companies make their money by issuing parking tickets they want you to pay.

Nonetheless they do operate under the instruction of the company that employs them – be that Morrisons, a gym, a retail estate – which will not want to lose valuable customers. These firms want customers to use their facilities without fear of punitive charges. So if you get caught out, complain to them first whether that’s speaking to them in person or over the phone, writing a letter or like me, taking advantage of the immediacy of social media.

Your Comments

This is great advice!
I used to issue Parking Charge Notices on a private retail estate, this made it very hard for customers to appeal against their ticket due to the fact that it was the estate owners rather than the individual retail outlets that had employed the company I worked for.
But I was one of the nicer ones, for those that requested appeal information I'd happily give them the estate owner's business number if all other routes failed.  If you do receive a ticket the estate owner's details are usually displayed on a board at the entry to the park or can be discovered via Google.
No shop on a retail estate likes unhappy customers, and no retail estate owner likes unhappy shop owners, always feel free to use that to your advantage.
On a side note spare a thought for the ones issuing the tickets, they go to work knowing they're going to be abused and in some cases assaulted, I changed careers after having 3 incidents of vehicles being used as weapons and a death threat (I'm a dad so I figured I wanted to see my daughter grow up).

It must be understood that these "parking notices" are not "fines" and therefore they cannot be legally enforced. They are merely a request for payment. If you do nothing and do not pay there is very little possibility that the parking firm will take any action. This is because they know very well that their claim will be rejected by any court because the fee they are asking for is unfairly excessive. If you do want to pay knowing that you have contravened their parking conditions you can send them a cheque for what you think is a reasonable amount for parking (i.e. £5 or £10) and they can do nothing further as any court will consider your offer as reasonable. Bear in mind too that if the parking firm does take you to court (extremely unlikely) and they lose their case (extremely likely) then they will be hit with court costs that will be far in excess of the amount they are asking for. Unfortunately most people pay up because these firms use threatening, intimidating and bullying tactics. Remember too that Debt Collection agencies often use the same bullying tactics but they too have no powers to force anyone to pay and will be just as reluctant to take you to Court.

I got one for overstaying in an ASDA car park by 20 minutes. The first thing I noticed was that they had taken 3 weeks to send the letter when POPLA states maximum of 2 weeks. First claim was rejected but I stood my ground and forwarded it to POPLA.
In th emeantime, a debt collection agency took over and started sending me threatening letters! The first charge was £40, doubled to £80 then £160. I did not respond to the threats. Eventually, POPLA informed me that the charge had been withdrawn. Threats from the debt collection agency persisted for a while and the charge was reduced to £120 . I maintained my silence and the letters eventually ceased!
The main thing is not to be intimidated! They only succeed by their victims surrrendering.

In a recent case, a "Judge" ruled that a charge of £!$) was reasonable. He had obviously taken leave of his senses and was totally divorced from reality! There is a case at the Supreme Courtsome weeks ago but news seems to have gone quiet. Personnally, I have never had faith in the British Justice System. It seems to lack the rule of law or common sense!

I once incurred a fine overstaying on an Asda car park in my home town of Walsall just after they had introduced the time limit and I hadn't realised (prior to this it had been unlimited stay)
The date they clocked me was Oct 27th 2011. On Nov 5th that year my father died suddenly and unexpectedly and I had to travel to Hull - at this point no fine had come through and by the time I set off for Hull (which was where my parents lived) the post had already come. It was a Saturday so by my reckoning the earliest the letter could possibly have arrived was Nov 7th. It was waiting for me when I arrived back in the Midlands on Nov 17th. The fine was £60 but £30 if I paid by Nov 17th which of course was an impossibility as that was the evening I arrived back
I wrote to Town and City Parking who had issued the fine explaining why I had not been able to pay by the 17th Nov and acknowledging that although I was liable for overstaying the 2 hours I did not consider that I was liable for their delay in sending out the fine which had prevented me from paying the reduced amount prior to the deadline of the 17th Nov and stating that under these circumstances I was prepared to pay the £30  only, enclosing a cheque for this amount.
I heard nothing for several weeks and neither was my cheque cashed. Mid-late January 2102 I got a letter from them stating that they  had received my letter and after due consideration had, on this occasion, cancelled my fine altogether.
Moral of story - some of these bureaucrats do actually have a heart! I had not asked them to cancel the fine, but somebody somewhere clearly had some sympathy for my situation and I very much appreciated that.
I have made sure never to overstay again though....

Parking Eye does take people to court for unpaid charges and since the Barry Beavis case was lost at the Supreme Court the lower courts just rubber stamp in favour of Parking Eye. It's best to avoid Parking Eye entirely if you can, or make sure you always stay well under the allowed time on their car parks.  

Ignore Sonia's comment - she works for Parking Eye!  Hilarious!

A very informative article.
Last year I received a parking notice from my local Asda in Bloxwich, shortly after they introduced parking penalties, I overstayed by just 20 minutes.
This was the store where we do our weekly shop, so when I got the notice I went into the store with a fist full of my receipts, complained to the manager and offered to take my future business to Aldi. They cancelled the charge on the spot.
I now notice that the store changed companies to Parking Eye and there is a sign saying that complaints cannot be handled in store. However, in my view nothing has changed. If you are a regular customer complain to the store, your repeat retail business is worth far more to the store than Parking Eye's. 
Don't be fooled, these parking charges are the store's business because they invite companies like Parking Eye onto their land to administer them. Therefore my advice is always complain to the store, if they won't accept the complaint send it to their head office.
Also if you get a charge, vote with your feet, shop elsewhere and let the store know you are doing so. A £70 fee from one of these barely legal outfits cannot be acceptable, whatever they say.Therefore loss of future business for the store is a reasonable consequence for treating customers in this manner.

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