Parking is a big money-spinner for councils across the UK. Figures analysed by the RAC Foundation last year suggest that councils in England alone enjoyed a record £819 million in profit from parking activities in the 2016/17 tax year.
While much of that money comes from parking charges, penalty fines also swell council coffers.
But what if you believe you have been issued with a ticket correctly? How can you appeal and improve your chances of success? Moneywise gives you the lowdown.
The difference between council and private parking tickets
When you get a parking ticket, it will either come from a council or a private parking firm.
The ticket itself should explain where it has come from; bear in mind that a ticket from a council will be called a Penalty Charge Notice or Excess Charge Notice.
Martyn James from complaints service Resolver warns motorists to be on their guard for misleading tickets: “This is an important thing to note because some sneaky private tickets look very similar to council tickets - yellow notices, wrapped in plastic - and may say ‘Parking Charge Notice’ or other similar phrases. This matters because private firms don’t have a legal right to fine you, whereas the council or the police do.”
When can I appeal?
There are a number of different reasons why you might have grounds for an appeal against a council-issued ticket.
- An error by the traffic warden
- The signs were unclear, damaged or not visible
- The signs were wrong
- The meters were not working
- The fine documentation was wrong
- The fine was excessive
You can also raise a complaint around the circumstances that led to the ticket, which may include circumstances such as receiving a ticket when clearly being broken down, emergencies such as acting to prevent an accident, illness, or simply overzealous ticketing.
You get some leeway
It’s worth remembering that generally councils will give motorists a bit of leeway when it comes to the actual time on your ticket.
Generally, councils won’t implement a fine if you go up to 10 minutes past the official ‘end time’ on your ticket, so you could appeal if you’ve been caught out by a particularly keen warden.
Similarly, Mr James says you should appeal if you get ticketed while trying to pay into a meter. He adds: “The time period for this is around three minutes leeway.”
How to appeal
You will have to appeal directly to the council that issued the initial ticket. It’s important to note that different councils have different processes for handling these appeals; there isn’t a single method they all follow.
If you received the ticket in the post, then the letter should have included an appeal form, as well as information on how the appeals process works.
Otherwise you will likely have the option of appealing online via the council’s website or through the post.
Be sure to include all relevant details, such as your address, the car’s registration number, the ticket number and a clear explanation of why you believe the ticket was unfair.
Make sure you have proof
Your chances of a successful appeal are greatly improved if you have some evidence to support your claim. It’s not enough to simply state that the signs weren’t clear enough or not sufficiently visible; you’ll need to show that this was the case. So take some pictures if you can using a smartphone.
Similarly, if the meter wasn’t working, make sure you have a picture to show this.
If you were forced to park in the space by circumstances, such as the car breaking down or a medical emergency, then providing some form of proof will also help your case. This could include documentation from your breakdown recovery service or the garage for example.
Witness statements can also help support your case when appropriate.
Don’t pay if you’re going to appeal
You’ll usually qualify for a discount on the fine if you cough up the money within 14 days of it being issued. It can be tempting to pay it, and then appeal afterwards; the thinking going that if you lose, you’ll only have to pay the reduced fine.
This isn’t a great idea though. By paying the fine you are effectively admitting responsibility and so removing your chances of your appeal being successful.
It’s worth noting that many councils will freeze the 14-day fine discount if you lodge your appeal early, meaning that if your appeal is rejected and you elect to pay up, you will still only pay the smaller figure.
You don’t have to do it alone
You can appeal against a council ticket yourself - the process should be relatively straightforward.
However, if you feel you need a helping hand then you can make use of the free online complaints tool Resolver which can assist you with your initial appeal letter and push the council to provide a speedy response.
Similarly, you can make use of the template appeal letters on the website of consumer champion Which?.
If at first you don’t succeed
If your initial appeal isn’t successful, but you still believe you have a case, you can forward your complaint onto a dispute resolution body. The exact body to go to depends on your location; if your issue relates to a London council then you need to go to the Environment and Traffic Adjudicators, while for the rest of England and Wales you need to approach the Traffic Penalty Tribunal.
There is also the Parking and Bus Lane Tribunal for Scotland and the Northern Ireland Traffic Penalty Tribunal.
Again, you can do this alone or get Resolver to help.
Bear in mind that if your second appeal is again unsuccessful, you will have to pay the full fine - you will not qualify for the discounted penalty.
‘I proved the council was wrong’
Deepak Shukla, 31, runs an SEO (search engine optimisation) agency and was given a ticket by the council in Hillingdon, North London.
The council parking warden claimed that he had parked on a double yellow line and was obscuring a pathway.
Deepak took issue with this though.
He explains: “I took the images the council sent me and was able to demonstrate that there were was around 75% of one wheel on the double yellow line, and that there was enough space for three people to walk side-by-side in the space. It agreed to rescind the fine.”
JOHN FITZSIMONS is a freelance journalist who writes for Yahoo Finance, Lovemoney, Mirror.co.uk and Mortgage Solutions