Top tips on beating unfair private parking tickets

27 April 2018
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If you’ve ever received a parking ticket when you’ve parked legitimately on privately owned land, you’ll know how irritated it makes you feel. But rather than reluctantly pay up, you could challenge an unfair ticket and have it quashed. We look at the options.

There are few things more likely to outrage a motorist than an unjust parking ticket. What is more, it appears that drivers in the UK are increasingly being asked to cough up. New analysis of DVLA data by the RAC Foundation reveals that in the 2017/18 financial year a record number of private parking tickets had been issued. The DVLA released 5.65 million vehicle keeper records to car parking management companies last year. Almost all of these will have been used by private parking firms to issue motorists with tickets – up from 4.7 million in the year before.

The problem is that significant numbers of these tickets are being issued incorrectly. It has got sufficiently bad that even the government has stepped in. In January, the Department for Communities and Local Government promised new legal protections from “unscrupulous parking operators”, which are currently being scrutinised by Parliament.

So what are your rights when it comes to challenging a ticket that you think is unfair?

When can you appeal against a parking ticket?

There are plenty of entirely justifiable reasons for challenging a parking ticket. These might include:

  • A lack of clear signage explaining the parking rules for that spot
  • The fine is disproportionate to the cost of parking or any losses the landowner has incurred
  • You were unable to purchase a pay and display ticket as the machine was out of order
  • The parking company was not actually responsible for overseeing the land on which you parked
  • The parking ticket is invalid, perhaps because details have been recorded incorrectly
  • It was an emergency or your vehicle had broken down

Council ticket vs private ticket: how can I tell the difference?

There are two types of parking ticket, depending on who owns the land on which you parked.
If you get a ticket on a council-owned space, then you’ll be issued with a penalty charge notice or excess charge notice.

But if you are issued a ticket on privately owned land, then it will be a parking charge notice. There’s no recent data available on the average fee charged by private parking companies, but research carried out by Citizens Advice in 2015 placed this figure at £83. However, it reported that some have been hit with fines as high as £300.

The ticket itself should explain who it has been issued by and, therefore, what type of ticket it is. This is important, as the appeals process differs between a private parking ticket and one issued by local council.

Get evidence

If you plan to contest a ticket, then you will need to provide evidence to demonstrate precisely why you shouldn’t have to pay it.

So if there isn’t clear signage, you need to prove it. Take some photographs of the area around the parking space to show the absence of signage. Similarly, if a pay and display machine is broken, take pictures of it to demonstrate why you were unable to purchase a ticket.

Ryan Jackson, founder of parking management firm Gemini Parking Solutions, says: “A picture paints a thousand words, and could prove vital in your appeal case. Whether your grounds for appeal is because of insufficient signage or an unseen ticket or permit, always take a photo to corroborate your claim as an operator will have to review its photo evidence according to what you have provided.”

Is the company registered?

It’s important to check at an early stage whether the parking company is a registered member of an accredited trade association. You can do this on the websites of the British Parking Association (BPA) at BritishParkingAssociation.co.uk or International Parking Community (IPC) at Theipc.info.

This matters because firms that aren’t members of accredited trade associations are not able to get your details from the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency), which means they can’t take you to court if you don’t pay.

As a result, if you do get a ticket from a non-accredited firm and feel the need to let off steam, don’t write in to complain – you’ll be handing the company the personal details it needs to pursue you.

Also, be careful of ‘ghosting’, where a ticket is not physically issued, but a demand and a charge is.

Martyn James of complaints website Resolver says the site has started to hear more of these cases. He adds: “What’s particularly worrying is when we hear about blatantly dishonest tickets. Though no one knows how widespread the practice is, any examples of this are absolutely unacceptable and should be appealed even if you’ve decided to pay.”

Don’t pay up

Generally, with a parking ticket you can cut the cost of the fine by 50% if you pay up in the first 14 days.

You might be tempted to pay up first and then go through with the appeal. But this can be seen as a recognition of being at fault and damage the chances of your appeal being successful.

Speak to the landowner

When you are issued a ticket, it will come from the parking firm that has been employed to oversee that particular bay. But the firm isn’t the landowner – the space may be owned by a retailer or business. So if you think you’ve been treated unfairly, it’s worth speaking to the landowner directly.

Put it all in writing

Once you have the evidence you need, it’s time to put that complaint in writing. The ticket you were issued should have the parking firm’s contact details on there.

You can do this independently or you could use Resolver, a free online tool for complaints and claims, which will help you with your complaint form and ensure that you get a timely response.

If at first you don’t succeed…

If your initial appeal is unsuccessful, you can take your case to an independent arbiter. If the parking firm is a member of the BPA, then your case should be raised with Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA). This service is free to use and you have 28 days in which to do so after your initial complaint is rejected.

According to POPLA’s 2017 report, it upheld more than half of the almost 58,000 complaints it received.

If the parking firm is a member of the IPC, then you need to take your case to the Independent Appeals Service. Again, this service is free to use, but you only have 21 days.

Should you prove successful with the arbiter, the charge will be dropped. However, if you lose again, you will need to pay up or else risk being taken to the small claims court.  

“I checked the details – and won”

Julien Speed, a PR manager from Kent, received two tickets from Highview Parking after a trip to Tesco, with fines totalling £140. So he took action. He explains: “I took a two-pronged approach of challenging Highview on the grounds of technicalities, and complaining to Tesco about poor customer relations.”

He pointed out to Highview that a sign at the car park entrance advertises up to two hours of free parking when at least £5 is spent in store, and that both conditions were met. Julien also noted that the charge notice arrived a whopping 23 days after the alleged offence, when the official guidance detailed under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 points out that it should arrive within a fortnight when no windscreen ticket has been issued.

“I’m pleased to say that both companies wrote to me separately, cancelling both tickets,” he adds.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Under the new date protection law is it legal for the DVLA to sell my personal date to private parking companies?

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

A local supermarket leaves demands for about two months. By then most people have thrown away their supermarket receipts.I always advise friends and relatives to keep their supermarket tickets for at least two months after using the supermarket car park.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Simply ignore all private company parking "fine" notices. Only pay up for Police or Council tickets. These private firms have no power and make empty threats hoping innocent and law-abiding motorists will simply cough up out of fear. Plus, it's absolutely disgusting that the DVLA "sells" our private details, names & addresses, on demand to these scum.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

If a parking fine is imposed by Police or a Council, you must pay it... but I know people who never pay excess time parking fines from some private (e.g Supermarket type ) car parks. Such parking management companies may make threats about affecting your credit rating for example, but I've heard that's nonsense... i.e. Bluffers!At the end of the day it's a calculated decision on whether to risk not paying...

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