As a motorist you’ve probably been subject to that sinking feeling on returning to your vehicle to see a penalty notice slapped on the windscreen.
Councils and private car parking firms rake in billions of pounds a year from unwary motorists in fines and unfair charges.
You may be hit with a ticket for a number of reasons, from parking on yellow lines, failing to display a valid ticket, to parking in residents’ bays without a permit.
Depending on where you’ve parking, different organisations issue tickets. These include private firms, local councils, and Transport for London. However, it’s possible to appeal against a fine and win.
Here we break down the basics on how to fight back, depending on what charge you face:
Private parking charges
If you get hit with a ticket for parking on private land, this is a ‘parking charge notice’ rather than a penalty or fine. These are charges for potential losses or damages as firms are not allowed to fine motorists.
Landowners can hire parking attendants to hand out notices, but these apply under civil law so you cannot be branded a criminal for refusing to pay. If you face a ticket, stand your ground. The sum demanded must be considered ‘fair and reasonable’.
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) sells personal data to parking companies. However, only those firms signed up to the British Parking Association can access these. So check the fine print on any ticket, as they might be unable to chase you for payment.
If you think you’ve been subject to a rogue firm trying to grab a tidy sum from you, dispute it. If you know your rights and fight back, you are extremely unlikely to be taken to County Court.
Bear in mind you could face a fight. The worst case scenario could see you writing letters, revisiting a site, taking photos and even attending court hearings. However, while it’s best to be prepared, it’s unlikely a dispute will get this far.
The process of appeal
- In the case of a private parking charge, contact the company concerned explaining why you refuse to pay.
- If your appeal is rejected, you have 28 days to contact the independent Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA) scheme. This is backed by the British Parking Association, and if the firm is reputable, it should be a member of this.
- At this stage you’ll need to gather any evidence you have of unclear signs or anything else that backs up your case. Ideally, you’ll have photographs from the scene. Taking your dispute through this process will cost the firm money, at about £27 for every appeal made through this service. You won’t pay a penny, although arguing your case may prove time-consuming.
Council Parking Tickets
If you are issued a parking ticket when parking on the street, this will be from either a traffic warden, employed by the police, or parking attendants, employed by the council.
Typically in the UK, on-street parking is enforced by council-employed parking attendants who issue Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) through the civil justice system.
If you are prepared to fight your corner, you have every chance of winning an appeal. However, many of us will be tempted to pay up straightaway to avoid the charge rocketing. Council parking tickets typically cost around £30-£60 if you pay within 14 days, doubling after this time period.
The process of appeal
- As with private charges, collect evidence at the scene to help fight your case. This includes photos, parking bay markings and meter information. Are markings faded, signs blocked by objects or trees, or ambiguous?
- Check your ticket carefully. Does it include all the relevant information? If the parking attendant hasn’t followed procedure correctly, the ticket will be invalid. A full list of appeal grounds is available on the Traffic Penalty Tribunal website.
- There are plenty of other reasons you might not have to pay, such as mitigating circumstances. These include health issues, motor breakdown and bereavement. For example, were you away when you got the ticket, or in hospital? Gather travel documents if parking spots were suspended while you weren’t around.
- Alternatively, were you fined within three minutes of your paid parking expiring? In this case, it could simply be that your watch and the traffic warden’s aren’t in tandem. Was the penalty within reason? Or were you clamped for a minor offence that shouldn’t warrant a ticket?
- Contact the council, saying why you think the penalty is invalid. State that you want the fine put on hold. If it’s unsuccessful, you’ll then be allowed to pay the half-price rate that’s typically only applicable within 14 days of getting the ticket.
- If it refuses to budge, you will receive a formal letter known as a ‘Notice to Owner’ giving you a further 28 days to explain why you shouldn’t pay. Alongside this you’ll receive an appeal notice form to return to an independent adjudicator. This will either be the Traffic Penalty Tribunal in England and Wales, the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service in London, or the Scottish Parking Appeals Service. Make sure to keep copies of any correspondence.
If you need help with your case, there are campaign groups such as Parking Prankster, AppealNow and National Motorists Action Group that can help. They can help you draw up a case and tell you whether you have a good chance of success.