Analysis of over 900 calls received by the charity over a three-month period revealed that the average private parking penalty was £83, but some people were hit by fines as much of £300.
And it’s a growing problem. The DVLA says that private parking operators requested information on three million more drivers in 2018-19 than they did in 2015-16, an 85% increase.
Pay and display car parks head private parking problem hotspots, followed by supermarkets, hospitals and airports.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Drivers are paying the penalty for a lack of clarity on parking.
“While drivers have to obey the rules on parking, firms need to make sure parking restrictions are clear, and people are treated fairly where, for example, ticket machines aren’t working.”
Parking on private land
There's a difference between car parking on private and public land.
Generally speaking, supermarkets, hospitals, retail parks, rail stations, airports and some fast food diners are good examples of places where parking is provided on private land.
Parking bays and car parks in town or city centres are likely to be council owned and therefore on public land. However, to be sure, read the signs before parking.
Despite what you may think, parking outside of your own home is actually considered public land, even if you own a Residents Parking Permit. However, there are a number of ways to deal with anti-social parking, such as if a car blocks your driveway, for example.
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Enforcement of parking fines
Parking on public land is managed by traffic wardens employed by local councils. Where it isn’t, the police are responsible for enforcement.
On private land, a parking charge notice will either be put on the offending vehicle or it will have been clocked by Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) camera and a "ticket" will be sent by post to the vehicle's registered keeper IF the car park's operators are members of the British Parking Association (BPA) or the Independent Parking Committee (IPC).
If the car park operator is not accredited, then they will be unable to get hold of your details via the DVLA and will find it hard to pursue you. It has been known for some motorists to make the process easier because they write to the operator to complain about having a ticket put on their car, and in doing so, provide them with their name and address.
You will have your own moral compass on this, but if you don’t complain then they won’t know who to issue the PCN to…
Don't get caught out by the new speeding fines
The most common type of parking ticket is a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) issued by local authorities if you park incorrectly or for too long on public land.
Private companies can issue parking tickets and may call them Parking Charge Notices, but they are not the same as the Penalty Charge Notice. These are not the same as the Penalty Charge Notice, despite the similarity in their names.
A Parking Charge Notice – the one issued by private companies - is not backed up by law. Instead, it is an invoice that has been issued for what it alleges is a breach of contract.
If the car park operator wants to force you to pay, they will need to take you to the civil court, which is costly and time-consuming.
If the car park operator takes you to court and wins, you then have pay the costs in addition to the original charge. If you lose and still refuse to pay, you could find the judgment going on to your credit file and damaging your chances of borrowing or taking out contracts, such as for mobile phones.
As such, it’s important you know your rights if you’re thinking about appealing a parking fine.
Wheel-clampers were outlawed from clamping vehicles on private land under the Protection of Freedoms Act in 2012. In Scotland, the practice was banned in 1992. However, in Northern Ireland the right to clamp still exists.
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Is a parking fine worth appealing?
Which? says that between 25% and 41% of appeals to the two independent adjudicators are successful – and this data varies dramatically between individual companies; one parking firm had 93% of its tickets overturned on appeal in 2017-18.
So yes, if you genuinely think you are right and the parking company is wrong then you should appeal.
Top tips if you've been given a parking fine
• Landowners have a right to charge for and enforce parking, so pay up if you've broken the rules UNLESS you believe your ticket is exorbitant, disproportionate or there was inadequate signposting.
• Do not pay upfront at the time of the event and don't be intimidated to do so.
• As mentioned earlier, if the private parking operator is non-accredited and you simply get a ticket without a follow-up notice in the post, then you may be able to get away with it because they have no means of tracing you via the DVLA.
• If the car park operator is a member of one of the two trade bodies — the BPA or IPC — both have a code of practice for ticket issuing, a maximum charge limit and a published appeals process. If this is the case then your first step is to appeal to the company direct.
• Keep photographs and any other evidence to hand to help prove your case, but only send photocopies rather than originals. The Citizens’ Advice Service has template letters that you can use. Just navigate to the CAS that covers your country and do a quick search to find them.
• If the car-park operator rejects your appeal, and it’s a member of the British Parking Association (BPA), you then have 28 days to apply to an independent adjudicator.
This will be either Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA) for firms regulated by the BPA, or the Independent Appeals Service (IAS) for companies regulated by the IPC.
As a point of interest, the four top reasons for getting a Parking Charge Notice overturned are:
The charge took more than 14 days to arrive by post;
The wrong registration number was entered on the ticket;
A valid ticket was in place but wasn’t easily visible;
The driver overstayed by only a few minutes.
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Parking fines remain a hot topic
And finally, it seems that private parking penalties are as controversial as ever.
The issue hit the headlines November 2015 when parking fines issued by private companies were ruled as fair and proportionate by the Supreme Court.
The fairness of high fines for motorists who fall foul of parking restrictions was challenged by an Essex man who was charged £85 for overstaying a two-hour free parking slot by 52 minutes.
Which? Executive Director Richard Lloyd commented: "This is a thoroughly disappointing judgment based on a narrow interpretation of the law.
“It will cause chaos if cowboy parking firms choose to take advantage of the ruling by hitting drivers with even more excessive charges. Our advice to consumers is to be on your guard and always appeal if you think a parking fine is unfair."
And in March 2017, a woman was given a parking fine of almost £25,000 by a judge after she ignored over 200 parking charge notices, simply because she believed she was in the right - so always use your common sense, and don't continue to park somewhere if you do get a ticket, no matter how convinced you are that you should be allowed to park there!
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