Parking fines are being dropped at a sharp rate by private parking firms. We reveal what you need to know so you can challenge an unfair parking charge.
40% of private parking charges dropped
A significant number of drivers who contest a private parking fine are seeing those charges dropped entirely.
That’s according to the latest ‘Parking on Private Land Appeals’ (POPLA) report from Ombudsman Services, which oversees complaints about potentially unfair parking fines issues on private land.
Between 1 October 2018 and 30 September 2019, the Ombudsman processed 79,962 appeals against private parking fines. Of those appeals, the charges were cancelled in around 40% of cases.
In around 13,100 cases, that was because the Ombudsman looked at evidence presented by both the motorist and the parking firm, and determined the charge had been issued unfairly.
But in nearly 19,000 cases, the charges were dropped because the parking firm didn’t even attempt to defend issuing the fine in the first place.
Why are parking firms not contesting appeals?
The Ombudsman had previously raised concerns that operators were not contesting complaints because they weren’t considering appeals properly in the first place, essentially dismissing them out of hand.
But the Ombudsman pointed out that there are some legitimate reasons why a parking operator may not contest an appeal.
For example, the evidence presented through the POPLA website may give them a different perspective, while some landowners give operators instructions not to contest appeals even if the charge notice is technically valid.
Challenging an unfair parking fine
To state the obvious, parking tickets should only really be challenged if you think they're unfair.
In the following situations, it's a good idea to appeal.
You were parked correctly
Appeal the ticket if you think you were parked correctly (i.e at the right time and place) and if you've got photographic evidence, all the better.
The parking signs or road markings were unclear
Your ticket should be cancelled if you can prove that:
- You couldn't see any road markings or signs;
- The markings or signs were hard to read such as being covered by a tree;
- The signs were misleading or confusing or there weren't any signs saying that parking was suspended.
You may also be able to win if there weren't any signs saying CCTV or an automatic number plate recognition system was in use where you parked.
There was no way to pay
If the meter was broken and there was no other way to pay, you should be let off. Send evidence of the broken machine to the company who issued the ticket. But, if there was a sign there telling you not to park if there's no way to pay, your appeal will probably be rejected.
You were charged too much
Of course, it's right to appeal if you've been charged too much. Penalty Charge Notices work on a higher band and lower band system, so if you've been charged a higher band fine for parking for longer than your ticket allows, it should be cancelled.
Rules state that you shouldn't be paying any more than £100 unless the parking company can prove your dodgy parking made them lose this much money. If the extra cost is unjustified, appeal.
You weren't driving when the ticket was issued
You weren't guilty so you shouldn't pay. Use crime reference numbers, car sale receipts, DVLA registration certificates and whatever other evidence you deem useful, depending on who was driving the car.
You couldn't get back to your car
People who find it difficult to walk because they're disabled, are pregnant or have a very young baby can appeal as getting back to their car in time might have been more difficult.
Your car broke down
This one's pretty obvious. Your ticket will be cancelled if you can prove you were waiting for your car to be fixed or towed away when you got it.
You were only just out of time
And this one is the most frustrating. There's a five to 10 minute 'grace period' after your parking runs out.
It can be tricky though – some companies will time it from when you parked, while others will time your stay from the moment you enter the car park.
All this said, most parking rules state that you must clearly display a valid ticket inside your vehicle.
If you fail to do this or lose your ticket, then the weight of evidence is against you. Nevertheless, appealing the decision by producing a valid ticket will often win you a pardon.
Take on the challenge
It's free to make a formal appeal by contacting whoever gave you the parking ticket.
You can't be taken to court if you're appealing informally so it won't affect your credit rating. It's only if your appeal is unsuccessful and you don't pay a ticket or appeal to a tribunal that you'll be taken to court, which may impact your credit score.
Those who want to go down the traditional route can find out how to challenge a parking fine through their local council website.
There are six different types of Penalty Charge Notice, so make sure you know which one you've got before you go ahead.
An informal challenge
This will be a local council PCN, which is received on the spot.
If you appeal within 14 days of receiving the fine and your challenge is rejected, you may only have to pay 50% of the fine.
It's usually a case of completing an online form or writing to the address on the reverse of the PCN and being as clear as possible in explaining why you've decided to appeal.
The formal alternative
As you can imagine, a formal challenge is a little more complex.
Basically, you have 28 days to formally challenge (known as a 'representation') a Penalty Charge Notice. The process will start with a 'notice to owner' which will explain how to make a formal challenge.
Make sure you go into as much detail as you can about why you're challenging the PCN and provide copies of any evidence or documents to support your challenge.
You won't have to pay a thing if your challenge is accepted but if you receive a 'notice of rejection', you'll have 28 days to cough up the cash.
Then again, standing firm by appealing a penalty often proves successful. Thus, if you've made an honest mistake or been treated unfairly, then your fine stands a good chance of being cancelled on appeal.
How to spot a dodgy parking firm
Don't recognise the company name? Check to see if they're an Accredited Trade Association (ATA) member as if they're not, they can't take you to court.
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