Can you avoid paying them

THE number of parking tickets issued by car park management firms in the UK rose by a fifth in a year, hitting a record of more than 5.5 million last year. Recent data from the RAC Foundation suggests that car owners could pay as much as £100 for overstaying at private parking spaces.
The government is preparing to introduce legislation to regulate the private parking industry but the question is: what is the real problem? If you are a car owner who is facing hefty penalty charges and are attempting to dispute it with the parking management operator or the British Parking Association, what do you need to do?

DAS Law has revealed there are a number of important differences between parking tickets from the local council and those enforced by private companies.

Sarah Garner, a solicitor at DAS Law, explains the lowdown on parking tickets and tells you how to pursue a dispute and avoid paying penalty charges.

What is the difference between private and public parking tickets?

The clue is in the names – public parking tickets are issued for breaching parking rules on public land (such as on the road or in a public car park).
Private parking tickets are issued for breaching the rules on private land, such as in a supermarket car park.

Public parking tickets are enforced by the local authority or the police (or Transport for London, if you happen to be in the capital), and these sorts of tickets will come with fines (usually in the form of a Penalty Charge Notice, or PCN).

Private parking firms, however, which enforce private parking tickets, have no power to issue fines. Instead of fining drivers, they are technically issuing invoices for an alleged breach of contract. This means that the private firm can’t send bailiffs to recover the money from you – they will need to take you to court to enforce the notice. This also gives the driver a lot more leeway to appeal against the ticket if they think that the ticket is unfair or the charge is too high.

Private parking firms also have other restrictions – for example, unlike a council or local authority, they have no right to clamp or tow your vehicle (and they could be fined up to £5,000 if they do). However, private parking companies sometimes obscure this distinction, making drivers think that their tickets are actually local authority tickets.
For example, many private parking tickets are labelled parking charge notices, confusingly similar to the council-issued penalty charge notice. Private parking firms rely on this confusion and intimidation to bamboozle people into paying their ‘fines’ – however, if you are willing to stand up for yourself, you might be able to avoid forking out anything.

How can I tell what type of ticket I have?

he ticket should contain information on it to confirm by whom it was issued – if the issuer was a private company, it is a private ticket.
Does the parking firm belong to a trade body?
Once you have identified the parking firm, you should find out if they are a member of a trade body. There are two trade bodies for parking companies – the British Parking Association (BPA) and the Independent Parking Committee (IPC). Both organisations have lists of accredited operators BPA Approved Operators and IPC Approved Operators, and if the parking firm listed on the ticket isn’t on either of these lists, they don’t belong to a trade body.

Trade bodies have their own appeals process, so if the parking firm rejects your appeal against the ticket, you can escalate matters. BPA and IPC members also have the right to access DVLA details to obtain your name and address. Non-members don’t have this access, so unless you write to them to complain about the charge, it is unlikely that they will be able to find you and pursue you for payment.

How can I fight the private parking ticket?

If you think the charge has been wrongly issued or is too high, don’t pay the company straight away or admit any sort of responsibility for the alleged offence. There are different options for what you can do, depending on your circumstances, your particular grievance with the ticket, and the strength of your will to resist demands for payment.

Can I appeal to the firm and their trade body?

If you want to appeal against a ticket, you should start by appealing to the parking firm. You should be able to find information on how to appeal on the ticket or on the firm’s website. If they reject your appeal, you can appeal to an independent organisation known as POPLA
(Parking on Private Land Appeals). POPLA is run by the Ombudsman Service.
Before you submit your appeal to POPLA, you should collect any evidence that would support your appeal (picture evidence of the car park, evidence of extenuating circumstances, etc). POPLA’s service allows you to submit and track your appeal online. When they have reviewed the evidence, they will make a decision, either upholding the ticket or throwing it out.

Can I get away with paying less than the full amount of the fine?

If you are willing to pay but think the charge on the ticket is too high, you can pay a smaller amount to see if this will satisfy the landowner. For example, if you have been charged £60 for overstaying, and you instead pay £25, the parking firm may let the rest of the amount lapse, not bothering to take you to court over the remaining £35. If you pay the ticket within 14 days, the parking company is required to offer you a discount of at least 40% on the charge.

Can I just ignore the ticket?

Some people have successfully managed to avoid paying a parking ticket by just ignoring it – if you do this, the only way the parking firm can take action is by taking you to court.

In some cases, parking firms don’t bother, as the cost of taking you to court is not worth the possible reward of getting you to pay.

If the parking firm is not an Approved Operator, they might not even be able to take you to court – unaccredited firms have no access to DVLA records, so they might not be able to find your address and track you down.

However, you should use caution when ignoring a ticket – if the firm decides to call your bluff and take you to court, you could end up paying a lot more.

Parking tickets: How to challenge them if you think they're unfair

Councils across the country have begun to re-introduce parking charges at sites which were free at the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown. It comes as new research revealed that two in five drivers (40 per cent) have appealed a parking charge notice at some point - with about 74 per cent successful, either paying a reduced price or nothing at all. Alongside their study, the company have also released details on the steps that motorists should follow if they find themselves with an unfair parking ticket on their car or through the post.

Before you launch your appeal, motorists are urged to think about the following: Is your fine unfair? Or did you make a mistake? Is it worth appealing? Have you gathered all of the evidence you can to back up your appeal? Here's what you need to do You need to send your appeal, either as a letter to the address on the ticket, or via the parking enforcer’s website.

Send this off within 14 days so that if you lose, you can still pay a reduced fine. 

Here’s what you need to include in your challenge letter:

Your address
The date of the offence
Your vehicle registration number
The PCN number
The reason for appeal and why you believe it’s been issued unfairly
All evidence that can support your appeal
What is the reason you're appealing the charge?

This is where you explain why you’re challenging your fine.
Some example reasons that have been submitted in appeal letters include: Incorrect or unclear signs Incorrect or unclear road markings The contravention did not occur You’ve already paid the fine The council have made a mistake on either the ticket/letter or haven’t supplied evidence You didn’t own the vehicle at the time/ever You weren’t driving the car at the time You gave way for an emergency vehicle Your vehicle is an exception to the contravention You’ve been overcharged Mitigating circumstances - these may include: getting a ticket while broken down being involved in a crash being in an emergency situation being delayed due to being pregnant or preoccupied with a baby removing an obstruction from the road dropping off someone sick to the hospital you were too unwell to move your car you’ve had a recent bereavement you needed to park to attend a funeral or couldn’t move your car because you were at a funeral you were on holiday when the bay you were in became suspended and the warning sign was put up while you were away you bought a ticket/permit but it fell off the window/wasn't visible to the warden
You're facing financial difficulty and cannot afford to pay This applies if you admit that you made a mistake but just can’t afford to pay the fine.
Note that councils most probably won’t automatically waive your penalty, but might consider a reduction.
What happens after the appeal?
If your appeal is granted, your charge will be cancelled and you shouldn't be required to pay.
But if your appeal was unsuccessful, you will be required to complete a formal appeal within 28 days.
If your appeal to the council is unsuccesful you will need to make a 'formal appeal' to the council - if this is rejected, you can appeal online to the Traffic Penalty Tribunual.
If you are appealing a fine that has been issued by a private firm - for example, you've been given a Parking Charge Notice - Citizens Advice says the following:
"The way to appeal will depend on if the parking company that gave you the ticket is a member of the BPA or IPC approved operators scheme.
"Make a formal appeal to Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA) if they're a BPA parking company.
"If they're an IPC member, make a formal appeal to the Independent Appeals Service.
"For a ticket from a BPA member, you have 28 days from when your informal appeal was rejected to make a formal appeal.
"For a ticket from an IPC member, you can make a formal appeal for free within 21 days. After 21 days, you can still appeal within 1 year of your formal appeal being rejected if you pay a £15 fee.
"Make sure you include any evidence that will support your case."

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