Since the first parking meter was installed in 1958, parking charges have caused outrage, distress and – on occasion – violent outbreaks to many. Last year, a parking ticket was issued every four seconds, totalling 8million tickets in 12 months. Even though the most common Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) can only be issued by local councils and Transport For London, other types of valid ticket can be issued by the police or private companies.
However, different groups have the authority to issue different kinds of tickets. The most common is a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) which is issued by local councils and Transport for London. Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) are issued by the police and Excess or Standard Charge Notices are issued by some local councils.
Council issued PCNs set out clearly the set process for paying or challenging them. In general, with these tickets, if you pay with 14 days then the penalty charge is reduced by 50% which can make early payment attractive. However, there is also a set challenge and appeal process.
Private car parks
Parking on private land is governed the law of contract. If landowners allow you to park on their land, you enter into a contract with the landowner. If you break the landowner’s parking rules, you in effect break your contract with the landowner. Typically this will be by not paying, staying longer than the time you have paid for or parking in the wrong place. If you park without any permission at all you are trespassing and other laws apply.
If you break the parking rules, private landowners can issue a parking ticket and recover the losses they’ve suffered as a result of the breach of contract. These losses are likely to be a small amount of money and would be enforced through the county court.
Pay, challenge or ignore?
If you genuinely believe that you have been issued with a ticket unfairly, don’t pay. Trying to reclaim fines already paid isn’t easy; it’s far easier to dispute it. You could also ignore it and wait to see if you get court papers in the post demanding payment – often they don’t follow through. What you do then will depend upon whether or not the parking company is a member of the British Parking Association (BPA).
- If you decide to pay your parking ticket, BPA members must give you a discount for paying early. Other parking companies may or may not.
- You can challenge the ticket or the amount of the charge by sending a letter to explain why you are refusing to pay. If you park on private land and get a parking ticket, you might think this isn’t fair because you didn’t break the rules or the rules weren’t clear. Tickets can also be unfair if the amount you are asked to pay is too much. It’s always sensible to take a photo of anything you think may help at the time and keep a record of what has happened, including the issuer’s name, registration number or other details.
- If you ignore the ticket, a BPA parking company can get details of the registered keeper of the car from the DVLA and pursue them for payment.
If you get a ticket from a parking company that is a member of the BPA, you should first write to the company with your reasons if you think the parking ticket is unfair. Keep a copy of that letter. If you are unsuccessful you can make a formal appeal to POPLA – Parking on Private Land Appeals.
If you ignore the ticket from a non-BPA parking company: You may choose not to write in the first place and ignore the ticket. If you don’t write, the parking company won’t have your contact details and will therefore find it difficult to take you to court. Non-BPA parking companies aren’t allowed to get details of the registered keeper of the car from the DVLA.
What can happen if you challenge or ignore a parking ticket: If you challenge or ignore a ticket, a BPA parking company may chase the registered owner of the car for payment. If they ignore the ticket, they may be taken to court. A non-BPA parking company can only consider taking you to court if they have your contact details. If you are taken to court there may be good reasons to challenge the parking ticket or the amount of the charge, but if you lose the case, you will have to pay the charge and court costs. It’s possible that the parking company will take action to recover the money, but in practice this may not happen as the amount of money being demanded is usually quite small.
Last year, the government introduced The Protection of Freedoms Act. This made it illegal for your car to be to clamped on private land in England & Wales without lawful authority. It has been illegal in Scotland since 1992 but continues to be legal in Northern Ireland. It also applies to vehicles being blocked in or towed away. It is estimated that this move saves motorists £55m a year in clamping charges. If your vehicle is clamped illegally then you should call the police.
However, there are some cases where clamping or towing is still legal in England, Wales, and Scotland such as for:
- Offences on public roads
- Certificated bailiffs collecting unpaid tax
- The police, local authorities and Government agencies (such as DVLA and VOSA) where vehicles are unroadworthy or have not paid their vehicle tax
- Where local byelaws are in place, including some railway station car parks, airport car parks, ports and harbours and river crossings, which can still be contracted out to private companies
And finally, if you are clamped, don’t try to remove the clamp yourself, as any damage you cause to the clamp could be considered criminal, never mind the damage to your own car!