More motorists need to keep their cool and appeal unfair parking charges. Money Mail analysis shows that few people challenge their parking tickets. Yet they have over a 50% chance of success if they do.
Keeping up the fight is more important than ever since the government temporarily withdrew vital new rules to protect the country’s 36 million drivers from cowboy parking practices.
It’s a devastating blow to the tens of thousands of drivers slapped each year with lewd charges for innocent mistakes.
Disputed: for fines specifically related to parking, the success rate of appeals in the London courts is 51%
The government introduced the Private Parking Code of Practice in February, designed to come into full force at the end of 2023, giving operators time to comply.
But parking companies have taken legal action against a proposed cap on fees. This essentially presses the pause on the new code while the government conducts a new review.
Minister Neil O’Brien, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Leveling Up, summed up the need for tougher rules, citing “a labyrinthine system of misleading and confusing signage, opaque call services, aggressive debt collection and unreasonable fees designed to extort money from motorists.”
The new rules include clear signage and mandatory grace periods so no one is unfairly charged for being a few minutes late.
They would also pave the way for a single independent call service. Operators who do not comply with the rules could then be banned from issuing parking charges altogether.
But while new consumer protections are on hold, parking risks are rumbling. And companies ruthlessly profit from simple human errors.
So anyone who feels they have been unfairly targeted should retaliate.
Consumer expert Martyn James says: ‘Don’t delay – file your complaint right away.’ He is free to plead your case and the fees will not increase during the investigation.
My bill went from £25 to £394
Shock: Ann Marie White has been hit by a £394 claim from Warrington Borough Council
NHS nurse Ann Marie White has been fined £25 after failing to display a ticket in a station car park in 2020.
The 64-year-old (pictured) made payment by credit card within a fortnight, before it doubled to £50
But last month Warrington Borough Council sent a law enforcement officer to his home who told him the charge had risen to £394.
Ann, who lives in Warrington, said: “I explained that I had paid the fine and could show him a screenshot of my payment, but he was adamant that I had to pay. “
When Money Mail contacted the council, it said it had issued a second parking ticket in 2020, which she had not paid.
But Ann says she never received any correspondence about another sanction.
A spokesman for the council said they would reimburse her for the additional costs added to the second fine, so she would only pay £25.
He adds: ‘We recognize that given that both fines were issued within a short period of time, it is likely to have caused confusion.
Money Mail has heard from dozens of readers affected by malicious practices.
Many are tired of nitpicking after being fined for slipping tickets off the dashboard. They are then sued for money even after proving they paid to park.
Parking companies have also come under fire in recent years for trying to force more people to use smartphone apps, which isn’t always easy for older people.
A blue badge holder, a driver in his 80s, was charged £100 for spending too much time inflating his tires at a service station.
He stayed beyond the 20 minutes allowed because he had taken a bad fall and needed time to recover.
Another reader paid her initial fine for parking at a train station – but was still sued by debt collectors. And a disgruntled motorist was told his ticket had been cancelled, only to be sued for payment.
Worried because the load had increased, he paid. At that time, the operator agreed that in fact his ticket had been cancelled.
But after 111 days, he was still waiting for the company to reimburse him.
Some drivers were caught off guard because they didn’t pay within ten minutes of arriving at the parking lot, even when there was a long queue and only one ticket machine was working.
Others were caught off guard by “fat finger” errors. After typing their vehicle registration number into the ticket machine, a letter or number was wrong. This opens the door to penalties no matter how honest the driver is.
Safeguard: The government has temporarily withdrawn vital new rules to protect the country’s 39 million drivers from cowboy parking practices
Deciding how to tackle an unfair parking charge depends on the type of ticket.
Expert Barrie Segal manages the consumer champion’s website, appealnow.com.
He says: “In law, there is a big difference between municipal parking tickets and private parking tickets.
Many local authorities, in their quest for revenue from parking tickets, act unfairly in their dealings with motorists. The behavior of many private parking companies is even worse.
Check what is written on the ticket itself. It’s only official if it has the word “penalty” in it.
This means that it was issued by a local authority and is an Official Penalty Notice, or PCN for short. If you think your PCN is incorrect, first check with the local authority that issued it.
You have 14 days to do so, or 21 days if it was sent by post.
Include any evidence, such as photos and witness statements, as well as details such as your car registration number, PCN number and contact details.
If you are unsuccessful at the end of the first stage, you usually still have the option of paying a fine at a reduced rate of 50%.
But if you’re determined to go further, you still have 28 days to make a free formal appeal. If this is also rejected, there is another step.
You can refer to an independent tribunal. In London, this is the London Tribunals service, in England and Wales, the Traffic Penalty Tribunal. In Scotland, motorists have 28 days to appeal to the General Regulatory Chamber.
For fines specifically related to parking, the success rate of appeals in the London courts is 51%.
There were 7,496 parking appeals won out of 14,702 decisions rendered. But nearly three million parking PCNs were issued in the fiscal year to 2021.
The success rate of drivers who appeal to the Road Sanctions Court is over 64%.
There were 4,249 successful calls out of 6,633 in the fiscal year to 2021. But a whopping 3.18 million parking PCNs were issued during that time.
Technology required: Parking companies have also come under fire in recent years for trying to force more people to use smartphone apps
If you have received a parking ticket on private property, the rules are different. In these cases, dishonest operators thrive and can exploit drivers’ ignorance of the different characteristics of parking tickets.
Martyn James says: ‘Private parking charges are tickets – or bills – not fines. They can, however, be prosecuted legally.
He adds: “Some of the tickets mirror the look, style and even the typeface of council tickets – quite deliberately – so people are confused about their rights.” Although a parking notice bears the same initials as a PCN, it is not the same thing.
In the absence of the word “penalty”, it is a private operator ticket, not a municipal fine. If you identify one, it is important to know if the company is part of an accredited trade association.
If not, do not write to the company unless they write to you. The company can’t get your address from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, so writing to them gives information they didn’t have and a way to annoy you.
If the operator is a member of a trade association, appeal to the company first about your ticket. You can check if a company is a member of the British Parking Association at britishparking.co.uk or email [email protected]
Its members issued four million tickets in 2020, but less than a quarter made the jump to appeal. For those who did, 51.7% passed.
A tiny 1% took their case to the Private Land Parking Appeal Service, also known as POPLA. Its most recent figures show that of 61,214 calls handled in a year, 37% made it to this final stage.
Another professional body is the International Parking Community, which refers complaints to the Independent Appeals Service.
The IAS processed 16,769 appeals between October 2020 and September 2021. The success rate for motorists was 24%.
To give yourself the best chance of winning with a call, Mr. James suggests “becoming a detective”.
It says: ‘Gather evidence of where you were if the fine is applied to you incorrectly. Mistakes can and do happen, so don’t get upset if you get a ticket.
“Grit your teeth and take detailed notes. Don’t fight with the parking attendants, just write down their contact details and use them in the complaint.
For step-by-step information on how to deal with unfair parking charges, go to Citizens Advice.org.uk/law-and-courts. You can also get help from the Resolver.co.uk online complaints service.
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