Parking is the motoring issue that seems to get drivers most worked up, says motor lawyer Jeanette Miller. Here's how to challenge a private parking fine.
I defend drivers for all sorts of motoring offences and parking is the issue that tends to get people most het up.
Perhaps it's the feeling of injustice or being cheated when you have parked somewhere without knowing there were restrictions in place.
Thankfully, the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 has made it a criminal offence for private landowners such as supermarkets to clamp or tow a vehicle without lawful authority.
But while this law may have put paid to cowboy clampers, what about cowboy ticketers?
If you feel you've been unfairly ticketed while parking on private land such as a supermarket or fast food outlet car park, it pays to know the law.
Three main types of parking ticket
Firstly, understand what type of parking ticket you have. There are three main types:
- The police issue fixed penalty notices (FPNs)
- Councils hand out penalty charge notices (PCNs)
- If you have parked on private property, e.g. a supermarket car park, and received a ticket it will be a private parking company (PPC) ticket.
Private parking tickets are for breach of contract or trespass
With a private parking company ticket, you are being issued with a charge, imposed under civil law, for breaching a contract or trespass to property.
- Contract – Where signage is clearly visible which sets out the charges for parking on private land it is implied that parking on that land forms a contract between the driver of the vehicle and the landowner. Therefore, you can be charged for breaching the terms of the contract.
- Trespass to property – If a party enters private land without permission the land owner is entitled to compensation.
So read signage carefully when you enter a private car park because it outlines the terms of the contract that you could well end up breaching if you are not careful.
The terms may include, for example, free parking being limited to two hours, and being charged for overstaying your welcome.
Challenging a private parking ticket
The most important factor to consider when appealing a private parking ticket is whether the company that is seeking to fine you is a member of the British Parking Association (BPA).
The BPA has a code of practice for control and enforcement of parking on private land and in unregulated car parks.
Motorists can contest private parking tickets with the independent body POPLA (Parking on Private Land Appeals), bearing in mind the following:
- Motorists must first appeal to the PPC within 30 days or be barred from appealing to POPLA;
- The appeals service only applies to BPA members;
- POPLA only upholds appeals based on breaches of the BPA's Code of Practice or breach of contract law when making its verdict. No mitigating circumstances are allowed;
- The normal maximum sum a BPA member will demand for a breach of parking conditions is £100 which must be discounted by up to 40 per cent for prompt payment.
Challenging private parking fines from non-BPA members
If you disagree with the charge, but the private parking ticket is from a non-BPA member you can refuse to pay and wait and see if court papers follow for breach of contract or trespass.
To enforce a ticket the private parking firm would have to take you to court.
And remember you haven't committed a criminal offence: rather, it's a contract dispute between you and the private parking firm.
If it were to take you to court it would be a civil matter, and it is by no means certain that the company would win.
I would recommend gathering as much evidence as you can to dispute the ticket.
What are my rights?
The Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 protects the motorist against disproportionately high private parking ticket charges.
You should definitely challenge a ticket for say £200 if the car park had other empty spaces available at the time and you did not outstay your ticket for weeks!
The charge is supposed to make up the company's loss suffered by your breach of contract.
Typically, fines of in excess of £100 are unlikely to be upheld.
Watch out for impersonators
Watch out if a private parking ticket contains the words penalty charge notice, notice to owner, fixed penalty notice, or is otherwise made to look like a council or police-issued one.
If this is the case then the private parking company has committed an offence under Section 40(1) (d) of The Administration of Justice Act 1970.
This in itself would be good grounds to challenge the validity of the ticket.
What do you think?
Have you successfully challenged a private parking fine?
We want to hear from you! You can share your views on our message board below.
Jeanette Miller is managing director at Geoffrey Miller Solicitors, a UK firm specialising in defending drivers who face prosecution for motoring offences.
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