By Guest blogger: Scott Dixon (AKA ‘The Grumpy Git’)
Parking tickets are a nuisance. Some are legitimate and many are not.
UK Government statistics show that more than 22,000 parking tickets are issued by private parking operators each day, which could cost up to £8.4m. These figures come from the DVLA who release keeper details to accredited private parking operators for alleged breaches of contract for parking at supermarket car parks, motorway service stations and leisure amenities.
Motorists face penalties of up to £100 for minor infringements. It is clearly a lucrative unregulated industry with motorists seen as easy pickings.
Covid has accelerated a move to doing everything online via apps, which brings new opportunities for motorists to be caught out.
What is the difference between a Council and a private parking ticket?
A Council parking ticket is a Penalty Charge Notice issued for breaching parking rules on public highways and roads. These are legally enforceable and is a civil offence.
A private parking ticket is a Parking Charge Notice and is merely an invoice disguised as an official parking ticket. It is issued for an alleged breach of contract for parking on private land.
They are deliberately designed to look like an official Council issued parking tickets to confuse motorists.
Can a private parking operator fine you?
No – it is simply an invoice. You do not need to automatically pay it. You can challenge it. Do not be intimidated by the time conditions.
A private parking operator must belong to an accredited Trade Association to access keeper details from the DVLA. They must adhere to the Trade Association’s Code of Practice to do so.
What if the private parking operator is not a member of the BPA or IPC?
The private parking operator cannot access the DVLA database if they are not a member. They rely on you contacting them to find out who the keeper is. Do not contact them as they do not know who the vehicle belongs to. You can check online.
Covid has accelerated a move towards doing everything online and via apps. Councils and private parking operators are forcing motorists to use parking apps, often with no other option to pay.
Parking apps are not foolproof and accessing an app with a reliable mobile phone signal is not guaranteed, especially in underground car parks.
Some towns and cities can have up to seven different parking apps in operation. Expecting motorists to have all of these different apps on their phones (and spending time installing them) takes time, meaning you can be issued with a parking ticket via an ANPR camera which doesn’t take that into account.
You cannot speak to anyone as no contact details are not displayed, with parking tickets being issued automatically as ANPR cameras do not take into account any mitigating circumstances.
Consumer Rights Act 2015
Digital content contracts include parking apps. Your statutory rights are enshrined under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
S34 – Digital content to be of satisfactory quality
S35 – Digital content to be fit for a particular purpose
S36 – Digital content to be as described
Councils and private parking operators need to have apps tested to ensure they can provide a fit and proper service under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
A faulty app does not meet the Consumer Rights Act 2015, so an appeal can be lodged on that basis.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 has a fairness test. You need to be given sufficient guidance to make an informed decision and read the Terms and Conditions of the contract you are entering into. You usually have up to 10 minutes grace period.
Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and society. It places an obligation on businesses to make provisions relating to transport for disabled persons and make reasonable adjustments.
There are nine protected characteristics, although the main ones here are age and disability (including dyslexia).
Parking meters need to be easily accessible for those with disabilities. By making pay to park app only, this is discriminatory to those with a protected characteristic.
Always lodge an appeal if you believe you have sufficient grounds to do so. Evidence is crucial on appeals – screenshots, photos, proof of payment, witness statements – gather everything you need if you proceed with an appeal.
Top tips if you receive a private parking ticket
1.Go straight to the landowner
The key weapon in your arsenal is to avoid the ticket company and go straight to the landowner. For example, if you get a ticket at Morrisons, you should complain to Morrisons direct.
If you know who the landowner is, contact them and they will often cancel the ticket for you. Play on the loyalty factor with receipts to prove your custom and be polite.
2. Ignore the time conditions
Ignore the time conditions on the ticket and discounts for prompt payment. Do not rush into doing anything. Any discounts are frozen on appeals.
3. Never admit to being the driver or owner
If you enter into correspondence with the parking ticket company, always refer to the ‘keeper’ of the car and never the actual owner. Never say ‘I’ or ‘we’. This empowers you on negotiations.
4. There is no keeper liability in Northern Ireland and Scotland
This means that the keeper cannot be held liable (yet) and only the driver is liable. This is set to change within the next couple of years.
You do not have to respond to any Parking Charge Notices that are issued. The private parking operator relies on you contacting them to establish liability.
Do not respond unless you receive Court papers. The Simple Procedure (Small Claims) in Scotland is designed to discourage trivial amounts under £300.
Reasons to appeal a parking ticket
Local authorities and private parking operators rarely adhere to due process. Evidence is key on all appeals. You need to keep all receipts, photos, screenshots of a payment confirmation and any evidence you have to support an appeal.
Always appeal a parking ticket if you think you have grounds to do so. Don’t be intimidated by legalese jargon and threats of Court action.
The first thing I always go for is the signs as it’s the most popular way to appeal an unfair parking ticket.
Check the signs and road markings
Are they clearly displayed, worded and visible? If not, it can be argued that you were not given sufficient guidance to make an informed decision to enter into the contract.
Is the street name spelt correctly?
Not typos – does the street actually exist? For example, Park Avenue Street / Park Street Avenue. If the street doesn’t exist, it cannot be said that you committed any offence.
The same applies to your vehicle registration details. If that is incorrect on the ticket, it cannot be said that you as the owner of a different vehicle has committed an offence.
Car breakdown and medical reasons. Not all disabilities are visible – Long Covid, cancer, Multiple Sclerosis for example – they can be used as mitigating circumstances, and are recognised medical conditions that can be used as part of an appeals if you’re just out of time (but not too far out of time).
Meter was broken
It cannot be said that you didn’t pay if you were unable to do so. Not everyone has the facility to pay by phone or credit / debit card via apps, and a functioning meter needs to be provided for you to pay for parking.
Ticket was issued minutes after the expiry time
You have up to 10 minutes grace period for tickets issued by local authorities. The reason for that is to give you time to pay and also to read the Terms and Conditions.
Private parking operators usually have a grace period of 5 minutes.
Even if you’re just out of time, it’s worth appealing based on any mitigating circumstances that would hold up on any appeals.
Mistakes happen. Proof of payment is all that is required to evidence that there is no breach of contract.
The BPA Code of Practice 17.4 states;
“These are minor errors where up to one character has been entered incorrectly, or where the registration has been entered in the wrong order. If a typing error such as this leads to a PCN being issued and the motorist appeals, the PCN must be cancelled at the first stage of appeal.”
ANPR cameras do not take into account disabilities.
1 in 10 has dyslexia in England and Wales according to the NHS, which means that up to 6m motorists are affected. Dyslexia is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. You don’t have to prove you have dyslexia on parking ticket appeals.
Ticket was issued more than 14 days after the parking event
Check the date of the parking event and date of issue of the private parking ticket. If the Parking Charge Notice was issued more than 14 days after the date of the parking incident, it is invalid under Schedule 4 – Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.
You do not have to name a driver. Never disclose who the driver is.
The private parking operator does not know who was driving the car and cannot assume it was the keeper (nor can they rely on photos from ANPR cameras).
My parents were recently caught out by this and I got it cancelled on that basis.
Reference: PCN xxx
Dear Sir / Madam,
Many thanks for your recent correspondence.
Since your Notice to Keeper did not arrive until 25 days after the parking incident, it does not therefore comply with the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (POFA 2012) and as such there is no keeper’s liability.
I am sure you are aware with ANPR camera systems the Notice to Keeper (NTK) has to be received within 14 days.
You may not assume that I, the keeper, was the driver on this day.
There is no need to place this PCN on hold as I am not obliged to name the driver and will not do so.
You can issue a code for accessing a suitable appeal process if you choose to persist in this manner. This will be utilised in full.
Please forward an appeal code or cancel the invoice if you wish.