Figures released earlier in 2018 indicate that car park penalty tickets issued in the UK have reached a record high. Analysis of government driver data found that the number of tickets issued by car park management firms reached 5.56 million. Controversy has arisen over the way that parking tickets are issued and, in particular, how the private parking industry handles – and profits from – consumers. If you find yourself with a parking fine then you don’t have to simply accept it and pay up.
We’re paying more for parking infringements
According to the RAC Foundation the number of car park penalty tickets has risen by a fifth in almost 12 months. Such a significant increase indicates that either we are becoming a lot more careless when it comes to how and where we park – or the industry is finding more ways to make money from us. Parking fines can be a profitable business, both for private companies and councils. In 2016/17 around £819 million was generated from the on and off street activities of the UK’s local authorities. Most of the councils making large surpluses from their parking activities were located in London. However, local authorities in Brighton & Hove and Milton Keynes also had surpluses that topped more than a million.
There are three main types of parking tickets: Penalty Charge Notices and Fixed Penalty Notices issued by a local authority and Parking Charge Notices issued by private parking firm. All tend to be yellow and look very similar but private parking tickets are far less enforceable – and all can be challenged.
A Penalty Charge Notice
• Issued by the local authority for parking where you shouldn’t, as well as other issues such as traffic infringements. • Payment is required within 28 days. After that a ‘charge certificate’ is issued with payment terms of 14 days for the original fine plus 50%. If the amount is still not paid within 14 days then a court order will be generated demanding payment.
A Fixed Penalty Notice
• Issued by the local authority, police or Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) • Payment is also required within 28 days or the amount owed is increased by 50% • Where a Fixed Penalty Notice is not paid prosecution is usually the next step – this may mean a bigger fine in the long run, as well as having to cover court costs.
Parking Charge Notices
• Issued by private parking companies who manage car parks for supermarkets, railway stations etc e.g. Britannia Parking Group, Euro Car Parks, NCP and ParkingEye. • As the issuing firm is private, they set their own requirements and conditions with respect to payment dates and fine amounts. • Typical actions that will attract this type of parking charge notice include not paying for a parking ticket or parking in the wrong place.
Challenging a parking ticket
You can challenge a parking ticket, no matter what type it is. This year saw an 8% drop in challenges taken all the way to an independent adjudicator. However, for those who do make this effort, 56% win.
Penalty Charge Notice
If you receive a Penalty Charge Notice you’ll have 28 days in which to challenge it – do this within 14 days and, even if the challenge is rejected, you may only be required to pay 50% of the fine.
If your challenge is accepted then you no longer have to pay the fine.
Where an initial challenge is rejected, a further 28 days is allowed for a formal challenge. If you make a formal challenge you will need to be able to explain fully why you believe that the Penalty Charge Notice shouldn’t apply. It’s often useful to provide evidence to support your arguments, such as photographs of signs or markings that were missing or witness statements from people who can back you up.
If your arguments are still not accepted, you’ll have a further 28 days to pay or take your case to an independent tribunal.
Fixed Penalty Notice
Challenging a Fixed Penalty Notice is usually done via a magistrate’s court.
Parking Charge Notices
Private parking firms actually have no power to enforce parking tickets or issue fines. When you receive one of these tickets what’s actually happening is that the firm is issuing an invoice for breach of contract. For that contract to be valid, the terms (i.e. the terms on which you’re parking) must be 100% clear. If not then tickets should be simple to challenge. These businesses have no power to tow your vehicle (they could be fined £5,000 if they try to) or to use bailiffs. And, no matter what threats are made, private parking tickets can only be enforced against drivers via the courts.
Appeal to the parking firm and set out why you don’t believe the notice is valid – for example, you may not have been able to buy a ticket for a station car park because the ticket issuing machine was broken. Supply as much evidence as you can e.g. photos of the broken machine.
Alex Hartley is a keen advocate of improving personal finance skills. She's worked at Solution Loans since 2014 and written hundreds of articles about how people can manage their money better. Her interest in personal finance goes way back to...Read more about Alex Hartley