If you are a business owner or manager who spends your working life on the road, then it is possible you have received at least one yellow plastic packet stuck to your windscreen! It’s frustrating, receiving a Car Park Charge, especially when you believe you have parked legally.
In this article, we want to share our knowledge on how to appeal or avoid paying your parking charge and what to look out for before you decide to park up!
Identify Your Parking Charge
There are TWO types of parking charges Parking Charge Notice and Penalty Charge Notice. Both these often come in yellow plastic packets which have been stuck to your windscreen. Both may have the abbreviated wording PCN on making it more difficult for you to know which is which. The important thing to remember, is that a Penalty Charge Notice is a legitimate fine issued by the Local Authority.
Penalty Charge Notice
These parking fines are issued by councils who have the power through legislation passed by Parliament to cover a breach in the terms and conditions of parking in council-controlled car parks and parking spaces.
The quicker you pay this PCN then the lower the fee. However, if you really feel that you had not breached the parking terms and conditions set out within this Council run car-park then you can appeal.
For example, according to Which? Consumer Rights, out of the few people that do contest their Penalty charge two thirds win. The usual cause of appeals are ticket machines not working; vehicle broken down or simply the signs displayed were incorrect at that time of parking.
Read more about how to appeal here https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/how-to-appeal-a-council-parking-ticket.
Remember, if you fail to pay or appeal within a 28 day period, the issuing authority can take legal action to recover the money, which can involve a court order and a visit from one of our AbsoluteEnforcement Agents.
Parking Charge Notice
As you can clearly see a Parking Charge Notice will often look exactly like the official fines, even using the abbreviated PCN aimed specifically at confusing the general public. However, these are not fines as such. So what, exactly, is a ‘Parking Charge Notice’? These notices are the result of committing a parking offence while parking on private property. Private Car Parks that issue Parking Charge Notices can be found at airports, railway stations, supermarkets, fast food restaurants, out of town retail outlets – but can also be found in other places such as private car parks close to coastlines.
What is the law regarding Parking Fines?
Our UK Contract Law states that when you park on private property you are signing up to a contract between you – the person to whom the vehicle is registered in the DVLA database – and the operator of the car park. For a contract to be entered into, three main elements must be present: An Offer; An Acceptance of an Offer and ‘Consideration’ (benefit or value to all parties involved).
Significantly, this means that, upon entry of a private ‘Pay and Display’ Car Park, you are agreeing to the Operator of the car park’s ‘offer’ of parking at an agreed fee. The ‘Consideration’ you receive is the benefit of parking your car, while the operator’s consideration is the fee you are paying for the privilege.
Failing to pay a fee in a ‘Pay and Display’ Car Park is a breach of contract and the car park can take you to the small claims court to recover their losses. If you look closely at the terms and conditions either on the parking ticket or displayed within the car park, there will be ‘penalty charges’ often quite hefty £60 to £100 quoted to deter motorists from breaching the contract. Under contract law, the court cannot and do not enforce ‘penalty’ clauses. Therefore, a court WILL NOT order you to pay this ‘penalty’ clause as part of your contract with the private car park operator. You will be expected to pay the court fees and the parking fee unless you have appealed and won.
However, this argument now only applies to ‘pay and display’ car parks, as case law shows that it does not apply to car parks offering ‘free parking’ for a set number of hours, which are often found at supermarkets and retail parks.
In 2015 the Supreme Court ruled against a motorist challenge against unfair fines imposed by a car park in the case Parkingeye vs Beavis which has set a precedent in consumer contracts law.
Confused? Here are the facts!
Parkingeye vs Beavis case hinged on whether the ‘fine’ charged by parking management company Parkingeye was classed as a penalty (which would make it unlawful as penalties need to bear a relation to an actual loss incurred). In this case, although the company did not incur a loss, they ruled that the fine was not a penalty as it was based on Beavis going over a ‘free parking’ contract, which allowed the car park operator to control access to the car park in the interest of their customers.
A judge potentially has the ability to distinguish between two scenarios:
‘Pay and Display’ Car Park where the parking fee is the ‘benefit’ offered to car parking operator, which means the ‘excess’ charge can only be a penalty – which cannot be upheld.
In Free Car Parking Car Parks, like the one in the Beavis case, the only ‘consideration’ is the charge for over-staying, so it cannot be a penalty charge as it is the agreement to pay for the privilege of parking is only ‘consideration’ offered by the motorist.
How to avoid a Parking Notice
Read the Signs
When was the last time you really looked at the car park signage? You’re in a hurry, find a space, park and glance at a 2-hour free parking sign and go about your business especially if you are in a supermarket car park.
Here this approved operator states in large text 2 Hours Free Parking but directs you to further signage within the Car Park for full terms and conditions.
When you park your vehicle, be sure to always look for signage of terms and conditions.
APPEAL IF: signs are hard to find or obscured this may stand you in good stead should you receive a Parking Charge Notice.
It’s tempting. There are no free spaces you are late for your meeting but you could squeeze your car on the end in an unmarked space. You have now become easy money for the car park who are going to issue you with a ticket. You are in a hurry, so you park over two spaces by mistake and rush off instead of straightening up. Again, easy money and a ticket will surely follow!
Always, make sure your vehicle is parked within the bays – operators are known to ticket motorists who have parked over the lines.
APPEAL IF: you have parked within a bay where the lines have faded. Make sure you take photos as evidence ready for your appeal.
Never: park in disabled bays unless you have a blue badge. Also, watch out for new signage for parent and children spaces.
Watch the Clock
Take note of the time you are allowed to park, when you parked, and whether you are required to pay to use the car park before you move away from your vehicle.
Most people have a phone which allows you to set a reminder – use it.
APPEAL IF: you can prove you have returned to your vehicle within the allocated time. Take photographs as evidence. Check if the operator is part of an accredited trade association (British Parking Association BPA). BPA Members will display a logo on the signage or ticket. They are also supposed to abide by the BPA Code of Practice which states drivers should be given a 10 minute grace period.
How to appeal Parking Charge Notice
The first thing to do if you have received a Parking Charge Notice when parking in a private car park is there and then look to gather evidence.
- Take photographs of signs, how your vehicle is parked and proof of time of return.
- Where a pay and display ticket has been issued, keep it for evidence. Never send this off without keeping a copy.
- If you have a witness ensure you take a statement.
- Check on-site whether the operator is a member of the BPA or IPC.
- Check the signage to identify if the operator has operated in accordance with their code of practice.
Do Not Pay
Secondly, if you feel you have been unfairly charged, DO NOT pay if you are thinking of appealing! Paying immediately online or sending a cheque in the post is an admission of guilt and stops you from being able to appeal.
You must lodge your appeal directly with the operator immediately. This is much easier if the operator is a member of the BPA or IPC as they have specific guidelines they have to follow. Many private operators allow you to appeal online and many will give you a reduced charge if you pay within 14 days. Appealing in the first instance retains your right to pay at this rate even if the operator rules you are still in contravention.
If the parking operator is not a member of the BPA, unfortunately they may have their own rules and we would recommend, at this point, you take advice from Citizen’s Advice, your legal representation in the form of a solicitor or you may be entitled to legal advice through your Breakdown Cover or even your Bank Account.
You have 28 days in which to dispute after the firm that issued the ticket has rejected your appeal. You can, of course, appeal further, and take your case to POPLA (https://popla.co.uk/) the Independent Tribunal for Parking Fines. Around 40% of appeals are upheld in the favour of the public.
Remember: if you lose your appeal and do not pay, then their next step is to recover the money. To do this they must take legal action against you.
This free service for motorists, and operators if your Parking Charge Notice has been issued by a member of the BPA. It’s worth noting, if you use this route to appeal, it may result in the parking operator withdrawing the ability to pay the parking charge at the reduced rate.
Good to Know
Clamping – If your car is being or has been clamped, whoever is doing this is breaking the law in England, Wales and Scotland. Clamping on private land became illegal in 2012 in England and Wales but there may be local by-law exceptions to this and notices to this effect should be displayed. You would be within your rights to call the police to report clamping.
On the Spot Fine – Similarly, if someone demands a penalty from you on the spot, you should contact the police. However, if you overstay by half an hour and the attendant asks for the standard fee for the extra half hour (i.e. no penalty) this would be seen as reasonable.
Small Claims Court – Most fines will go to the Small Claims Court. However, the firm may threaten/use the County Court. If handled through the Smalls Claims Court, you will be required to pay the fine but not the company’s costs. Prior to the Beavis case, only around 2-5% of cases went to court per year. This is likely to have risen, with parking firms being emboldened by the decision in Beavis.
How did they get hold of my personal details? – Accredited parking companies (members of either the British Parking Association (BPA) or the Independent Parking Committee (IPC) are able to access your details from the DVLA.
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