Most of the big private parking companies use ‘automatic number plate recognition’ (ANPR) systems. These systems use cameras to identify the number plates of cars entering and leaving car parks. They use this information to determine whether cars have overstayed, and where they have, issue parking tickets. Since the parking tickets are not issued at the time, they use the DVLA’s vehicle keeper database to find out who the keeper is, and then send them a Notice to Keeper. The Notice to Keeper requests payment from the keeper, or to name the driver (in the case where they are different). See our Keeper Liability page for further details.
For parking companies, ANPR offers a very efficient mechanism for issuing parking tickets. Whilst they are probably expensive to purchase, they are very efficient – operating 24 hours a day, identifying every single over stay in a car park. This is why their usage is on the rise in motorway services, fast food restaurants, supermarkets, and retail parks.
ANPR systems are not without their flaws though. Firstly, they are based on the assumption that between the times you were filmed, you are parked. Is that the case? How many times do you spend ten minutes finding a space before you park? If I was to get a parking ticket for a reasonably short overstay I would request the parking company to provide evidence that the car was parked for the period claimed, and not just in the car park. If they don’t have any evidence to refute your claim that you weren’t parked, then on the balance of probabilities you weren’t parked for all of that time.
Secondly, and more seriously, is the fact that parking tickets are issued by some ANPR systems on a ‘first-in last-out’ basis. So for example, if one was to visit a car park at 9am for 10 minutes, and then at 5pm for 10 minutes, these systems are issuing parking tickets claiming stays of 8 hours! In these cases, parking tickets are clearly being issued incorrectly, since one has not broken whatever ‘contract’ between you and the operator that may have existed. However, despite this clear flaw, this appears to be quite common place.
Friend of the site, the Parking Prankster, recently fought a Highview Parking ticket on this very point. He visited the car park in question twice in one day, yet got issued a ticket. His first stage appeal, direct to Highview, was rejected, despite stating he was not there for the entire time. So, he took them to a POPLA appeal which he WON. This point was not lost on the POPLA assessor, who cited it as the reason to uphold his appeal:
The Operator has not responded to the Appellant’s submission that although he did enter the site at 10.10, he left the site before returning again later in the day and then leaving for the second time at 15.55. For example, the Operator could have provided a search for all the images of the vehicle with registration mark [redacted] taken on the date in question
A strong appeal point for ANPR tickets relates to the requirements set down in the parking association’s Code of Practice for using ANPR. The British Parking Association make the following statement in theirs:
21.1) You may use ANPR camera technology to manage, control and enforce parking in private car parks, as long as you do this in a reasonable, consistent and transparent manner. Your signs at the car park must tell drivers that you are using this technology and what you will use the data captured by ANPR cameras for.
The last sentence is the key one: you must state that you are using ANPR and what you will use the data for. Very frequently signs in private car parks might say “car park monitored by ANPR systems”, which satisfies the first part, but it does not explicitly state what for. This point has been known to be the basis of upheld appeals at POPLA, so should be cited. If examples of the actual signage are provided, this will clearly strengthen your appeal.
So, if you get an ANPR ticket be sure to check these points; ask the parking company for evidence of the contravention. Also remember to use our Keeper Liability checklist to check they’re following the Protection of Freedom Act rules.
See also: The NoToMob have compiled a list of cases that demonstrate the flaws in ANPR technology.