One of the most frequent questions we get asked here at Parking Cowboys is whether to appeal or ignore a parking ticket.
Before October 2012 the generally accepted advice was to ignore privately-issued parking tickets. This was because the driver of the vehicle was the only person who could have liability for the charge, whereas the parking company could only find out the name of the keeper. So, unless the keeper disclosed the name of the driver (intentionally or not), it was difficult for the parking company to take legal action to recover the charge, and therefore very few tickets resulted in legal claims being made. As a result, if one ignored a private parking ticket, the chances were that the parking company would eventually stop chasing payment, and this led to the popularity of the ‘ignore’ tactic, severely impacting the payment rate for parking companies.
In October 2012, the Protection of Freedoms Act was introduced in England and Wales, bringing in the concept of keeper liability (see here and here). This change in law meant that, should certain conditions be met by the parking company, the keeper of the vehicle could be held liable for the parking ticket if the identity of the driver was not provided by the keeper. At this time, a number of parking companies, such as ParkingEye and Civil Enforcement Ltd, started to issue county court claims to enforce tickets. It is believed the intention was to change the public’s perception that private parking tickets can be ignored.
The change in law also saw the introduction of independent appeals services (see here). Before this time, the appeals were not heard by an independent 3rd party, and so very few were upheld due to the clear conflict of interest. The power of the internet has led to much information sharing, and as a consequence a number of winning strategies have been identified.
Should you appeal or ignore?
Simply, it depends on the specific circumstances, such as the nature of the ticket, and the company who issued it. One line of thinking is that by engaging in the appeals process, you are creating a trail of reasonableness which might be useful if the ticket ever reached county court. On the other hand, some believe the appeals processes favour the parking companies, so you should not give it any credibility by engaging.
If the parking company is not a member of an Accredited Trade Association (e.g. British Parking Association or International Parking Community – both have member lists on their websites) and they issued a windscreen ticket, then it is probably better to ignore it. If they aren’t a member of an ATA, then they can’t usually access the DVLAs keeper database, so they don’t know who to pursue to enforce the ticket. If you engage with their appeals process, then you will probably identify yourself, which you don’t want to do. If they do contact you via the post, then you will need
If the parking company is a member of the British Parking Association, then you will be able to appeal to their independent appeals service, POPLA. POPLA are run by Ombudsman Services Ltd and are reasonably open and transparent, if a bit inconsistent at times. Many of their decisions are posted onto online forums, enabling a body of knowledge of winning strategies to be developed. We have compiled a list on our POPLA guide, but it is also worthwhile doing your own research on the online forums for similar cases to your own. As of April 2017 POPLA lost its independent oversight board. At the time of writing it is not clear whether this will have a detrimental effect on the quality of their decisions.
If the parking company is a member of the International Parking Community (IPC), then they offer an independent appeals service, named the Independent Appeals Service (IAS). The IAS are independent of the parking company, but are run in-house by the IPC, raising a potential conflict of interest. The IAS is not as open as POPLA and does not follow normal legal convention. For example, as an appellant you will not get to see the parking companies evidence which is provided to the assessor only. The result of the appeal does not explain the detailed reasoning for the decision, meaning that the appellant has no idea of how the decision was arrived at. Evidence shows that the success rate for appeals to the IAS is very low. As such many experts suggest ignoring tickets from IPC member companies, and any subsequent debt collector letters, only taking action if court papers are received.
What if I get court papers?
If you get papers from a county court, then DO NOT ignore. If you ignore them, then you stand to receive a default county court judgement (CCJ). If you receive court papers then it means the parking company has issued a legal claim against you. This can be fought, and is discussed in our guide.