There are numerous strategies for fighting private parking tickets. The one you should choose depends on numerous factors, including:
- Where the ticket was issued
- Who issued the ticket
- Whether you were driving
- Why the ticket was issued
- And many more…
Here we look at the various options and consider the pros and cons of each. Please bear in mind that these are the views of this author and you would be advised to do your own independent research and consider getting professional legal advice. You may use this information at your own risk.
Complain to the shop and/or land owner
One of the most straightforward ways to get a ticket cancelled is to complain to the landowner or leaseholder of the land (e.g. the shop or restaurant). The agreements they have with the private parking companies allow them to cancel tickets (possibly at some cost to them). Usually your value as a customer is worth more to them than the cost of cancelling the ticket, so often they will cancel them. The lesson here is that you should go and speak to the manager of the shop or the owner of the land and ask them to cancel.
The other thing to bear in mind here is that they need to hear from customers that these private parking companies have a detrimental affect on their business. These companies use social media, so why not Tweet or Facebook them and tell them how you don’t like being unfairly ‘fined’ whilst spending money with them?
The ‘secret’ genuine customer clause
Some private parking agreements are known have secret ‘genuine customer’ clauses (discussed more here). This means that if the person appealing claims to be a customer, and can provide evidence (e.g. receipt), then they will cancel the ticket. Clearly this is not fair in all cases – i.e. where you went shopping and decided not to make a purchase on that particular day – you are still a genuine customer. But, if you can use this to your advantage, then include a statement in the appeal to the parking company that you did spend money and can prove it.
In our Keeper Liability article, we have a detailed guide on what a parking company must do to enforce keeper liability. Quite often parking companies fail to follow the rules for keeper liability – for example:
- They apply for the keepers details too late / early
- The notices don’t contain the specified information (e.g. creditor)
Whenever you receive a ticket (Notice to Driver) or letter (Notice to Keeper) you should check it against the Keeper Liability checklist and identify any failures. If you do identify any, write back to the parking company and state: “You have failed to meet the keeper liability requirements as stated in Schedule 4 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. Specifically you have failed to: [insert specific details]. As the keeper of the vehicle, I decline to provide the name of the driver at the time. Since you have not identified the driver I request you to cancel this charge immediately”.
When using this approach, make sure you don’t give them time to correct their mistake. So for example, if they didn’t identify the creditor on the Notice to Keeper, and you told them so, then there’s nothing to stop them re-issuing the Notice to Keeper as long as it’s within the allowed time (14 days from the event). The guidance here is to send the letter no earlier than the 15th day after the event so that it cannot subsequently be corrected.
Play the game and appeal to the independent appeals service (e.g. POPLA)
Before the Protection of Freedoms Act came in this wouldn’t have been a common or successful strategy. The old advice was to ignore since engaging the parking companies only encouraged them to chase you harder. The Protection of Freedoms Act’s keeper liability laws were introduced dependent on the private parking trade association (currently the British Parking Association Ltd or Independent Parking Committee) setting up an Independent Appeals Service (such as POPLA for BPA members or the Independent Appeals Service for IPC members). Whilst the independence of POPLA has been brought into question, successful appeal strategies have been identified. If your appeal is allowed, then the parking company must cancel the ticket. One should bear in mind that the Independent Appeals Service is only available in England and Wales, so this strategy would not be applicable for tickets issued in Scotland or Northern Ireland.
The first step here is that one must appeal to the parking company directly. Usually these appeals get rejected, but an independent appeal only becomes available once the parking companies own appeal process has completed. The key thing to bear in mind in your appeal letter is to not give them any evidence that could be used against you later (e.g. who the driver was, or admit to breaking the car park rules). Check out our example appeal letter that you can use., or alternatively, you could start a thread on one of the internet forums to get help preparing your appeal.
In your appeal letter you should close it by stating: “If you refuse this challenge / appeal then please supply me with a POPLA code”. According to the British Parking Association Ltd’s Code of Practice they should provide you a POPLA code routinely, but often don’t. Asking for a POPLA code also lets them know that you’ve read up on the process and won’t give in.
When you receive a POPLA code, you can then appeal directly to POPLA. On Parking Cowboys we have an article that provides guidance on successful POPLA appeal points. Again, you could also try the internet forums to review your appeal before sending, or provide the latest guidance on that particular company.
As discussed above, ignoring private parking tickets is not such a popular approach since the introduction of the Protection of Freedoms Act. There are two main reasons for this:
- A correctly worded POPLA appeal should be allowed, and as a result the parking company MUST cancel the ticket
- Certain parking companies are taking many more cases to court than they previously did. By ignoring, a given judge may consider you to not have acted reasonably to resolve the matter
That said, the majority of ‘ignorers’ over the years have been successful. The number of people taken to court has been small in comparison to the number of tickets issued. Parking companies would much rather people paid up out of court, since they would probably make a loss by taking people to court. However, parking companies do take people to court since it gives the impression that they are serious about enforcing tickets. Certain parking companies concentrate their court action on repeat ticketers since there is a bigger reward for winning.
Since the Protection of Freedom Act only applies in England and Wales, this strategy may still be appropriate in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Non-ATA parking companies
If the parking company is not an Accredited Trade Association member (i.e. BPA or IPC), then ignore is a valid approach. Simply, only ATA members can access the DVLA’s database of registered keepers. If they do not have access then they write to the registered keeper, and as a result, not rely on keeper liability. Their only chance of enforcing the ticket is if the drivers pays up, or if the driver reveals themselves to the parking company (e.g. by writing a letter). So the simple approach for tickets from these companies is to ignore.
There is a list of Approved Operators on the BPA Ltd’s website and the IPC’s website.
Next, we’ll look at how a parking company could try and legally enforce a Parking Charge Notice.