Lots of things in life are frustrating. Yet there are a few things that REALLY grind the gears of the people of the UK. Top of the list are pet insurance, potholes… and parking tickets.

According to the RAC, more than 11.1 million parking tickets were issued in 2022/23, nearly 30% up on the year before. That’s a whopping 30,400 a day. And astoundingly that’s just tickets for parking on private land.

Meanwhile, data obtained by Churchill Motor Insurance found that almost 20,000 tickets were issued by councils around the UK every day, generating £780,000! It’s worth noting that the data here came from Freedom of Information requests to councils. Only 230 responded. There are 317 councils in England alone…

Are you reading and seething? Does the memory of an unfair ticket still wind you up? Did you give up because you thought the odds were stacked against you?

This week, I’m tackling the scourge of private and council parking tickets – and how you can appeal them and win!

The two types of ticket

What’s the difference between a fine and a ticket? Well, quite a bit actually.

We tend to think of both private and council tickets as the same thing. But they are significantly different in a number of ways. A ticket from a local authority is essentially a fine because you are considered to have broken a rule or a law. This might be blocking a bus lane, preventing access to a road or parking on double yellow lines. These fines are called Penalty Charge Notices’.

If you park on private land – like at a hospital, supermarket, car park or anywhere else not on local authority property – then the ticket is not a fine. This doesn’t mean you can ignore it, of course. You are being charged by the owner of the land for breaking the parking rules on their property.

Many readers contact me to say that Penalty Charge Notices and private parking tickets look pretty much indistinguishable. And that’s because they often do look the same. This is a bit cheeky to say the least! Private tickets mimic the look of Penalty Charge Notices to give the same aura of authority. But the way you appeal about them is very different.

Appealing a private parking ticket

Let’s start with the more commonly encountered parking ticket – the one waiting for you on your windshield when you’ve breached the rules for parking on private land.

First things first. Don’t get mad – get even! Tempting as it is to swear and rip up the ticket, you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot.

It’s really important to document the scene there and then to support your appeal. Get your phone and take pictures. This might include your parking ticket, if the parking attendant has missed it, the pay and display machine if it’s not working, screenshots of payments made to online apps and more.

Many parking tickets are issued after confusion over whether you’re actually on private land. So photograph any signs that might be obscured by bushes or trees, or are hidden or obscured in any way. The same goes for misleading statements about when you can park for free.

You may just have just got unlucky. If your car has packed in and you’re waiting for help, you might get ticketed while you wait for roadside assistance. In addition, I hear from loads of readers who have been caught out while dropping people off at hospitals or at the airport. You can still appeal the ticket. Just take some time to tell the parking firm about what happened and why you don’t think the ticket is fair.

Do I pay the ticket if I’m going to appeal?

This used to be a tricky question to answer. It used to be that paying a private parking ticket made it hard to claim back the money when you appealed. Often the fear of ever-increasing fines for non-payment panicked people in to coughing up.

The good news is the Government’s Parking Code of Practice clamped down on excessive fees, effectively halving the charges to a maximum of £50 for the initial incident, while reducing the ‘escalating charges’ too. The bad news is endless faffing about the introduction of this – and the Code of Practice – has led to much confusion out there about what’s allowed.

You can read the Government’s rules here, so you know what’s permitted and what isn’t.

If you are worried about further charges, tell the parking firm that you are going to formally appeal or make a complaint about the ticket and ask them to suspend any action or increase in fees while the matter is investigated. This advice works for any complaint about unfair charges or dispute bills btw, from parking tickets to energy disputes.

if the business refuses, ask them to confirm this in writing. You can say that you’re paying them under duress – but make it clear you are paying the ticket to prevent further charges but you are going to make a formal complaint.

How to appeal a private parking ticket

Act quickly! Contact the firm as soon as you can to register an appeal.  The ticket will say if the firm is a member of a trade body, like the British Parking Association or the International Parking Community.

Make a formal complaint spelling out why you disagree with the ticket (you can usually do this online). Don’t forget to include all of your evidence.  When you appeal to a parking company, they should generally reply within 14 days. Following that have 28 days within which you can appeal the fine.

If your complaint is rejected, take it further. There are two dispute resolution schemes that you can go to if you are still unhappy. These organisations work similarly to ombudsmen or alternative dispute resolution services (ADR schemes).

You may be issued with a code from the parking firm which allows you to take the complaint to the next level.

Council and local authority parking tickets

Dealing with a parking fine is a little more complicated, but the same principles apply as when you appeal a private parking ticket.

One factor is CCTV. Because you can be ticketed after allegedly breaking rules captured on camera, you might not get the ticket for some time after the incident occurred, effectively preventing you from gathering evidence on the day the situation occurred. You get an extra week to pay the ticket – 21 days. Check out what you’re being fined for though as tickets can be issued by the police for certain road infractions. This should be made clear on the ‘Excess Charge Notice’ or ‘Fixed Penalty Notice’.

Gathering evidence to support your complaint is just as essential. Remember to explain in detail what occurred, with mitigating factors included. So if a passenger was ill and you had to stop the car to get them some help or medication, you’ll need to explain that if your car got ticketed while briefly away.

As a general rule, the reduced rate you get if you pay a local authority ticket within 14 days can be applied without ‘admission of liability’ so you can still pay and appeal.  Some councils are a bit flaky around this though, so get them to confirm this when you pay.

The simplest way to appeal is to follow the instructions on the ticket, as the origins of the fine might vary quite a bit. You will need to complete an official appeal form explaining what happened and why you don’t think the fine is fair. The council has 56 days maximum to sort things out.

If they reject your complaint, you can appeal to the Independent Adjudicator. You’ll should receive a ‘Notice or Rejection of Representations’ letter and a ‘Notice of Appeal’ form to take the case further. Over half of the people who take matters to the next stage win – so it’s worth doing!

However, the Independent Adjudicator can award costs to the council if it feels your complaint is frivolous. This is a legal term that’s usually used to describe a complaint made by someone who is being difficult and knows they aren’t going to win. It shouldn’t happen to you if you have given reasons why the ticket was unfair. But if it’s clear you’re dragging out the process to cost the local authority money, this could result in charges being awarded against you.

There are a few different Independent Adjudicators, depending on where the incident occurred. These are:

Don’t give up if you’ve been ticketed unfairly – and good luck!

Featured in Mirror – Martyn James

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