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Private parking complaints soar: how to fight charges

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Complaints about parking charges more than doubled in the last year and they’re set to reach record levels in 2017. If you’ve received a ticket, here are the steps you need to take.

More than 2,700 people contacted free complaints handling service Resolver in the last financial year, an increase of 111% from the 1,300 recorded in the previous year.

And with 1,405 complaints in April 2017 alone, Resolver predicted this trend is likely to continue. To date, it’s received more than 5,600 complaints about private parking companies since it launched in September 2014.

It added that the scale of charges involved in parking on council land remains unclear, causing confusion for motorists.

James Walker, founder of Resolver, said: “We’ve seen a huge increase in complaints about private parking fees over the last few years at Resolver. Yet the vast majority of people we speak to still tell us that they didn’t realise they had any right to make a complaint, felt intimidated in to paying up, or were just so angry about their experience they didn’t want to deal with it. So if you feel that you’ve not been treated fairly due to a parking charge, don’t give up – it’s not hard to make a complaint.”

Get up to speed with the facts

Drivers should note that private parking tickets aren’t fines; they’re invoices. This means they don’t carry the same legal enforcement powers as council or police charges, though firms may try to pressure you by suggesting they can fine you. They can’t send bailiffs in, but they can increase their charges and register a debt against you.

Private landowners such as supermarkets and hospitals can charge for letting you park there so if for instance you park in a disabled bay without a permit, it’s best to pay up. But Resolver said if you’ve been tricked, misled, hassled or the behaviour of the firm is unacceptable, you can and should make a complaint.

While there’s not much regulation of the industry, there are rules and rights of appeal when disputing a charge. You can complain to Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA), where Resolver notes that 48% of appeals resulted in the ticket being cancelled. Complaints about council charges go through the Traffic Penalty Tribunal, though there are different organisations for Northern Ireland, London (London Tribunals), and Scotland.

Got a parking charge? The steps to take

Below, Resolver’s five tips will help you deal with a private parking issue:

  1. Don’t stick your head in the sand: private parking companies will increase their charges if you don’t pay up. Act quickly and tell them to suspend charges while you formally complain.
  2. Don’t pay up straight away: tell the firm you’re going to appeal. It’s often harder to get your money back after you’ve paid. Don’t assume the firm has no right to charge you.
  3. Gather evidence: the pay and display sign forms part of your contract with the parking firm. If it’s unclear, hidden, overgrown, vandalised, etc, you can argue you were misled. Take photos, write down everything you can remember, even get witnesses if need be.
  4. Give the human touch: parking firms aren’t charities but in cases where midwives are being ticketed at hospital while helping expectant mothers or where people are rushed in to hospital and have subsequently been charged for not getting back their vehicles on time, it’s worth explaining why you weren’t able to pay in time or return to the car.
  5. Tell the landowner: parking companies are working for the landowner. If their contractor is being overbearing or intimidating, they need to know about it.

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