Parking Charge Notice (Private Firms)

Parking Charge Notices are not actually a fine. They are a service charge that private landowners and car park owners can charge when you park on their land.

Legal Basis for Parking Charge Notices

What makes these charges legal is they are based on contract law. This means when you park your car on a private landowner’s land you can, in certain circumstances, be deemed to have entered into a contract with them. 

For a contract to be formed they must first offer you the terms on which they agree to let you park on their land.

This is usually done by displaying those terms and conditions on a sign before you drive onto the land. It is important the terms and conditions are displayed before you drive onto the land.

This is because under the law of contract the landowner must offer the terms before you accept the offer. As you are deemed to accept the offer when you drive onto the land, the terms and conditions must be displayed before you enter (you are expected to look for them).

Displaying the Parking Terms and Conditions

The sign that displays these terms, therefore, should be displayed at a height that is easily visible, not too high and not too low. The type face should also be of an easily readable font size, again not too small.

The term should also state clearly the terms that you can park on the land or in the car park.  It should also state what happens if you don’t observe those terms.

So, if a ticket should be displayed in your car, it should say this. If you are only allowed to park for a certain period, it should state this also.

It should also state what happens if you don’t abide by these rules.

If there will be a service charge, it should state this and how much it will be.

How do Parking Companies know who you are?

Parking Companies will operate cameras on their sites or will employ Parking Attendants.

If you breach the terms of the contract, they will identify your car using the Parking Attendants, who will most likely take a photograph of your car or  they will use CCTV to do so.

They can then fix the fine to your car, but equally they may post the notice out to your address.

They can do this if they are a Private Company registered under the Approved Operator Scheme operated by the DVLA. This allows certain firms to purchase the details of the registered keepers of cars.

To be part of the Approved Operators Scheme, the Firm must be registered with the British Parking Association or the International Parking Community, both of which are trade bodies.

In 2017-18, Firms registered with these bodies purchased details of over 5 million car owners from the DVLA.

Can Parking Charge Notices be Challenged?

Parking Charge Notices can be challenged and should if you think they are wrong, as they can be enforced through the Courts. 

Providing they are constituted properly, they are legally binding contracts.

There are a number of strategies you can utilise in challenging a Parking Charge Notice if you believed it has been applied wrongly.

Is the Firm Registered?

The first thing to check: is the Firm registered as a member of a recognised trade body that allows it to be part of the DVLA’s Authorised  Operators Scheme?

If a firm is not registered and, therefore, not part of the Approved Operators Scheme, they are unlikely to be able to find out who you are from the DVLA.

You may, therefore, want to ask yourself, do you want to pay a fine to a Firm that has attached a fine to your windscreen or handed it you, but is not likely to be able to get your address from the DVLA?

Some argue you should just ignore them, but if they do locate you, they can still take you to Court.  Alternatively, you can still write to them outlining the reasons why you think the charge is wrong.  Some may choose not to write to they receive a letter through the post from the Firm.

If the Firm is registered,  then the next route that should be used to dispute the Fine is to use the Firm’s internal appeal process and their Trade body’s independent adjudication service.

This is a free process, doesn’t involve lawyers and also doesn’t prevent you raising a defence in Court if you fail and the Firm then takes you to Court.

There are a number of possible arguments you could use, both during the appeal process or in Court. 

Some of these are outlined below for illustrative purposes, but you may want to tailor them to suit the specifics of your case.

Remember gathering evidence is important, so ask for evidence from the Firm and scrutinise it.  There has been incidents of private firms fraudulently tampering with photographic evidence and being banned by the DVLA from the Approved Operator’s Scheme, so stay alert.

You can also gather your own evidence. Photograph the signs, as these are crucial to whether a contract was formed, take written statements from those that were with you. If a ticket machine was out of order, then photograph it.

Was a Contract formed?

As stated above, if the firm did not display it’s terms in an easily accessible format before you entered the contract, and only displayed them once you entered the car park, then arguably those terms do not apply to your contract.

Equally, if the sign does not expressly say you will be charge a certain amount if you break the terms of the contract, then the firm may not have any legal basis for charging you the amount they are trying to charge you. 

Is it Factually Correct?

Some firms, even firms that have been part of the Approved Operators Scheme, have been found to be fraudulently tampering with photographs, showing vehicle owners over-staying their time in a car park, when they didn’t.

One firm, who has now been banned by the DVLA, was found to be sending fines to people stating they have overstayed, when they had not.

In one set of photographs, it was shown the cloud formation in the sky behind a car was the same, despite the timestamp on both photos showing hours of a difference between them.

Another showed the boot of an adjacent car open in both photos, despite the timestamp in both photos being hours apart.

For this reason, if you dispute what the Firm is saying, ask for evidence to show that you committed the breach they allege you committed.

Is the Service Charge Reasonable?                              

Previously it was believed that the charges private firms charged did not have to be paid, as they were not legally enforceable. This was because they called them “penalty” charges or “fines” and under the law of contract, punitive charges are not allowed.

This means firms can only charge you for a breach of contract for a reasonable amount that represents their loss.

This was the decision in a UK Supreme Court case (ParkingEye Ltd v Beavis [2015] UKSC 67)   and applied to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  It does mean Firms can enforce reasonable charges, however. In Scottish case heard in Dundee Sheriff Court a similar decision was made in Vehicle Control  Services v Mackie.

Firms, therefore, may only charge a reasonable amount if you stay beyond your allotted time on the land.

What constitutes reasonable is hard to ascertain, but if you believe the charge a firm is charging you is excessive and punitive, they should provide proof it represents a reasonable assessment of their losses. 

Ultimately, it is for a court to decide if the charge is reasonable or not; but it should be borne in mind, if a challenge is made on these grounds and unsuccessful, not only may you have to pay the charge, but also the other party’s legal costs.

Were you driving the Vehicle?

If you are the Registered Keeper of a car but were not driving it at the time the fine was charged, you can argue that you are not liable for the fine.

To do this, you would need to notify the Company, once you receive the notice.

It is likely you will be expected to give the name and contact details of the person that was driving the vehicle. If you don’t, then at present although there is no concept of Registered Keeper’s liability in Scotland, a Court may presume, in the absence of you identifying the driver, that you were the driver. 

The law in Scotland is expected to change with the introduction  of the Transport (Scotland) Bill, which will introduce the concept of Registered Keepers Liabilty.

This will mean where the identity of the driver is not known, the Registered Keeper can be held liable.

If your defence is the car had been stolen, you will be required to provide proof of this by providing a police crime reference number. 

Mitigating Circumstances 

Don’t be afraid to cite mitigating circumstances, if something caused you to commit a parking violation. so if you had to park over a bay because of another driver’s parking (you may want to take a photograph as evidence); or if you were late back because of a disability, don’t be afraid to point this out.

You may also want to appeal to the owner of the land who may be different from the Parking Firm.  So you could write to the Hospital if you parked on hospital land, or to the supermarket (especially if you have been in their shop spending money.  You may want to show them your receipt).

How to Appeal a Parking Fine Notice

Parking firms should operate an appeal process.  If they are members of the British Parking Association or the International Parking Community, this is a requirement of their membership.

When you receive a notice from a firm it should notify you also of their internal appeal process and how you make an appeal.

The firm should acknowledge receipt of your appeal within 14 days of them receiving it; and ultimately decide it within 35 days of it being made.

If they choose to reject your appeal, they should notify you of the Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA) Tribunal process if they are members the British Parking Association; or the Independent Appeal Service if they are members of the International Parking Community

Previously appeals to POPLA was not possible, if you were in Scotland or Northern Ireland, but this change on the 1st May 2019.

These are  independent processes and you can submit an appeal after you have used the Firm’s own internal process first.

Going to Court for a Parking Charge Notice

If you dispute a Parking Charge Notice and intend to defend it in court, you should seek advice first.

You can obtain advice from your local Citizen Advice Bureau or from a solicitor. 

More information can be obtained on going to Court by visting the Scottish Court Website

How are Parking Charge Recovered?

Like with the Penalty Charge Notice, private firm Parking Charge Notices can be enforced through the courts and recovered using Sheriff Officers and diligence, legal debt recovery procedures, such as:

Can Parking Charges Damage your Credit Score?

If a Decree is obtained from the Court and the amount owed not paid with 30 days, it may be registered on your Credit Report.

It will, therefore, damage your Credit Score.

Can your Vehicle be Clamped for a Parking Violation?

Wheel clamping has been banned in Scotland since 1992.  So no private firm should clamp your car.

If your vehicle is clamped, even wrongly, you should not remove the clamp yourself, but contact the Police. If you remove the clamp yourself you may find yourself charged with vandalism.

Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2019

The Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2019 was passed by the UK Parliament in March 2019. It provides the Secretary of State with new powers to issue guidance to private parking firms and to issue guidance relating to fees and penalties.

As at the time of writing this article, this Code of Practice has not been produced. It will apply across the whole of the UK.

Comments

  1. Mark

    Hi. My wife just received a £60 ticket for overstaying at a supermarket car park by 30 minutes.
    Although the T&Cs are plastered around the car park, the sign at the entrance reads only “Up to 3 hours free customer parking”.
    Would this fall under the landowner failing to offer Terms & Conditions of parking?
    Thanks

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Mark

      This is quite standard for supermarkets. It’s not enough for the sign to say that the length of stay is 3 hours per customer, but also it must tell you the charge if you overstay.
      I would check the sign to see if it says that. They normally do.
      You can also ask for evidence your wife overstayed. Photographic evidence is normally provided.
      Sometimes if the person has a disability, you could write to the store and ask they waive it, or ask they waive it this time, if your wife has spent alot in the store. A receipt can help to show she was in the store at the right time and was shopping.
      Unfortunately, these charges are enforceable and recoverable if they show they had the correct signs before she entered and she overstayed.
      We appreciate any feedback on the site, to help us improve it, so if you have time, please give us a rating and a review

  2. Ruth

    Hi, my partner has a letter from debt collection agency from a fine in March 2018. He has ignored it so far. If taken to court and he has to pay will it affect his credit rating?

    What is the likely hood of being taken to county court?

    It’s also at an old address and only found out by chance from current owners. It is 2 fines at £140 each, in Scotland. Also with high view parking.

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Ruth

      The fine can be taken to Court with a view to obtaining a Court Order.

      If he is in Scotland, it would be the Sheriff Court, using Simple Procedure. If he is anywhere else in the UK it would be the County Court. A good place to get information about actions raised in the County Court is the National Debtline Website.

      The fact he got it in Scotland doesn’t stop it being enforced else where in the UK, though there is a good argument the action should be raised in his local court to allow him to defend the action if he wishes to.

      I cannot give you the odds on them raising an action, other than to say they do, so I would not encourage anyone to be complacent about them doing so, as it can add significantly to what is owed and if a CCJ or a Scottish Decree is granted for payment of a sum of money and it isn’t paid within 30 days, it can damage his credit rating.

      As you can see from this page there are a variety of possible defences he may be able to use and also appeal processes that can be made to the firm, but many have time limits, so if you are beyond these the Firm may say it is too late.

      However, I would argue it is still worthwhile making them as, they may also be defences that could be made in front of a Judge if an action is raised in Court.

      1. Ruth

        Thanks for your quick reply.

        He lives in Scotland so would be the sheriff court. He is thinking about ignoring it and waiting to see if they take it to court and paying within the 30 days so there is no decree and credit rating is ok. He would not be able to appeal as multiple fines.

        The fines are at £140 each just now. Will the total be lots higher if court papers are actioned? I’m not sure how high they can increase?

        1. Scottish Adviser Post author

          Hi Ruth

          There is no way to say definitively how much it would add to the debt as it depends on a number of factors.

          First, whether they raise one action for all the debts, or separate actions for each fine. If they do the latter the cost could be more, also if the action is defended then lost this could add to the costs.

          I would say at least £2-300 if they raise just one action, but don’t hold me to that. Its just a risk he had to take and ultimately it’s down to the Sheriff what expenses he awards, though generally if you lose and the other Party had the right to raise the action then usually they will be awarded.

          Also in terms of settling the debt, so it doesn’t affect his credit rating, this isn’t automatic and there is a procedure which is explained on this page on the Scottish Courts website which deals with Money Judgements and Certificates of Satisfaction.

  3. David

    Hi,
    I have a final reminder-unpaid parking charge from Highview Parking which states they have instructed Direct Collection Baillifs Limited to collect the outstanding balance of £160
    This was in Scotland in a shopping car park 21 months ago where I was not the driver indeed I was working apx 80 miles away
    I have not responded to their letters,do you think I should pay it ?
    Kind Regards
    David

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi David

      You could try challenging it or appealing it.
      They are likely to ask you who was driving the car at the time.
      You don’t need to provide this information, but its unlikely they will stop pursuing you unless you do.
      If they take it to Court, which they can do, and you rely on such a defence, the Court will likely require you to provide that information.
      There is a reputable presumption you were driving the car, as it is your car. However, you must rebut it by providing evidence, as you would be expected to know who was driving your car.
      As for the amount, it seems excessive. How did it get to £160?
      They can only add to the amount originally owed, if it was stated on the Terms and Conditions displayed outside the car park. They cannot just add on penalties etc, there must be a legal basis to them, so they must have been stated on the T’s and C’s on the sign.

      1. David

        Thank you for replying to me so soon,the fine is £160 now as I ignored all previous ones and ,Highview parking have now passed it to a Debt collector.

        In their letter they state I am now no longer able to appeal the parking charge and my next opportunity to dispute the charge would be if the matter was taken to court.

        Are they able to enforce keeper liability yet?

        It states on their paper work – Liability for this charge in Scotland is the driver of the vehicle on the date and time of this parking charge being issued and they are responsible for payment.

        This case is not subject to High Court or Baillif action.

        I Have continued to ignore ,but don’t know if it’s worth letting them know I wasn’t driving.

        Many thanks again

        For your time and advice.

        Best Regards
        David

        1. Scottish Adviser Post author

          Hi David

          First I am not sure what Highview Parking’s appeal process is, but they are members of the British Parking Association, so if you are concerned they are refusing a right to appeal, you can contact them and complain.

          However, as I have said, even if you appeal, and your defence is someone else was driving the car, they will likely ask you to provide details of who was driving the car.

          Although they cannot force you to provide this information, they are unlikely to uphold your appeal if you don’t.

          As far as I am aware Keeper’s Lisbility is not in force yet in Scotland. It was introduced into the law by section 95 of the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019.

          However, Regulations need to be passed by the Scottish Government to commence the Regulations, called Commencement Orders and although two Orders have passed, from what I can see neither relate to section 95.

          This has to happen and usually will contain transitional provisions which state when they apply from (so they may not apply to tickets issued prior to their commencement).

          However, I stress if this goes to Court I expect the Court will presume you were driving the car, as the registered keeper and they will expect you to state who was driving it to rebut that presumption.

  4. Eunice

    I received a Parking Charge Notice with issue date of 26th March 2020 for over staying in private car park in Glasgow on 9th March 2020. Is there a time limit on firms within which they have to issue notice please?

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Eunice

      My apologies for the delay in getting back to you.

      There is no time limit that would cover such a short period.

      At best the only one I can think is under the laws of statute barred debts, which would be 5 years.

  5. Brenda

    Hi my son got a parking charge notice for £60 while parked at the university he attends he didn’t pay it as he thought it was a scam he has now received a letter from a debt collector demanding payment of £130 to be paid within 14 days or court proceedings may happen -he is a student and doesn’t have money to pay-what do you advise?
    Thank you

    1. Scottish Adviser Post author

      Hi Brenda

      This sounds like a Parking Charge Notice, from a private firm. So very much enforcible and not a scam.

      Read my page on these using the highlighted text above. It may be appealable at this stage and also check they have evidence (of the breach).

      If he was clearly in the wrong and they clearly advertised the terms of conditions of parking, it may be he has to pay it, but maybe able to negotiate a repayment plan with them.

      His local Citizen Advice Bureau or Student Advice Service may be able to help him or the law school in many universities also run free law clinics.

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