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Fight Private Parking Tickets Tickets are often invalid. Don't just pay.

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Watch out for parking cowboysIf you get an unfair ticket in a private car park, don't automatically pay it. These supposed 'fines' handed out are merely invoices, often unenforceable, and it's a Wild West out there - many private parking firms are frankly cowboys.

This step-by-step guide shows how to fight unfair private parking tickets at supermarkets, hospitals, retail parks and elsewhere, including using the private parking appeals system. Out of more than 26,400 people who've launched appeals via this system since Oct 2012, 45% have been successful.

If your ticket isn't from a private firm, see the Council Parking Ticket Appeals guide.

While every effort's been made to ensure this article's accuracy, it doesn't constitute legal advice tailored to your individual circumstances. If you act on it, you acknowledge that you do so at your own risk. We can't assume responsibility and don't accept liability for any damage or loss which may arise as a result of your reliance upon it.

Quick dos and don'ts before you begin

Check who your ticket's from

Parking tickets can be either from official public bodies, such as local councils and the police, or from private companies. This guide's ONLY about fighting UNFAIR tickets issued on private land (eg, a supermarket car park), so first you need to look on the ticket to identify who it's from:

A cartoon policeman

If it's from the police or a local council it will say so, and there's a completely different process and set of rules for this. This guide's only about fighting unfair tickets when parking on private land, so see Fight Unfair Council Parking Tickets.

A private sign

If you were on private land (eg, a retail park, hospital, supermarket or housing estate), and it doesn't name the police force or council that's issued it, it's likely to be a private ticket - so this guide's for you.

Beat unfair private parking tickets

Watch out for dodgy operatorsDon't ever think of private parking tickets as "fines". They're not. These companies have no official right to fine you, though they may try to make you think they do.

All they're doing is sending you a notice for what they deem to be a breach of contract. What's the law on this?

It isn't the ability of private companies to issue tickets in itself that's a problem. It's the unstructured system which puts unnecessary power in potentially unscrupulous hands.

Even where companies are legitimate, they sometimes employ third-party management firms to run car parks, with apparently little scrutiny of their methods. Plus, as private tickets are largely unregulated, in theory companies can legally charge what they want.

Many take on unfair tickets - and win

If the ticket's from a BPA-approved operator (see below for how to check), you've a chance of winning, if your case goes all the way to the independent appeals service. Out of more than 26,400 people who've launched appeals using this system since Oct 2012, 45% have won.

If you get an unfair private ticket, DON'T pay!

Don't just shell out for an unfair ticket slapped on your car or in the post. Trying to reclaim cash already paid isn't easy, so it's far easier to dispute it. You could also ignore it and wait to see if you get court papers in the post demanding payment - often they don't follow through.

Beating an unfair ticket isn't an exact science. This strategy is based on the opinion of a number of legal experts - who don't always agree - plus large amounts of feedback. Please tell us if you've a different method or experience to help develop this guide.

How to fight private parking tickets

What to do depends on who the ticket's from, the situation, and your attitude to confrontation. For both of the options below, we've included a suggested approach, and a militant approach - for those who want to stick two fingers up at the parking firms.

First, check the BPA's approved operators to see if the firm that issued the unfair ticket is a member. If so, you've the extra option of going through the BPA's appeals process, but if not, there are still plenty of tactics to try. Click the right option for your circumstances:

Go Go

Know your rights if clamped or towed

It's now a criminal offence to clamp or tow vehicles without lawful authority on private land in England and Wales, under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. Clamping's been illegal in Scotland since 1992, but hasn't been banned in Northern Ireland yet.

When's clamping or towing still allowed?

There are some cases where clamping or towing is still legal in England, Wales, and Scotland such as for:

  • Offences on public roads.
  • Certificated bailiffs collecting unpaid tax.
  • The police and local authorities (see Council Parking Ticket Appeals for help), and Government agencies such as DVLA and VOSA where vehicles are unroadworthy or have not paid their vehicle tax.
  • Where local byelaws are in place, including some railway station car parks, airport car parks, ports and harbours and river crossings, which can still be contracted out to private companies.

As clamping or towing is still possible in these circumstances, here's a stark warning...

Don't try to remove the clamp yourself, as any damage could be considered criminal.

Been clamped or towed illegally? Call the police

If you've been clamped or towed away from anywhere in England, Wales and Scotland that isn't on the list above, the first thing to do is call the police.

Don't hand over any money. Don't get into a debate with the clampers. Don't be scared to call 101, the police non-emergency number, if you don't feel threatened - or 999 if you do. There are tough penalties for breaking the law, including a £5,000 fine.

What to do if you've been clamped or towed legally

If you were clamped or towed before the ban started in England and Wales, by a legal authority mentioned above or at all in Northern Ireland, it's likely you'll need to pay the charge first to get your vehicle released. Then if it's unfair, seek a refund.

If that's the case, when you pay, always state you're paying under protest and, if you can, write "paid under protest" on any document retained by the clamper. That means the clamping company can't suggest you accepted liability by simply paying up. The action to take depends on whether you're...

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