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Fight Private Parking Tickets

Tickets are often invalid. Don't just pay.

Watch out for parking cowboys If 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 systems. Out of 23,500 people who appealed via one of these systems in the year to March 2014, 45% were successful.

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

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

This is a new incarnation of the guide. Please suggest changes or questions in the Updated Fight Private Parking Tickets forum thread. While every effort's been made to ensure accuracy, this article doesn't constitute legal advice. If you act, you acknowledge you do so at your risk.

Private parking need-to-knows

  1. Remember this is about fighting UNFAIR tickets

    Of course, landowners have a right to charge for and police proper parking. If you've broken those rules, and you think the ticket isn't exorbitant or disproportionate, pay up.

    If you DO think it's exorbitant, one route is to simply pay what you think is right, eg, the equivalent to what you'd be charged on a public road.

    What's counts as an 'unfair' ticket?

  2. Never automatically pay a parking ticket from a private firm

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

    Trying to reclaim cash already paid isn't easy, so it's far easier to dispute it. Beating an unfair ticket isn't an exact science. This strategy in this guide based on the opinion of a number of legal experts - who don't always agree - plus large amounts of feedback.

    Many who take on unfair tickets win - here's the evidence

  3. Don't get caught out by illegal clamping

    In October 2012, clamping and towing on private land was banned in England and Wales under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (it's been banned in Scotland since 1992, but not in Northern Ireland yet).

    The few exceptions where a car park has legal authority to clamp are where local byelaws are in place, including some railway station and airport car parks. If it doesn't have the exemption, it's breaking the law. See Clamping Help for full info.

  4. Print the Glove Box Parking Guide

    Our printable A4 guide is packed full of tips on what to do if you're ticketed, and how to avoid tickets by parking right in the first place. Print and keep in your glove box in case the dreaded moment when a ticket's slapped on your windscreen comes, or worse, your car's clamped.

  5. Don't assume the driver's liable for the ticket

    Before October 2012, when on private land it was the driver who was liable for any parking charges from private parking firms, rather than the owner.

    But now, parking operators in England and Wales are allowed to hold the vehicle's owner liable for unpaid charges if they don't know who the driver is and the keeper refuses, or is unable, to name the driver.

    What are the rules Scotland and Northern Ireland?

  6. Get as much evidence as you can

    Gather evidence if you plan to appeal

    If you're reading this after getting a ticket, you may not be able to gather all of the evidence listed below.

    But it's still useful to gather as much as you can - even if it's just the paperwork, or returning to the car park to photograph its signage - in case you decide to dispute the ticket or appeal.

    What evidence should I get?

  7. A cartoon policeman

    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:

    How to work out who it's from

  8. Don'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.

    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.

    What's the law on this?

How to fight private parking tickets

How you can best fight your ticket depends largely on whether the parking company which issued it belongs to one of the two trade bodies, the British Parking Association (BPA) or the Independent Parking Committee (IPC).

This may be shown on your ticket - you can also find lists of the BPA's members and the IPC's members online.

There's also a third route you can try, which allows you to appeal your ticket on a technicality. whether or not the parking firm belongs to a trade body. We'd only encourage you to use this route if the ticket you've got is genuinely unfair.

Remember, if your ticket wasn't issued in a private car park and it's called a Penalty Charge Notice, we've full help in the Parking Ticket Appeals guide.

How to appeal - if the parking firm is part of a trade body

Try this firstThere are two trade bodies in England and Wales - the BPA, which represents 170 parking firms, and the IPC, which covers 23. Each runs an independent appeals process. If you've been ticketed by one of their members, you can use this route to appeal. Below we've suggested a straightforward, by-the-book approach...

How to dispute - if your parking firm is NOT part of a trade body

Try this first Below is our suggested approach, but we've also included the route to take if you want to be militant. It's worth reading them both first, to help you decide which to do...

The technical route: check if your Notice to Keeper is flawed

It is important to understand that with private parking tickets it's the owner of the car, not the driver, who's liable. Therefore parking companies will often send a 'Notice to Keeper' to the owner of the car. This is a formal parking charge notice sent to the registered keeper of the vehicle, here's how it works...

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.

Glossary