Drivers wanting to challenge charges made in private car parks in England and Wales can use a new appeals service from today, though there is a catch.

Previously, if a motorist wanted to complain about a parking charge received on private land, they had to appeal to the parking company directly, with no recourse to an independent body.

That said, the above only applied if motorists used the system suggested by parking firms, though in many cases it's worth ignoring an unfair ticket because rogue companies often fail to chase you up (see the Private Parking Tickets guide).

But from today, some drivers can use an independent appeals service, Popla (Parking on Private Land Appeals), if they have no success appealing to the parking company first.

Cowboys still at large

The snag with the new system is you can only complain to Popla about the 162 parking firms in the British Parking Association's (BPA) Approved Operator Scheme (AOS) – car parks should display signs to indicate this.

But this means consumers don't have this option with the majority of the hundreds of other firms out there, many of whom wrongly ticket unsuspecting motorists. Of course, you can choose to ignore the ticket if you take the militant approach.

The independent adjudicator will review evidence submitted by both the motorist and the operator and determine whether the parking charge should stand or not.

The Popla scheme is run by London Councils, although it is available across England and Wales.

Motorists in Scotland and Northern Ireland don't have a private parking appeals service.

People who receive parking tickets on public roads and car parks already have similar appeals services.

Under changes to the BPA's code of practice, AOS members in England and Wales also have to reduce the maximum parking charge from £150 to £100, although operators will be able to charge more than £100 if they can justify the amount.

Clamping ban

Clamping and towing on private land is also banned from today in England and Wales. It's already banned in Scotland, but the new law doesn't apply in Northern Ireland.

There are, however, some exceptions where bylaws give the landowners the ability to clamp and tow. These include railway stations, ports and airports.

Police and local authorities can still clamp and tow vehicles on private land, while Government agencies such as the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Authority (DVLA) and Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) will continue to do the same with unroadworthy or untaxed vehicles.

From today, the vehicle owner or the driver could be liable for any charges. Previously, only the driver was liable.