Thank you for the question. It is my pleasure to help you with this today. Please bear with me if I ask for more information.
This is not a fine. It is a bill for parking! It is on private land. The situation is different for council tickets.
Before October 2012 these could have been ignored it was possible simply to tell them to the contact the driver who parked the car but simply not to tell them who that person was, but for some strange reason Parliament decided to enact the Protection of Freedoms Act, which made these private land parking charges enforceable in the County Court as a contractual dispute against the registered keep or driver.
The parking company will not normally know who the registered keeper is booking get those details from DVLA for a couple of quid because the request is made regarding an incident involving the vehicle. Anyone can do that in similar circumstances such as this or an accident or any other incident involving a vehicle.
For some even stranger reason, all parking charges whether these private ones, or local authority ones can be enforceable against the registered keeper. I find that a bizarre thing in English law. It’s like someone that drives your car having an accident and you the car owner, not involved in the accident, being held responsible if they don’t deal with it. Stupid but then again, sometimes the law is an ass. So, even if the person who parked the car is not the registered keeper, the registered keeper picks up the tab if the driver fails to do so.
If you Google Protection of Freedoms Act and Private and parking it will give you plenty of reading.
The way these are dealt with is just in the same way as a debt. The person parks the car, sees the sign (that can be a problem) which says that the person agrees to pay £X for parking there longer than one hour or two hours or whatever.
However for someone enter into a contract for charging for parking, they need to know that they are entering into the contract and anyone parking needs to reasonably know that there is a charge for parking. Whilst it may be possible to get away with one of these on that basis it is probably not possible to get away with half a dozen because after the first one or two, the person receiving the tickets would have had notice. The fact that there may be markings outlining the parking bays or not is immaterial.
The signage can actually make it chargeable to park outside the Bay (if there are markings) or without a disabled sticker. Remember these are not penalties (because English law is not punitive) but they are contractual charges. Hence, the company does not have to suffer or prove loss.
So defence would be that anyone sitting in the car having parked, cannot see a sign (if there are not sufficient signs) therefore could not know they were agreeing to park for a fee because there were not enough signs. Whether there are enough signs or not depends on the facts and in support of such a defence is going to need a layout of the car park, photographs and the number of signs.
There is another argument and that is that the charge is unreasonable
If the notice says that the charge is (for example) £60 and then it increases to £100 if you do not pay within 14 days for example, then the extra charge over and above the original £60 is unlikely to be enforceable because it is a penalty charge (a penalty for not paying as opposed to a penalty for parking) and punitive charges (penalties) for non-payment are not enforceable in English law apart from interest at 8% per annum on commercial and non-commercial debts and a fixed a late charge in respect of commercial debts.
Any court action can be defended on the grounds that there is not sufficient signage and it would then be for the court to decide whether the person defending succeeded in defending the claim or not it actually gets as far as going to court.
Many airports actually make stopping even for 30 secs chargeable! However a reasonable defence is probably that you can’t actually read the sign without stopping!
Anyone can make an appeal to the company but they are in the business of collecting money for these charges and therefore they will not give up easily and in my experience, appealing to the parking enforcement company as a waste of time.
Private Charges can be appealed to POPLA.
if you look ½ way down page the grounds for appeal are limited.
To be frank, I have known very few of these go to court because the cost of enforcing a £60 or £120 charge in the Small Claims Court is firstly risky (because they lose the court costs if you win) and secondly not financially viable. If whoever is dealing with it on behalf of the parking company has to travel from wherever they are based to your local court and sit around for half a day. It is different if they have several in court at the same time or there are several against one owner. Taking someone to court for half a dozen times £100 may be worthwhile, Although not if it is at the other end of the country.
It is small claims court and they will not usually get their legal or solicitor’s costs back (although than court costs) even if they win.
If they do issue court proceedings (which are extremely unusual), it is imperative that you deal with it by submitting a defence. It will then be transferred to your local court.
There is a caveat to my last statement and that may be contained in the wording of the signage. If on the wording of the signage, it says that they are entitled to recover their costs of enforcing the agreement, then, if it goes to court and they win, they may be able to claim their court costs and time from you, including their solicitor’s costs. Although, if they spend a couple of thousand pound instructing solicitors (very risky) even though they win, you can object to all those costs being awarded on the basis that their costs are disproportionate to the amount in dispute. I have looked at many such parking signs and I have never actually seen the provision on one yet but that is not to say that the parking companies will not get wise to it when they start putting signs up.
I will tell you that appealing these directly to the parking company is generally a waste of time paper an envelope and the Stamp quite simply because they are in it for the money and without these penalty charges, they make no money. If everyone simply refused to pay, they would be out of business in weeks if not months. There is no incentive for them therefore (they have no sense of fair play!) To quash the charge.
What would I do? The same as I have always advised everyone else, ignore it and let them take me to court. I have never yet known one go to court apart from one gentleman who had 30 tickets in the same car park in a 12 month period at the place where he worked (hospital) because he quite simply refused to pay the charge. They did take it to court because, for 30 tickets it is worth taking them. Remember that they are enforceable in the correct circumstances, it is the value of the individual ones which makes it not worthwhile. For 30, it was worthwhile.
There is only a tiny percentage of these that ever go to court and if you have the time, you can defend it on the basis there is not sufficient signage and if you don’t have the time, and you want to pay some money, in cases like this, I never suggest making an offer. I suggest sending a cheque. Armed with a cheque in the hand for some of the amount they want, compared to an argument over the whole of the amount, (and arguments that they may win or lose) the cheque in the hand is a pretty powerful incentive to accept it.
You wouldn’t believe how many people I make this suggestion to and they ignore it and make an offer and don’t send a cheque and then they are surprised when the offer is rejected!
So consider deciding how much would be reasonable to pay (the offer needs to make it attractive enough) and send it with a covering letter headed “without prejudice save as to costs”. That means that they cannot produce the letter in court as an admission of owing them any money at all.
Tell them in the letter that this money is being offered in full and final settlement of all claims, past, present and future, and that by cashing it they accept it as such. Tell them that if they do not accept it, they should return the cheque and if they issue legal proceedings, they will be defended them on the basis of A, B, C, whatever.
Do tell them that this is not your money (because you do not have it) and that it has come from someone else who has agreed to discharge the debt for you.
Tell them that if they do not understand the significance of the letter. They should take independent legal advice.
I can tell you this approach works nine times out of 10, provided the offer is reasonable and not derisory.
For legal reasons which I will not bore you with but which go back several hundred years, the cheque must not come from the debtor, but must come from a third party, friend, relative, solicitor, our accountant, neighbour, girlfriend, wife, husband, whoever, just not from the debtor.
Here is some rather heavy reading
please give 5 star rating.