When it comes to parking, don't lose the ticket '“ or your rag

If there's one subject that winds people up, it's parking charges and tickets.

Check the rules before parking. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

That’s why I’m going to be raising awareness of your rights (and highlighting dodgy service) over the next month as we tackle parking problems head on.

First up, private parking fees. These aren’t penalty charge or fixed penalty notices (official charges from the police or council), despite what they might look like. They’re actually invoices for breaking parking rules on private land, like a supermarket or even a hospital.

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Even though these tickets aren’t fines, you’re still being billed for a breach of contract. What’s that, I hear you say, you never signed a contract! Well, when you park on private land, you should see a sign that clearly sets out the rules. By parking there you agree to those rules, so if you overstay, the firm can charge you for the privilege. And those charges can mount up.

The biggest problem with private parking charges is that people get so angry about them that they ignore the ticket, rip it up (a bad idea) or decide they’re going to appeal, but forget.

As a general rule, it can be hard to get your money back when you’ve paid, so bear that in mind if you make a complaint. But if you don’t pay, speak to the parking company asap. Ask them to hold fire on charges while you present your case, and gather some evidence. Photograph the car park and sign, explain the circumstances that led to the problem, keep a record of all your comments and ask them to respond in writing.

It can also be worth writing to the landowner to explain your situation. Organisations such as hospitals, employ parking firms to administer the parking and will want to know if the company is acting unfairly. You never know, they might agree with your reasoning and step in and ask the parking company to back down. Obviously there are no guarantees with this approach.

Drivers should be aware that parking disputes can escalate quickly if “invoices” are left unpaid and unchallenged. I’ve heard stories of private parking firms coming down quite hard on people. If a ticket isn’t dealt with you could end up being charged more and might even receive letters threatening legal action.

It’s also worth remembering that it’s not always the driver that has to pay the fine. Private parking companies are allowed to hold the owner of the car liable for any unpaid fines.

Of course, the best way of avoiding paying parking tickets is to not get them in the first place. Always pay close attention to the parking rules set out on signs in the car park. Make sure you’re looking at the right part of the information, as rules may differ depending on the time and day of the week. If you’re still unsure about anything try to find a parking attendant or member of staff to talk to.

If you want to raise a complaint about a private parking company you could use Resolver. The system allows you to construct a complaint, keep track of any communication and escalate your case to POPLA (Parking on Private Land Appeals). They will carry out an independent assessment based on the evidence provided by the motorist and the parking firm.

You can find out more about your rights at www.resolver.co.uk. If you’ve been charged without a ticket, or found yourself dealing with an uncompromising firm, get in touch through our Facebook and Twitter pages: @Walker Resolver; @resolver.co.uk; facebook.com/resolvercouk