Several people have been annoyed by parking penalties recently so I thought it worth revisiting the subject.
This article is about private parking charges, not penalty tickets issued by the council or the police. There are many people on the internet holding forth about how they have always ignored parking penalties and nothing has happened to them. They then say that parking charges from a private company cannot be enforced. They are wrong and they have simply been lucky so far. When you park in a private car park you enter into a contract whereby the company would provide parking and you would pay. This is a civil contract and action can be taken in the Sheriff’s Court for the unpaid parking charge and expenses. Action can be taken but this does not mean it will be taken. In the past, parking companies did not bother with small sums but they have now started taking non-payers to court and have been successful. Parking in Perth is particularly annoying with one large parking company making it quite awkward to park without incurring a penalty. If you get a parking charge notice first of all check that it is correct. One client had a charge from one car park and also had a ticket proving he was in another car park at the time. Another had just driven through the car park and there were no spaces. Or there may be special circumstances that make the charge seem unjustified. A good defence used to be that the signs were not clear but most signs have now been changed to be obvious and clear.
If you were parked at a store car park then enlist their help using your till receipts. You can write to the parking company or complete an on-line form. In my experience the first letter is always dismissed, however justified. ‘Our Legal Team has considered your case and dismissed it’. Write again and keep a copy of your reasons for objecting to the penalty. The first parking charge letter is followed fairly swiftly by the first letter from a firm of debt-collectors then another letter threatening court action. The demand is for over £100 by now. However it is not affecting your credit record. At this stage clients often come to me and say, ‘Should I pay?’ If you have written to contest the charge as incorrect then you will have a good defence if actually charged. That is why I said to keep copies of correspondence if the charge was wrongly or unfairly demanded. The letter may be about an alleged offence from several years ago. I would suggest ignoring this. After six years a civil offence in Scotland is time barred but if you respond the six years starts again. Having said that, look at what I have written about an actual summons. If you just feel very aggrieved I can only reply that you must decide for yourself. I cannot know if the parking company will take action. Many people will tell you they have ignored the letters and they have eventually stopped. This might be the same for you. If you do not intend to pay on principle then there is no point answering letters which will get ever more threatening. If you get an actual summons, not a letter which says, ‘This Is What A Summons Looks Like.’ then don’t ignore that. Pay up, attend court to defend yourself or be found against in your absence. The parking charge will now include expenses.
If the company does go to court they will probably succeed unless you can show a defence, and a Court Order is not a good thing to have against you. It will be on your Credit Record for six years. You may still get credit but it will be very expensive and it will cause difficulties with things like mobile phone contracts and car leasing. It is a civil, not a criminal, offence and there is no question of prison. If you still do not pay up the company can use the Sheriff’s Officers to claim the money, but only after a court judgement.
The Citizen’s Advice Bureau is completely confidential. The articles I write for the Crier are always based on true stories but I disguise the client so they could never be identified.
The Citizen’s Advice Bureau is at 7 Atholl Crescent. Drop in is 10am-12 noon, Monday to Friday or phone 01738 450581 for an appointment in the afternoon. If the line is busy you can leave a message and you will get a call-back. The number will come up as “Withheld” to protect your privacy. 01738 450580 is the Advice Line. This line is often busy but if you leave a message your call will be returned. Everything is confidential, even the fact that you visited the bureau.
There is also a web-site run by the CAB. Adviceguide.org.uk covers many topics and is easy to use.