How do you win a POPLA appeal for a private parking fine?
POPLA stands for ‘Parking on Private Land Appeals’. It is a service that allows members of the public to appeal against parking tickets and fines that they have received while parked on land owned by private parking companies. In order for you to be able to make an appeal, the private parking company that issued the penalty notice must be a member of the British Parking Association.
The British Parking Association (BPA) is the industry body that represents parking operators. Any parking operator can join the BPA as long as they sign up to its Code of Practice. However, it is not compulsory for a parking operator to be a member of the BPA. If you received a parking charge from a non-member of the BPA then you will have to contact the issuer of the charge directly to see how you can appeal.
How to appeal a parking fine
You challenge a parking fine by first appealing directly to the parking operator that issued your parking charge notice. You must make this first appeal within 28 days of receiving the parking charge notice. If the operator rejects your appeal then it must send you a verification code along with the rejection notice.
According to the BPA code of practice, a parking operator must issue a verification code to the motorist, as long as they appealed within the 28 day window. If the operator refuses to supply the verification code and you have complied with the 28 day rule then you can report the opertator to the BPA.
You can only appeal to POPLA if you have made this first appeal.
It is vital to bear in mind that while you are appealing to POPLA, you will lose any 14 day window for discounted payment, as this early-settlement period will not be extended or paused while the appeal is processed. However, while you are appealing to POPLA the parking operator cannot pursue you for payment. If it does, then you can report the operator to the BPA.
You should also be aware that you are not allowed to pay the parking charge and lodge an appeal to POPLA. If you have paid the charge then POPLA will consider that you have admitted liability for the incorrect parking and will not accept the appeal.
POPLA appeal process guide
The process for making an appeal is relatively simple and it is free. However, you must make your appeal within 28 days of the day of the parking operator rejecting your first appeal. POPLA states that it is ‘unlikely’ to be able to accept an appeal from a motorist who has submitted their appeal after the 28 day deadline.
First, you need to make sure you have all the necessary pieces of information to enable you to lodge your appeal. You will need:
- your vehicle registration number;
- your 10 digit verification code;
- your parking charge notice number (on the original parking charge notice); and
- your evidence (discussed above).
The 10-digit verification code is the code which you should have been given by the parking operator when it sent you your rejection notice.
You can upload all your documents to the POPLA website, assuming that you are submitting your appeal online. You can post your appeal (there is an address on the POPLA website), but this means that the process may take longer. If you appeal online you can make use of the tracking service to see what stage your appeal has reached.
POPLA will not contact any witnesses or third parties in relation to your appeal. It deals only with you and the parking operator that issued the charge. This means that you have to contact witnesses and collect all the relevant evidence yourself. It is possible for you to ask someone else to manage your appeal for you. If you do appoint someone, they must be able to provide to POPLA a letter or email stating that you consent for them to handle your appeal.
Once you have submitted your appeal, POPLA sends it the parking operator. It has 21 days to respond and will submit an ‘evidence pack’ to POPLA. You will be sent the evidence pack and have 7 days to provide comments. Your comments can only relate to the evidence pack and must not raise any new grounds of appeal. However, you are allowed to point out flaws in the vidence or the operator’s argument, and, crucially, to provide further information to disprove the operator’s case. You do not have to provide comments if you do not wish to do so.
An assessor will then review the case and make a decision based on all the submissions provided. Both you and the operator received the decision at the same time. For the motorist, you will receive an email asking you to log on to your POPLA account to view the decision.
Preparing your appeal
If, following receipt of the rejection notice, you wish to go ahead with your appeal to POPLA then you will need to explain the grounds for your appeal. The grounds for your appeal are simply the reason or reasons why you do not think you should have to pay the parking fine. You will also need to provide evidence to support your case.
You include as many different grounds for appeal as you like, but make sure that the points you include are relevant and substantial, otherwise you may obscure your argument.
Common grounds for appeal include the following:
Your vehicle was stolen
If your vehicle was stolen and incurred the parking fine after it had been stolen, then this should lead to a successful appeal. You will need to have reported the theft of your car to the police and to provide the crime reference number to POPLA.
Please note that if your car was borrowed with your permission and received a parking ticket during the time it was borrowed, this will not lead to a successful appeal.
You were not improperly parked
This is a ‘catch-all’ category to explain why you should not have been given a parking ticket in the first place. For example, it could include:
- you were within the time you had paid for when you received your ticket;
- you paid the correct amount for your parking;
- you did not overstay the free parking allowance in the car park;
the signage was not clear, i.e. the terms and conditions were not properly displayed;
- you adhered to the terms and conditions on the signage; and
- you were parked in an area that you were free to park in.
Evidence in these circumstances could include your parking permit, or details of your payment through an app, along with photographs of the car park and / or relevant signage.
You have been incorrectly charged
This covers where you have already paid the parking charge or you have been asked to pay the wrong amount.
Again, the evidence could be from an app or parking ticket. You will need to be able to show that you have already paid or explain the reason why you think the amount requested is wrong.
Extreme circumstances prevented you from parking correctly
This could refer to a medical emergency, or a natural disaster, or simply that your car broke down.
You will need to provide evidence from the recovery company or mechanic if your cark broke down. Other extreme circumstances will need to be evidenced by specific relevant paperwork.
Other reasons for appeal
There may be other reasons for your appeal that are valid; you are not confined to the list of reasons given above. If you believe you have a valid reason then you can appeal, but you must be prepared to back it up with evidence.
Unfortunately, POPLA is clear that mitigating circumstances, or tiny contraventions of the rules, such as ”I was only two minutes’ late” will not result in a successful appeal. POPLA will apply the rules strictly. Whilst this may seem unfair to you, it can work in some motorists’ favour. For example, POPLA will uphold an appeal if the parking operator’s signs did not adequately explain the arrangements for parking in that car park.
Burden of proof
Finally, when you are preparing your appeal you should bear in mind that the burden of proof is with the parking operator. This means that they have to be able to prove assertions they make on the parking charge notice. For example, parking operators have to have the authority of the landowner in order to issue parking charges. If you ask an operator to prove that they have the authority to do this, they will have to provide evidence of their entitlement in the form of a contract. Many operators do not want to disclose the contract, or you find that the contract was not in force at the relevant date.
Some operators provide a witness statement instead of the contract. In order for the witness statement to be valid it must be signed by the landowner. This is a requirement of the BPA Code of Practice 22.16b. If it is not signed by the landowner then it is not valid and you must point out that the operator cannot rely on it.
BPA Code of Practice
It is worth checking the BPA Code of Practice to see whether your parking operator has complied with the Code. If the parking operator has not complied with the Code then your appeal will be successful. The Code was last updated in January 2020. Changes include the requirement to cancel a parking charge if it results from a minor key error. This is, for example, where a motorist enters a ’0’ instead of an ‘O’ when entering their registration number and paying for parking. The Code also explains how it would expect operators to react to a ‘major’ key error.
Another important addition to the Code concerns ‘grace periods’. A grace period of at least 5 minutes should be allowed if a motorist enters a car park, then decides not to park there and leaves again. In this case, a so-called ‘parking event’ has not happened and the motorist should not be charged. Separately, a grace period of at least 10 minutes must be added to the end of the motorist’s stay before a parking operator can issue a parking charge.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if your POPLA appeal fails?
If you lose your POPLA appeal then you will be expected to pay the charge to the parking operator within 28 days of POPLA making its decision.
If you do not pay within 28 days then the fine could increase or be referred to a debt collection agency.
There is no further appeal within POPLA - it is a single-stage process. The only avenues open to you at this stage would be to seek independent legal advice or consult the Citizens Advice Bureau.
Is POPLA independent?
POPLA is administered by Ombudsman Services, but funded by the British Parking Association, which is the industry body for parking operators. The British Parking Association pays a charge to POPLA for each case it considers, regardless of the outcome of the appeal. The BPA does not have any influence over the decision-making of POPLA so it is an independent, impartial body.
How long does a POPLA appeal take?
A POPLA appeal usually takes between 6 and 8 weeks, if you have submitted your appeal online. If you submit it by post then it could take longer.
Can I appeal a POPLA decision?
No, you cannot appeal a POPLA decision within POPLA as it is a single-stage process.
If you nevertheless wish to take the matter further then you can take independent legal advice.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.