/ Motoring

Don’t stand for unfair parking tickets

Parking fine on car window

Our chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith looks at unfair parking enforcement, from a lack of clear signage to faulty meters. Have you been hit by an unfair parking fine?

There are few areas of everyday life which generate stories of laughably blatant unfairness quite as consistently as parking controls do.

A few years ago, before I worked at Which?, I parked in a street in west London where there were no parking restrictions of any kind. I returned at the end of the day to find yellow lines painted on the space previously occupied by my car, and the car towed away to the car pound. I did not see the notice warning of the impending restrictions because it was much further down the street. At the time, I didn’t contest the large fine but if it happened today, I definitely would.

Unfair parking ticket stories

Hundreds of you have contacted us in recent years to tell us about unfair parking tickets (and to ask Which? Legal Service to help you challenge them). In many cases, the issue is lack of clear signage or information. In others, it’s down to faulty meters, Blue Badges which were partly obscured or upside down, or you’d slightly overstayed the limit.

In one intriguing case, a Which? member told us he was ticketed for parking on his own property. There are so many ridiculous cases emerging on websites devoted to the subject of parking that someone has written an entire book about it.

A high proportion of parking appeals are successful – about 50% at the last count – adding weight to the theory that somewhere along the line there has been a breakdown of common sense in parking enforcement.

New parking proposals

The government has responded in favour of a number of measures proposed in a recent consultation on local authority parking to inject some common sense, and, indeed, a sense of proportion – the measures include a mandatory five minutes’ grace period after your time is up before you get a ticket.

It also called for councils to publish revenue from parking bays and tickets. This seems sensible to me. Most of all, however, I would like to see a curb on ticket-happy traffic wardens.

Yes, they have a job to do to keep traffic moving, and undoubtedly many of them are beyond reproach, but when so many appeals are successful, you have to ask who is generating these unjustified tickets – which are an utter waste of time and money.

If you’ve had a ticket that you believe is unfair, find out how to challenge it on our consumer rights website.


Two gripes about parking. One is when you are prevented from extending your paid parking by buying another ticket – you decide to do some more shopping, so why not be able to purchase another hour or two? But my main gripe is the outrageously-high penalties imposed for overstaying – £50 to £100 is out of all proportion to the “offence”. I would suggest that 5 times the maximum parking fee would deter most people from taking a chance and, for those many who inadvertently overstay, it would be seen as a fair cop. Adding 5 minutes grace will be ineffective – most people will factor that in to their stay.


I personally doubt believe it’s anything to do with parking enforcement, it all about revenue generation.

From when I worked my office overlooked a roundabout which had a bank branch and cash point right next to it. You would always see people pulling up and getting at to use the cashpoint and not once did I ever see one of those clearly illegally parked cars get a ticket. And if wasn’t for lack of enforcement officers. But sadly they’d all be patrolling up and down the pay and display areas making notes on when a ticket would run at and at 1 second beyond that time they’d be a ticket on as the officer would write it out in the minutes leading upto the time. Yet not one of those cars would be causing an obstruction.


By ticketing vehicles as soon as the period expired, the parking wardens are simply doing the job they are paid to do, efficiently and fairly. Perhaps parking wardens should be instructed to allow an extra ten minutes before issuing a parking ticket.

Banks should not put cash dispensers in places that encourage people to park illegally. The answer is either to install the cash dispensers where there is plenty of parking (e.g. supermarkets) or where there is parking specifically for use of these machines.

Dave says:
24 April 2014

This is crazy I don’t agree with either of the things you have said its just crazy, you blame the banks for putting cash machines near to the road what rubbish its nothing to do with the banks where people in vehicles are going to stop! you could put them inside the banks they will still stop out side what do you suggest they put them on the roof tops of there buildings? and the traffic wardens run by councils are told to ticket almost any thing thats parked as the councils who are running these want the revenue from the fines they are told to get as many as they can that’s a fact! where I live the traffic wardens are still run by the police they are much more fair as its not about raising money for the council its about stopping those who offend parking restrictions. my girl friend got a ticket her fault but the traffic warden gave her 10 mins grace before he put the ticket on the vehicle he told her she could appeal the ticket given reasons he was not nasty he was doing his job but not over the top either being a human not a robot unlike some of the council run robots they employ and have you noticed also a lot of them don’t speak good English either makes you think why that is.


As an ‘inner city’ resident I’m invited to discuss proposed changes to parking restrictions in my area. There are two kinds of restriction that I agree with. Where there would otherwise be danger created for ‘normal’ road users including pedestrians and where people who have no other place to park would be crowded out by shoppers and office workers. But that’s it.

I and other concerned residents ensure that other crafty measures are not slipped in to force people into expensive but mostly empty multi-storey car parks, to create ‘parking reservations’ for local authority staff or to prevent people dropping off their children near their schools. This last should not be necessary however the ‘gerrymandering’ of catchment areas to provide socially engineered schools for the benefit of those in the know means that many children are forced to cross arterial and busy suburban roads at peak times.

Experience has proved to us that asking the simple questions like ‘you have proposed that in the interests of road safety, explain your reasoning’ or ‘what is the actual width of the carriageway at that point’ usually results in fast withdrawal of proposals for evermore complex and often petty restrictions. You need to keep an eye open for those little notices tied to lamp posts and then to make sure that you are heard!

Roger Gradeless says:
22 April 2014

Mr Vicary-Smith makes the statement – “A high proportion of parking appeals are successful – about 50% at the last count – adding weight to the theory that somewhere along the line there has been a breakdown of common sense in parking enforcement.”

I think the conclusion that “there has been a breakdown of common sense in parking enforcement” does not follow. Those who appeal are likely to be those who feel they have a strong case for making an appeal. One cannot however conclude that those who don’t appeal will have an equally successful outcome. After all, if you know you have clearly broken parking regulations you are very unlikely to appeal.

Depending on the proportion of those who do appeal, the percentage of all appeals of all tickets issued may be quite small, No breakdown in common sense there.

Maria Delgadillo says:
22 April 2014

I live in a street with restricted parking as otherwise we would be swamped by commuters and shoppers. Like many of my neighbours I would like more enforcement not less. Many of the successful appeals are people exploiting loopholes and Council mistakes. They are not fighting a major injustice. Why is Which? fuelling the myths that some motorists like to spread to defend what is in most cases little better than stealing? Why is fare dodging outrageous but overstaying in a car park ok? The fines here range from £50 to £70 with 50% discount for payment within 14 days. This is less than the 5 times the maximum car park fee (£8 – £10). Car parks and roads need maintenance. I am more than happy for car parking and fines to be used for revenue raising (along with speed cameras). Why should responsible, law-abiding people pay for those who would rather turn our town into a grid-locked, dangerous, fume-infested, giant free car park? I will drive when essential but we all need to remember it is a luxury and a privilege and not a human right. The over stayers are causing an obstruction of a parking space that was designed for short trips (such as cash points). If I wanted to read this sort of stuff I would buy the Daily Mail. It makes me seriously question the content of the rest of the magazine.


Peter’s introduction focuses on genuine unfair treatment of people, for example where signs are not clear or meters are faulty. I can relate to both of these problems.

If parking fines were always fair then appeals would always be unsuccessful, but that is certainly not the case.