Do You Have to Pay Private Parking Tickets?

by from, Last Updated: 26 November 2014

Returning to your car to find a parking ticket attached to your windscreen can make your heart sink. However, with unscrupulous private parking companies issuing tickets beyond their authority we ask, do you have to pay up?

Woman buying parking ticket

Most of us recognise that parking tickets, although financially unpleasant, are necessary to keep our roads clear from obstruction and the traffic flowing, but it's not just council traffic wardens that can give you a parking ticket.

Private companies can also hit you with parking tickets demanding payment, sometimes running into the hundreds of pounds, if you park on their property and break the advertised parking rules!

Here's how to handle a parking ticket from a private company.

Who gave you the ticket?

Different rules apply to tickets issued by public officials (police officers or council workers) and private companies (multi-storey car parks, supermarkets, hospitals and retail parks etc.) so before you decide which course of action to take, you need to find out who issued your parking ticket it.

It should be clear if your ticket has been issued by the council or police and you will need to take a different approach if you want to contest it. Find out how to do this by reading our guide: How To Appeal Against a Parking Ticket.

If the ticket is from a private company the complaints process is less formal and the company issuing the ticket will have no legal right to demand payment from you.

However, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't pay up; instead think of the ticket as an invoice for services you've used but not yet paid for.

Is the ticket justified and appropriate?

Before you decide whether or not to pay the parking ticket you need to consider whether it's justified.

Did you park on the company's land and did you break the advertised parking conditions? For instance staying longer than you should have.

If you are at fault you need to decide if the amount you're being asked to pay is justified.

In most cases private companies can only invoice you for a loss of earnings, or where you have breached their civil contract. This means if you paid 2 for a 1 hour parking ticket and ended up staying for 3 hours you should expect to have to pay the extra 4 for the time you've spent, or the equivalent advertised rate.

However, some private companies will issue tickets demanding 100+, well over the amount of money you would have paid to park upfront. If this is the case you may feel justified in fighting the ticket and refusing to pay up.

What action can you take?

If you feel that the ticket isn't justified or is unfair you have two options:

1. Complain to the company issuing the ticket & then appeal

2. Ignore it

If you opt to ignore your ticket many parking companies will give up, especially if the cost of pursuing you is going to outweigh the money you owe. However, ignoring your ticket could in some cases mean you find yourself in court.

Can they force you to pay?

No, private parking companies have no legal powers to force you to pay their parking tickets. The only way they can make you pay up is by taking court action, usually through the small claims court.

Even then you will have the right to defend yourself and give an explanation why you have refused to pay, meaning there is no guarantee their claim against you will be upheld.

Reporting the parking company

Although the private parking ticket business is unregulated and companies are not currently required to hold a licence to issue a ticket, many car park operators are members of the BPA (British Parking Association).

This means that they will have to have an in house disputes process if you want to reject your parking ticket.

Find out if this is the case and contact the ticket issuer within 28 days of receiving the penalty telling them why you are disputing the ticket and including any evidence you have to support your claim.

Can you appeal?

Yes, in most cases you can appeal against unfair parking tickets, read our guide: How to Appeal a Private Parking Ticket.

What if my vehcile is clamped or towed?

This is a very serious matter and in most cases clamping or towing on private land is highly illegal, take a look at our guide: What to do if Your Car is Clamped or Towed by a Private Company for help knowing what you should do if this has happend to you.


I have received a parking fine through the post for stopping on a prohibited road allong withh photograghs I only stopped for 5minuits or under as i felt cramp in my leg and i just stopped to massage (RUB)it in case i had to brake should i appeal

by cleo1997, 23 Oct 2013

Beat the Bandits! Stop the Private Parking Fine Scam!.

To get rid of Schedule 4 of POFA and make POPLA redundant,

Sign the petition at

to the Home Office to reform Protection of Freedoms Act 2012

Spread the word and sign, please.

Tell all editors! Moan to your MP. Demand action.

by keith25, 24 Oct 2013

No, private parking firms can not do anything but send you a series of begging letters demanding payment. They give up after a few months. Their target audience is the less well informed.

by V40LLY, 27 Jul 2014

My wife just received a ticket for parking in a sainsbury supermarket car park disabled bay as the place was full and she was struggling with the kids. The ticket is from horizon parking management. Is this fine enforcible / legal?

by Houndsman, 22 Mar 2014

should be fined then houndsman it says for disabled only

by gregbu, 27 Jul 2014

Hi. I also received a ticket in a sainsburys horizon car park. It should have been 30 mins free. However on the small print I was meant to take a ticket which I didn't do. The ticket says he observed my car at 11.03 and gave the fine at 11.15. So I think I have a case in that they didn't even wait half an hour. Whether or not I took a ticket. I also object that it says free in bold but then describes the need for a ticket in small italic. Where do I stand?

by liamad, 3 Nov 2014

I would take a photo of the sign . A similar case was highlighted in a Stockport Car Park where the signage was not clear.
Have you complained to Sainsburys as they must hate adverse publicity?
Ask to speak to their store manager and inform them that you drive various family members to shop there .Maybe inform local press and tell Sainsburys this . Shopping - to them should be a positive experience.
If you could join forces with other people this has happened to then I am sure with all major retailers screaming for customers they will have to act accordingly .

by martini97, 3 Nov 2014

ive just got a £100 ticket from a company called G24 ltd. I parked in toys r us car park on my birthday, its 2 hrs free for shoppers. I went for a coffee with my daughter then went in the shop to buy my granddaughter some toys and I guess got carried away with the time. Ive been told to ignore it but im worried if I do it will mess up my credit record as ive just got out of the doo doo after many yrs of trying to clear it. what should I do as im not in a position to get my hands on the money and also my daughter got a fine too so was £200 in all

by dannatt, 5 months ago

Would have a word with manager of Toys R Us as feedback is important ...even sent in photocopy of your receipt .
Suggest they give free parking if customer spend at their store.
I have fought and won 2 car park battles and actually got sent shopping voucher from Waitrose.

by martini97, 5 months ago

I received a ticked for parking in ASDA yesterday. The ticket way issued at 15.03, and my car was spotted at 14.50. I was out at 15.05. I was in Asda for just over 15mins. I didn't put a ticket on, but the parking is refundable worth sipping over £2. I spent £15, so technically it was free for me to park. I was issued with a private PCN parking charge notice not a penalty one. However the car park is a BPA member. Do I ignore it or complain? My dad said to ignore it. They can't make me pay. But I don't want to end up on court and have to pay more, but £40 is exorbitant when it should be free to shoppers!

by amyjay1992, 4 months ago

There was a recent court case by a private parking company (PPC) against somebody who parked in a McDonalds car park and overstayed the allowed time limit. The judge threw it out as the PPC has a contract with McDonalds, not the driver who parked, and as such there is no liability for the driver to pay "the fine".

Using this ruling, I would imagine the same applies for parking in other such retailers' car parks that use PPCs ?

PPCs do not have the same legal enforcement rights, as say a local council, and though they may send threatening letters of court action they rarely follow up on it due to the admin burden, etc.

There was an item on BBC Watchdog earlier this year and the studio invited legal expert's advice was to simply throw PPC "fines" into the bin.

by tair_b, 4 months ago
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