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Case studies - Barbara Cummins parking

Which? Legal member wins her money back by arguing that signs were confusing

A Which? Legal member has successfully fought a parking penalty notice by arguing that the signs in a council-run car park were confusing.

Barbara Cummins and her friend Cherith parked in the Phoenix Causeway car park in Lewes, east Sussex, on 30 April.

A sign said that parking wasn’t allowed between 20 March and 30 April. Barbara believed this meant that the suspension period had finished, so she bought a ticket.  But when Barbara and Cherith got back to the car, they found the penalty notice and visited the council’s local parking shop to query it.

The staff there told Barbara the suspension was permanent, although the sign had made no mention of this.

Barbara and Cherith felt that the sign was misleading and appealed for the charge to be cancelled.

Our advice

Barbara contacted Which? Legal for advice. Our lawyers advised that she was right to challenge the notice as the dates on the sign were open to interpretation.  We also advised her to challenge the term as unfair and therefore unenforceable, and request that the council exercise its discretion to cancel the penalty charge notice to avoid lengthy and potentially costly independent arbitration.

After advice from Which? Legal, Barbara completed the appeal form and within a week the council cancelled the charge.

What the law says

The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 say that terms in consumer contracts, such as the sign in the car park, must be expressed in plain and intelligible language. If there is any doubt, then it will be interpreted in the customer’s favour. In this case, the parking sign left room for interpretation about the dates. When appealing a ticket, you must be aware of the strict timelines involved. These depend on the type of ticket issued. More on the procedure to follow can usually be found on the website of the local authority or parking company that issued the ticket. And you can watch our video on how to appeal a parking ticket on our consumer rights website at which.co.uk/ parkingticket.