Do I have to pay this parking fine for using a private carpark?

They are demanding £60, but I could not see the sign in the dark

I stopped briefly in a club carpark to collect some keys. A week later I received a “Parking Charge Notice” demanding £60 within two weeks, rising to £150, from a private parking firm. Apparently there are notices telling visitors to enter the club and pay a charge to park; as it was dark I did not see them. Many consumer websites advise ignoring these private fines as they are unenforcable in law. Should I contact the company, or simply sit tight and call their bluff? TR, Ottery St Mary, Devon

Before 1 October you might have got away with that, for the registered owner of the vehicle was not bound to admit that they were the driver, and only the driver was liable for breach of contract or trespass.

However, the Protection of Freedoms Act makes the vehicle’s registered owner liable for fines from members of the British Parking Associaton if they decline to identify the driver. The BPA, of which the company in question is a member, requires notices of charges to be clearly visible, so if the club signs were obscured in darkness you might have a case for appeal to the new independent appeals service

If a parking dispute does end up in court, your case will be weakened if you have not appealed your fine. If, however, a parking company is not a member of the BPA they are not allowed to obtain registered keeper details from the DVLA and there is no independent appeals service, so the AA’s advice is to gather evidence in your defence and wait for them to take you to court.

The good news is that the same act has outlawed the scourge of wheel clamping without legal authorisation; the bad is that this could make cowboy clampers more aggressive in their pursuit of revenue from parking tickets, and there are no rules capping the amount they can charge. If a company demands a cash payment upfront don’t comply. They can’t legally clamp you.

If you need help email Anna Tims at or write to Your Problems, The Observer, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Please include an address and phone number. Unfortunately we cannot respond to emails individually. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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