Motorists fined for tapping in the wrong registration plate number at parking machines are being told to fight back.

Last month, a 74-year-old great-grandmother from Portsmouth was fined £84 as a result of accidentally using the letter ‘O’ rather than digit ‘0’ at the ticket machine when typing in her registration number.

Despite paying the required £3 to use the private car park, she lost an appeal against the fine that she had lodged with the Parking on Private Land Appeals ombudsman.

Easy mistake: Motorists given parking tickets for putting the wrong number plate details into machines should appeal

Parking campaigner Barrie Segal, who runs website AppealNow, says: ‘If someone pays for a ticket, then it is clearly just a clumsy thick-fingered mistake.

‘A slip of a finger issue such as this should fall under ‘de minimis’ – a minimum thing – and the law should not concern itself with such trivialities. A motorist should not pay the fine but let the firm take them to court if they persist in chasing payment.’

Fining motorists for providing the wrong car registration is just the latest trick adopted by car park operators to generate extra revenue from motorists.

Last year, councils in England raked in more than £690million from car parking charges. Separately, private firms pocketed more than £100million from issuing parking fines. More than 90 per cent of motorists faced with a fine – unfair or not – automatically pay up. Yet half of those prepared to tough it out through the appeals process will eventually win.

A key reason why people pay is that most penalty fees are halved if a driver hands over the money within 14 days. Yet a car park operator will usually agree to freeze a fine if you wish to appeal within this 14-day period. Motorists are also put off by all the hoops they must jump through to get a fine overturned. Here, The Mail on Sunday guides you through the maze.

PENALTY CHARGE NOTICE

A car parking fine on council-owned land comes in the form of a penalty charge notice. You can appeal within 14 days of receiving it. If the council rejects this appeal, it must issue you with a formal ‘notice to owner’, where you get a further 14 days to argue your case.

If you lose again it may demand the full penalty fee, but this does not mean you have lost. Your appeal can then be escalated to an independent adjudicator.

The council must send you an ‘appeal notice’ along with its final rejection letter explaining that you can go to independent adjudication via the Traffic Penalty Tribunal. You have 28 days to argue your case. If you lose at this point it is probably time to wave the white flag and pay up.

Penalty charge notice: You can appeal within 14 days of receiving it

PARKING CHARGE NOTICE

If the ticket was for parking on private land you will be issued with a parking charge notice – not a penalty charge notice.

If you are not happy with the fine and get no joy from the car park company, you can appeal.

The independent Parking On Private Land Appeals scheme considers disputes between motorists and members of the British Parking Association, which include giant NCP.

If the car park company is signed up to the alternative association – the renamed International Parking Community – you can take your dispute to the Independent Appeals Service.

If the car parking company is not signed up to either the British Parking Association or International Parking Community, you can refuse to pay. It is then up to the company to decide if it wishes to chase you for the fine. If it decides to take you to court, it must pay an application fee of £25.

Fines: Many private car parking firms rarely have the nerve to take motorists to court

Despite the bully-boy rhetoric favoured by many private car parking firms, they rarely have the nerve to take motorists to court – it costs them money and they might well lose.

Private firms can no longer legally clamp your car on private land. Nor can they send round debt collectors until a court has found in their favour, no matter what their posters might claim.

Also, private companies not signed up to the British Parking Association or International Parking Community should not be able to get hold of your personal details from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency – necessary to find your address to chase you for money. Segal says: ‘Rather than just feeling aggrieved about a car parking ticket you should consider fighting back.

‘You should present a well-reasoned argument for not paying, with all the facts. For example, it is up to the council or private firm to prove it was the fault of the motorist that their parking ticket was not visible, triggering a fine.

‘Remember, excuses such as a vehicle breakdown can also be used to argue against a fine. Where necessary, take photos. If you are prepared to go all the way you have a good chance of success.’

You can fight a ticket if the car park had inadequate signposting. Another reason for making an appeal is if you deem the charge to be excessive. In such a situation you could send a cheque for what you consider to represent a fair fine. Help on tackling unfair car park charges can be found at AppealNow. Website DoNotPay also provides useful advice.

A spokesperson for the Parking on Private Land Appeals scheme says: ‘Where a motorist is required to enter their vehicle registration number, the parking conditions normally stipulate that the number must be correct – otherwise the automatic number plate recognition cameras will not recognise the parking charge has been paid and a fine will be issued.

‘When we assess appeals we look at whether a motorist has kept to the conditions of a contract – the signage at the car park should spell them out.’

Park life: Heidi Cattanach, founder of Park On My Drive