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London Borough of Ealing (17 019 293)

Category : Transport and highways > Parking and other penalties

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 27 Mar 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about a penalty charge notice. This is because the complainant can appeal to the tribunal.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I refer to as Mrs X, disputes a penalty charge notice. She says the instructions with regards to the pay by phone system were unclear and she could not speak to anyone.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  2. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone can appeal to a tribunal. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to appeal. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(a), as amended)
  3. London Tribunals (previously known as the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service) considers parking and moving traffic offence appeals for London.

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I read the complaint and the Council’s response to Mrs X’s informal challenge to the penalty charge notice. I considered comments Mrs X made in response to a draft of this decision.

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What I found

  1. If someone wishes to dispute a penalty charge notice they can make an informal challenge. Alternatively, they have 14 days to pay the fine at a discounted rate of 50%. If they do not pay, or the Council rejects the informal challenge, the full amount becomes payable and the Council sends a Notice to Owner to the registered keeper of the vehicle. If the owner thinks the Council should not have issued the fine they can use the Notice to Owner to make a formal challenge. If the Council accepts the challenge it cancels the penalty charge notice. If not, then it issues a Notice of Rejection. The owner can use the Notice of Rejection to appeal to the tribunal.

What happened

  1. Mrs X parked and paid for her parking using the pay by phone system. She mistakenly paid for four days parking instead of one. She intended to sort this problem out the next day. When Mrs X returned to her car she found she had been issued with a penalty charge notice. Mrs X made an informal challenge and explained she had paid for her parking.
  2. The Council responded on 5 March. The Council said Mrs X had made a mistake with the location when paying for her parking. As a result she had not paid for the location where she had parked. The Council gave Mrs X another 14 days to pay at the discounted rate. Alternatively, the Council said she could wait for the Notice to Owner and make a formal challenge and then appeal to the tribunal.

Assessment

  1. I will not start an investigation because Mrs X can make formal representations after she receives the Notice to Owner. If the Council does not accept her argument she can then appeal to the tribunal. It is reasonable to expect Mrs X to appeal because the tribunal is the appropriate body to determine disputes about penalty charge notices. The tribunal has the power to cancel the penalty charge notice. The Ombudsman does not have that power.

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Final decision

  1. I will not start an investigation because it is reasonable to expect Mrs X to appeal to the tribunal.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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