The Traffic Penalty Tribunal (TPT) for England and Wales will be launching a new online portal for appealing penalty notices in January 2016, which could dramatically speed up the appeals process.
Fleet managers who choose to appeal a penalty charge notice have a 50/50 chance of leaving the process without having to pay, according to Caroline Sheppard, chief adjudicator at TPT, who was speaking at a recent Fleet200 meeting.
Thirty authorities are expected to be using the new system by March, with all 310 authorities on board by the end of 2016.
Companies will also be able to use the new system to appeal the Dart Charge by June.
The new system follows a ‘proof of concept’ portal, which 32 local authorities and Dart Charge are currently using, and has seen decisions being made in as little as 13 minutes in some instances.
Instead of completing a paper form and posting it to the authority, the appellant (which can be a fleet manager acting on behalf of their driver) creates an account, fills in an online form and can upload evidence to support their appeal. This can be done via a smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC.
By submitting an appeal online, the appellant agrees to receive all communication from the tribunal and the authority which issued the penalty through their account rather than in the post.
This removes postage costs for the appellant and the authority. If the adjudicator needs more information, they can send an instant message to the appellant through the system to request it.
Appellants also have the opportunity to write a comment next to photographic evidence. For example, they can explain that the vehicle shown in a picture is not their vehicle.
The authority can exercise discretion if they have the evidence they require, such as a delivery note, and choose to not contest the case simply by pressing a button.
Local authorities currently don’t contest 30% of appeals, according to Sheppard.
The new approach is typically seeing a case being closed ‘by no contest’ within two days compared to two weeks.
A case closed ‘without a hearing’ is being done within three weeks compared to six weeks and a case closed ‘with a hearing’ within five weeks rather than 12 weeks.
Brighton & Hove City Council is one council which has benefited from the new portal.
Policy and development manager Paul Nicholls said it has been “a great success in reducing the time taken to process appeal and improving appeals management overall”.
He added: “The improved communication that this system delivers is a big leap forward in appeals administration.”
The parking team at Luton Borough Council has seen “an immediate increase in efficiency” since going live with the portal, according to Arshad Baksh, parking and blue badge team leader at the council.
“The average time for a case, from preparation of documents to their upload is no more than 30 minutes,” he said.
One corporate appellant has been able to submit 20 appeals in just 40 minutes and has told the TPT that she “loves the new system”, according to Sheppard.
“It gave us the idea that we need to concentrate more on the fleet and leasing industry,” Sheppard said.
“We want to adapt the system to make it even easier for corporates to use.”
The enhancements will include better screen layouts, a clearer and more informative dashboard, improved notification and messaging functionality and the ability to download data for reporting.
Sheppard is inviting fleet managers to share their ideas on what they would like to see in the new system by emailing Iain Worrell at: email@example.com.
Fleets operating in Scotland are unlikely to benefit from an online appeals portal for some time as the Scottish Parking Appeals Service does not even have a website yet.