Questions we answer in this guide
- What’s a penalty charge notice?
- How can you appeal against a penalty charge notice?
- How can you appeal against a parking fine from a private company, wheel clamps and fixed penalty notices issued for parking offences?
Parking tickets may be issued by a local authority on public land or private companies and non-public bodies such as private car parks, shopping centres and hospitals.
Between them, these bodies issue millions of tickets around the UK each year.
What’s a PCN?
When issued by local authorities, most parking tickets come in the form of a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN).
These may be issued by enforcement officers on the ground, through the post - where areas may be monitored by CCTV - and in some areas, parking enforcement is the duty of the police themselves.
The police may also issue a fixed penalty notice (FPN) for more serious parking offences that may tip over into road traffic offences. For example, leaving your car in such a way that it may cause an obstruction or danger to other road users.
What's the difference between PCNs, FPNs and privately-issued fines?
PCNs are typically fines that are levied on the owner/driver of a vehicle, an FPN may be a combination of a fine and penalty points. Meanwhile, tickets issued by private companies and non-public bodies will also be fines, which you may not be legally obliged to pay.
What to do if you receive a parking ticket?
First things first, if you return to your car or you receive a ticket in the post, check which body has issued the ticket. You then need to decide if you're going to pay the fine or challenge it.
In the following example, you have received a PCN from your local council…
Step 1: Receiving a ticket
Having determined this is a genuine PCN from a legal authority, you should determine the following:
Were you at fault?
- was the ticket issued in an area where signs were unclear, obscured or contradictory?
- was your vehicle stolen or did the offence occur when you weren’t the owner?
Is the issuer at fault?
- does the ticket include incorrect information, e.g. vehicle details or the location of the offence?
- were payment machines out of order and there wasn’t another way to pay?
- had the Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) (bylaws implementing the parking restrictions) been applied properly?
Are there any mitigating circumstances?
- was there a breakdown or a medical emergency that contributed to the offence?
If the answer to any of the above is yes, then you may have grounds to appeal...
Step 2: Deciding to appeal
Typically, you'll have 28 days to decide whether to pay or appeal a PCN. But if you pay the fine within 14 days of the ticket being issued (or 21 days if the PCN was sent by post), you'll only have to pay 50% of the fine.
If you fail to pay within 28 days, a reminder (called a Notice to Owner or NTO) will be sent to the registered owner of the vehicle.
After 56 days, if payment still hasn’t been received, the fine may increase further by another 50%.
If you decide to appeal, you must do so within the initial 28-day period. If you believe a PCN was issued to you in error, do not pay the fine until you've exhausted every route of appeal and/or it's clear the fine will not be overturned.
Details of how to appeal should be included on the PCN and will differ from issuer to issuer but will either involve writing to them directly or going through their website. Your appeal should explain, in full, why you believe the parking ticket is wrong and include any evidence (if available) you have to support your argument. NB. Do not send any original documents (e.g. receipts or photos) in the post in case they're lost.
Step 3: Outcome of appeal
If this initial appeal (aka informal appeal) is accepted, the PCN will be null and void.
But in the event that your informal appeal is rejected, you'll receive an NTO (Notice to Owner) that informs you how to pay or how to make a formal appeal (aka a formal representation to the issuing authority).
While you'll be able to make an informal appeal and still pay the discounted (50%) rate mentioned above, if you decide to enter the formal appeal process and lose, you'll have to pay the full fine.
One exception to this are tickets that have been sent through the post, where there's no option of an informal appeal – but the reduced rate is still offered if you appeal within 14 days.
As above, your formal challenge should contain all your reasons for challenging the PCN and include any evidence or documents that support your case.
The council will have 56 days to consider your formal approach. If they've failed to respond in that time, they must cancel the PCN.
If your formal challenge is rejected, you'll receive a notice of rejection – after which you'll have 28 days to pay the fine or take your appeal to an independent tribunal.
If your appeal fails at that final stage, you'll have 28 days to pay before being issued a charge certificate, adding 50% to the total to be paid within 14 days. Failure to pay the ticket at this stage will result in a court order demanding payment.
Challenging a parking ticket that has been issued on private land, or by a private company, is a very different process.
Technically, a private company has no right to fine you – so don’t automatically assume you have to pay this type of parking ticket.
Your initial appeal should be to the landowner or company that runs the car park. If your initial appeal is rejected and the company that issued the fine is a member of a trade body, you can appeal to their independent appeals service.
You can still refuse to pay if your appeal is rejected by the independent appeals service.
The last remaining course of action for the issuing company would be to take you to court to compel you to pay the fine plus court fees.
If the issuing company isn't a member of an approved trade body, the appeals process may be less transparent and fair. In such cases, you may write to the company and explain why you believe the ticket is unfair. Again, their only recourse would be to take you to court – and while you should be prepared for this, particularly if the ticket was justified, they'll be unlikely to do so.
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