Do I need to pay my parking ticket? What the law says…
You need to know how to differentiate between official parking notices and private company issued ones
Do you know the difference between a Penalty Charge Notice and a Parking Charge Notice? One word can make a big difference when it comes to the ticket you find on your windscreen.
Official bodies and private companies don’t have the same power. But because many people don’t know the difference, private companies make their notices look as similar as possible to the original ones.
If you know the difference, you could save a lot of money.
How can I tell which ones I need to pay?
They are both yellow, and have the big bold lettering on them, but one will say Penalty Charge Notice and is issued by an official body like a council or police force. The others will be private companies.
Official bodies are granted powers by legislation passed by Parliament and cover various parking misdemeanours including breaching the terms and conditions of parking in council-controlled car parks and parking spaces.
Private companies don’t have the same powers. Even though they try and make their notices look official, they are easy to fight.
The Birmingham Mail reported on Martin Lewis of explaining that tickets from private companies are not fines and just invoices – but they are enforceable under contractual law.
The main crux of his argument seems to be that most companies will not take drivers to court over the fines, so they are therefore easier to get out of.
He added: “They are saying that they believe you owe them money – you may agree, you may disagree.”
He said you can therefore ignore it, contest it by letter, appeal through the firm’s own system or take the matter to court.
With council tickets – or tickets from official bodies – they can be appealed through an informal appeal, formal appeal or an independent tribunal – but it is less likely you will be successful.
How to contest a Parking Charge Notice?
Simply respond that you are refusing to pay.
DON’T say you are appealing the ticket, as this legitimises the ticket.
Also write “Without Prejudice” on the letter – then no information in the letter can be used against you.
What happens next?
If the company rejects your dispute, then you can escalate to the firm’s trade member association.
You must have an official reference number from the company and their reasons for rejecting your dispute.
They will refer you to POPLA, the Independent Tribunal for Parking Fines.
Around 40 per cent of appeals are upheld in the favour of the public.
If you wish to dispute the ticket, then you have 28 days in which to dispute after the firm that issued the ticket has rejected your appeal.
I’ve been issued a Penalty Charge Notice – what should I do now?
If you have received a parking ticket, the person who issued it has determined that you have parked your car somewhere you’re not allowed to.
Firstly, you should work out if it’s from the council, or a private company (these tend to look alike).
Once issued with a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) you will be expected to pay a penalty charge of £130 for a serious parking offence or £40-80 for a less serious offence – although this can vary by council.
You can reduce your fine by paying within 14-days.
I want to appeal my case:
If you think the PCN has been issued wrongly you must make your reasons known as soon as you can by writing to the address on the notice or getting in touch online.
Your appeal will then be reviewed and you will be made aware of the outcome.
You have 28 days to challenge a PCN.
If you do it within 14 days and your challenge is rejected, you may only have to pay 50 per cent of the fine.
If you’re appealing your ticket, hold on to any photographs from the scene (e.g. unclear lines), letters you’ve received, mitigating circumstances and any statements if possible.
This also includes:
- A valid pay and display ticket
- A letter from someone who was with you saying what happened – write ‘Witness statement’ at the top of this
- A repair note, if your car broke down
Make sure you include:
- The date the ticket was issued
- Your address
- Your vehicle registration number
- The penalty notice number
To appeal your case, you’ll need to prove your innocence.
You can appeal if the traffic signs were wrong, the council has made an error on the ticket, you’ve already paid the fine, the signs are misleading or confusing, you didn’t own the vehicle at the time or you’ve been overcharged.