May 15, 2019 at 10:42 AM
Parking tickets are a multi-million-pound revenue stream for local councils and private companies. The RAC Foundation published figures that showed councils in England generated a combined profit of £667 million from their parking operations.
Similarly, 5.65 million sets of vehicle keeper records were requested from the DVLA by car parking management companies in the 2017/18 financial year. This data suggests that a penalty notice was issued every six seconds.
Although there are more than 70 reasons to be given a parking ticket - the most common being parked on double-yellow lines or in a pay-and-display area without a valid ticket - those number are exceptionally high. Fortunately, you do have the opportunity to get them overturned.
Before you're able to effectively appeal a parking ticket, you should understand the different types of parking tickets and who they're issued by.
Types Of Parking Ticket
There are four different parking tickets you need to be aware of: Penalty Charge Notice, Fixed Penalty Notice, Excess Charge Notice and Parking Charge Notice.
PENALTY CHARGE NOTICE (PCN)
A Penalty Charge Notice is issued by the local council or Transport for London (TfL) as the result of a parking violation on public land, such as a high street or council car park.
Typically, the PCN will be left on your windscreen in a yellow envelope. Alternatively, the infringement has been caught on CCTV and the PCN will be posted to the car's registered address held by the DVLA.
You'll be given 28 days to pay the fine which will be halved if you pay within 14 days of the ticket being issued (or 21 days if it was posted to you). For example, if the PCN was for £80, paying within 14 days would reduce the fine to £40.
Details on how to pay for the fine will be clearly explained on the ticket. The easiest way to pay is online if the PCN was issued by a local council or TfL. If you lose the ticket, you need to contact the ticket issuer to find out how to pay.
If you don't pay within this initial period, you'll be charged the full amount. A 'charge certificate' will be sent to the registered keeper of the vehicle if the PCN is not paid within 28 days and the fine will be increased by a further 50%. Using the previous example, the £80 charge would rise to £120.
After 14 days of the charge certificate being sent, you'll get a court order demanding payment if the fine hasn't already been settled. If you still haven't paid within 21 days, bailiffs will be told to visit your home to collect what you owe.
FIXED PENALTY NOTICE (FPN)
A Fixed Penalty Notice operates under criminal law rather than civil law (like a PCN) and can be issued by the police, local councils or the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).
FPNs are typically reserved for more serious parking offences such as parking on red routes or white zig zags. You could also receive penalty points on your license for certain types of parking Fixed Penalty Notices, for example for leaving a vehicle in a dangerous position.
Like a PCN, you have 28 days to pay a FPN which you can do online, or there are other ways to pay outlined on the ticket. If it's not paid within 28 days, the fine will increase by 50%.
Because a Fixed Penalty Notice is a criminal offence, you'll be prosecuted if you don't pay the charge and could end up paying a bigger fine as well as court costs.
EXCESS CHARGE NOTICE (ECN)
Also known as a Standard Charge Notice, ECNs are issued by local councils when you're parked illegally like PCNs; however, they operate under criminal law like FPNs.
The main difference between an ECN and a PCN is the appeal process which will be covered later in this post.
PARKING CHARGE NOTICE
A Parking Charge Notice can also be abbreviated as a PCN, but it's important to know that it's very different to a Penalty Charge Notice. The most important distinction is that a Parking Charge Notice is issued by a private company managing the parking on private land such as supermarkets, hospitals, retail parks, train stations and service stations.
Parking tickets issued by private companies are made to look very similar to PCNs issued by official bodies. However, they have no power to issue fines or enforce private parking tickets.
Technically, because parking on private land is governed by contract law, a Parking Charge Notice is just an invoice for an alleged breach of contract - the terms of parking.
Private firms must be registered with one of the two trade bodies for parking companies - the British Parking Association (BPA) or the International Parking Committee (IPC). If the parking firm on the ticket isn't an Approved Operator, you don't need to pay the 'fine'.
If the company is a member of either of the above organisations, they can obtain your details from the DVLA to pursue you for the parking charge. Nonetheless, the only way the private company can take action is by taking you to civil court.
NOTE: Use caution when ignoring a Parking Charge Notice. If the company is an Approved Operator and they successfully manage to take you to court, you could end up paying a lot more than the original charge.
As of 2012 when the Protection of Freedoms Act was passed, private companies do not have the right to clamp or tow any vehicle parked on private property (with certain bylaw exclusions). Similarly, without a court ruling, they can't send bailiffs to your property to try and reclaim the amount you've been billed for.
How To Appeal A Parking Ticket
The appeal process for a parking ticket depends on the type of ticket you received. Regardless of the type of ticket you want to appeal, you shouldn't pay the fine - this is seen as an admission of liability. Don't ignore the charge, instead you need to follow the step-by-step appeal processes outlined below.
If you decide you want to appeal, you should gather as much evidence as possible, including:
- Photographs (pictures of where your car was, your ticket, any unclear signs and anything else that might be relevant)
- Correspondence (keep everything sent from the ticket issuer and copies of anything you've sent)
- Proof of mitigating circumstances (e.g. receipt from a recovery company if you were broken down)
The Deregulation Act 2015 also states that local authorities must give a 10 minute grace period to vehicles parked in a dedicated paid-for parking bay after the paid-for period has ended before they can issue a parking ticket.
PCN APPEAL PROCESS
Once you've decided to appeal, there's a strict list of official grounds for appeal. The local authority and independent adjudicator will also consider mitigating circumstances, but they're more subjective.
Step 1: Make an informal challenge
If you think you have a good case to get your PCN overturned, you can start the appeal process by making an informal challenge - this first step is only applicable if the ticket was stuck on your windscreen (and not issued by post).
All PCNs offer a 50% fine reduction if it's paid within 14 days. Most councils allow you to submit an informal challenge and still pay the discounted rate if you lose - but do it within 14 days. It's pretty much a no lose situation.
To make an informal challenge, you just need to send a letter or email. There should be an address or email address on the back of the ticket. Some councils will let you submit an informal challenge online using a form on their website.
Make sure to include any evidence you collected as well as the date the ticket was issued, your address, the vehicle registration number and the PCN number.
Step 2: Make a formal appeal
There are three reasons that you'll need to make a formal appeal to overturn a PCN:
- You didn't make an informal challenge
- Your informal challenge was rejected
- The PCN was received in the post
At this point, you'll have been sent a Notice to Owner (NTO) demanding full payment. It will also have a formal appeals form on it which you simply need to fill in and send back within 28 days.
If you made an informal challenge that was rejected, you should resend all the information because it might be seen by someone else without the original details.
The local authority has 56 days to respond to a formal appeal. If they fail to do this, you win by default and the PCN will be cancelled.
Step 3: Appeal to the independent adjudicator
If your formal appeal isn't successful, you'll be sent a 'Notice of Rejection' letter and a 'Notice of Appeal' form which allows you to challenge the PCN at an independent tribunal. The form must be submitted within 30 days of its date.
It's free to appeal at an independent tribunal and you don't have to attend it - you can submit your reasons and evidence in writing, by phone or online.
The body acting as the independent adjudicator will depend on where the incident happened:
- England and Wales (not London): Traffic Penalty Tribunal
- London: Environment and Traffic Adjudicators
- Scotland: Parking and Bus Lane Tribunal for Scotland
- Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland Traffic Penalty Tribunal
Step 4: If you lose
If the independent tribunal decides to uphold the PCN you need to pay the fine within 28 days or the charge can increase by 50%.
The council have the power to take you to court if you still fail to pay the ticket. You might end up having to pay court costs and your credit rating may be affected.
FPN APPEAL PROCESS
Appeals against tickets issued by the police can only officially be made via the courts; however, some forces may allow informal appeals.
Step 1: Make an informal appeal (if allowed)
The Fixed Penalty Notice should have a phone number you can call to check if you're allowed to make an informal appeal. If the force allows it, you'll be sending a letter to the Central Ticket Office.
Make sure to include any evidence you collected as well as the date the ticket was issued, your address, the vehicle registration number and the FPN number.
Step 2: Formal appeal
If you're allowed to make an informal appeal and it's rejected, you'll receive a letter saying your notice won't be cancelled. It's advisable to pay the fine if your informal appeal is rejected.
Alternatively (or if you couldn't make an informal appeal), you can request a hearing at a magistrates court. If you go down this route, you should get legal advice to help you prepare for court.
The magistrates court will set a hearing date that you will need to attend to plead not guilty. If you lose, the fine will increase by 50% and you may have to pay court costs.
ECN APPEAL PROCESS
Receiving an Excess Charge Notice is very rare and only normally issued by a council yet to adopt a civil regime.
Step 1: Make an informal appeal
You will have at least 7 days to appeal the charge, although some councils offer 14 days. Generally, there isn't a form to fill in, but it's worth quickly checking the council's website in case there is one.
To make an informal appeal you need to send a letter - there should be an address on the back of the ECN.
Make sure to include any evidence you collected as well as the date the ticket was issued, your address, the vehicle registration number and the ECN number.
Step 2: Appeal to a more senior parking official
If your informal appeal is rejected, you'll receive a rejection letter. On the letter, it should explain if you have the opportunity to appeal again to a more senior parking official.
Details on how to submit this appeal will also be on the rejection letter. If the council doesn't give you this opportunity, move on to the next step.
Step 3: Appeal to the Ombudsman
By this point, you'll have been sent a letter from the council demanding payment. If you still feel that the parking ticket is unfair, you have the option of appealing to the relevant Ombudsman service which is free.
Typically, an Ombudsman can only intervene where there's been a procedural error. However, it might be worth contacting the Ombudsman for advice and guidance.
The service you need will depend on where the incident happened:
- England: Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman
- Wales: Public Service Ombudsman for Wales
- Scotland: Scottish Public Services Ombudsman
- Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman
Step 4: Going to court
If you think the council has applied the law incorrectly, you can take them to court. Before taking this option, you should seek legal advice because it will cost you serious money if you lose.
Alternatively, if your appeal is rejected and you fail to pay the fine, the council can take you to court. You will have the opportunity to tell the court why you think you shouldn't pay at the hearing.
If you lose, you might end up having to pay court costs and your credit rating may be affected.
PARKING CHARGE NOTICE APPEAL PROCESS
As previously mentioned, a parking charge notice is issued for a parking infringement on private land. The way you handle the ticket depends on whether the firm is an Approved Operator.
The firm is an Approved Operator
By Approved Operator, we mean that the firm is a member of the British Parking Association (BPA) or International Parking Community (IPC). The private firm should have its own appeal process on the back of the ticket as well as an address to send your complaint to.
Alternatively, you can contact the company directly and treat the parking ticket like any other invoice. You can outline why you think the fine is unfair and why you're not paying it.
If this gets rejected, you can appeal to the official trade body:
- POPLA (Parking On Private Land Appeals) - for BPA members: You can appeal online or via post: POPLA, PO Box 1270, Warrington, WA4 9RL
- The Independent Appeals Service - for IPC members: You can appeal online or via post using a different set of forms
If you lose your appeal, you need to decide whether to pay or ignore the decision and do nothing - the private firm needs to take you to court to enforce the ticket.
The firm is not an Approved Operator
Technically, if the firm isn't an Approved Operator, you don't need to pay the fine at all. If you feel more comfortable, you can contact them directly explaining why you think the fine is unfair and why you're not going to pay them.
If you receive a Parking Charge Notice in the post from a non-Approved Operator, they've got your information from the DVLA and it's advisable that you reply to them.
Ultimately, the private firm needs to take you to court to enforce the ticket. If they're not a registered BPA or IPC member, it's highly unlikely they will do this.