NEVER automatically pay this type of parking ticket…

The difference between Parking and Penalty Charge Notices

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By Cai Bradley
Updated on Wednesday 20 October 2021

Penalty charge notice and parking charge notice

There are two main different types of parking tickets, Parking Charge Notices and Penalty Charge Notices.

The difference? One is an official parking fine, while the other one is simply an invoice, which you should NOT automatically pay.

Penalty Charge Notices

Penalty Charge Notices (also known as Excess Charge Notices or Fixed Penalty Notices) are official parking tickets that typically come from the police or council.

These are official fines, and they are usually issued if you have parked your car on double yellow lines, on zig-zag lines or if you’re blocking a school gate.

You can still dispute these, but you’re likely to be unsuccessful if you made any of the aforementioned parking offences, unless the signs were wrong, the traffic warden made a mistake, or your car was stolen.

Parking Charge Notices – NOT official fines

You’ve then got tickets from private parking firms called Parking Charge Notices, which disguise themselves pretty well as official parking tickets.

Do I have to pay a parking charge notice?

Despite looking like official fines, they are merely invoices as a result of what the firm deems a breach of contract. 

Private firms have no legal right to fine you, but they’ll do everything to make it seem like they can (even if that means dressing their tickets as Penalty Charge Notice wannabes).

What they can do is present you with an invoice, or notice, if they feel that you have broken the terms of the unspoken contract you agreed to when you parked on the landowner’s property (whether it’s a supermarket, retail shop, hospital etc.).

You should never automatically pay a Parking Charge Notice from a private firm.

Always consider whether you think the invoice is fair or not first, and then decide whether you’d like to pay up or appeal it. Remember, if you do pay the parking firm, it’s far more difficult to reclaim cash that you’ve parted with afterwards. If you’re considering appealing, do it before you pay!

If you genuinely feel that the invoice has been unfairly given to you, then you are completely within your rights to appeal that Parking Charge Notice.

Obviously, if you agree with the parking ticket and know you were in the wrong, then there’s no real need to appeal and you should just pay up.

Private firms that give out these Parking Charge Notices include:

  • NPC

  • Britannia Parking Group

  • Euro Car Parks

  • ParkingEye

We don’t know whether these firms give out fair or unfair tickets, we’re just giving you a few examples of the private parking firms in the UK so that you know where you stand. It’s up to you to decide whether you think the ticket is fair or not.

How does it work? What’s the law?

If you enter and park on a privately owned car park – whether it’s a supermarket or hospital – you essentially agree to an unspoken contract between you and the landowner.

The landowner lets you park on their land and, in return, you agree to meet the requirements of their parking policy, for example, paying £2.50 for two hours or staying no longer than four hours.

The standard procedure is for you to pay to park within your rights and leave without any issue.

But if you do not abide by the terms of the agreement, either by staying for longer than you’ve paid for, parking outside a designated parking area, parking in a reserved area or whatever it may be, the landowner is  able to argue that you have broken the contract and could therefore issue you with a parking ticket (or invoice).

They’re allowed to do this – it’s totally within their rights as a landowner. But, it doesn’t mean that they are able to distribute unfair tickets to make money.

You are able to dispute and appeal any unfair parking tickets, and there are many services out there to help you with the process.

The importance of evidence

If you feel you’ve been unfairly given a Parking Charge Notice and may want to appeal it, it’s important that you gather as much evidence as possible of the circumstances.

To best reflect the situation that took place, you should:

  • Take photos of unclear signs, parking bays or road markings, as well as your car’s positioning

  • Keep track of letters and correspondence from the parking company

  • Keep any receipts, tickets, etc.

  • Get witness statements from anyone that can back-up your story

How to appeal a Parking Charge Notice

Parking Charge Notices are on the rise in the UK, with firms requesting the details of over three million more drivers in 2018-19 compared with 2015-16. Don’t worry too much though, as many people that appeal to adjudicators are successful.

How you appeal depends on which type of company issues the ticket, but there are many ways you can get help, including the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Checking whether the firm is a member of an Accredited Trade Association (ATA) is a good place to start, which can be done by checking the British Parking Association site.

If it is a member of an ATA, you should then use the company’s website or write to them with your reasons for objecting the ticket. Do this before making a formal parking ticket appeal.

If you don’t make much progress through the company, you have the option of making a formal appeal to an independent appeals service. The appeal will be free and certainly worth a shot if you feel you’ve been genuinely hard done-by.

You are able to appeal through Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA) or the Independent Appeals Service, amongst many other organisations.

If you don’t pay, they’ll ultimately need to take the matter to court if they want to enforce the invoice – but don’t panic – even then, it’s not a criminal offence, just a contract dispute.

Report it to the landowner

It’s also worth reporting the matter to the landowner if you feel you’ve been unfairly given a parking ticket by the private parking firm that they employ, as many people have successfully used this method in the UK.

Whether it’s a hospital, retail shop or supermarket, it’s likely that they’ll want to protect their reputation and could cancel your parking ticket well before you reach the appeal stage.

It’s a proven method and absolutely worth trying.

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