/ Motoring

Parking fines: your questions answered

Have you ever had a Parking Charge Notice (PCN) that you felt was unfair? Do you know how to challenge or appeal it? We’ve rounded up and answered your questions.

Every month, thousands turn to Google to find answers on how to challenge or appeal a Parking Charge Notice (issued by a private company) or a Penalty Charge Notice (issued by a local authority).

But regardless of which type of fine they get, many come to Which? Conversation to air their frustrations or to seek advice.

And what’s more, we know the majority of council-issued PCN appeals are actually successful.

Which? Consumer Rights: Parking tickets

More than 8.6 million PCNs were issued in England (excluding London) and Wales for parking, bus lane contraventions and the Dartford Crossing charge in 2016/2017, according to the most recent stats from the Traffic Penalty Tribunal.

And while a miniscule 0.43% were appealed, 57% of those were successful.

That means you may want to challenge any PCN you get which you think was wrongly issued or is unfair.

Your PCN queries answered

More than three years ago we published Barry Beavis’s account of why he decided to fight a £85 PCN in court.

Mr Beavis’s gripe was with a charge issued for parking on private land at a retail park. He argued the £85 fine was not a genuine reflection on the company’s loss by his overstaying.

He may have lost in the County Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, but the post attracted more than 1100 comments from people applauding Mr Beavis’s efforts and seeking advice for their own PCN woes.

Here are some of the common complaints and reasons why you might appeal.

If you’re in Scotland or Northern Ireland, the rules are a little different so you’ll need to look up your local rules for appealing.

‘I paid for parking but accidentally put in the wrong registration number’

This is unfortunate and a very frustrating situation, but could have good grounds for an appeal if you can prove you paid (with your bank card statement) and a picture of your car’s actual registration.

When you pay for parking on private land, the contract is with you and the private parking company or landowner. So if you can prove you have not breached the contract on your end, your appeal may well be successful.

You can use our parking appeals tool to write a bespoke letter for free to help get you started.

But remember, challenging the ticket doesn’t extend the 14 day limit for paying a reduced charge – unless the operator agrees to extend the period, which they’re not required to do.

‘The car is mine, but I wasn’t driving it’

In cases where you receive a Parking Charge Notice from a landowner or private parking company, you can appeal the notice on the grounds that you weren’t responsible for the car when it was parked.

You can contact the company which has issued the fine and give them the full name and address of the person who was responsible for the car at the time.

Be sure to keep any emails, letters or make notes of the conversation if you opt to call. The company must cancel the parking ticket against you and send it to the other person. This is known as ‘transfer of liability’.

But if the person was a friend, family member or loved one you can opt to pay the fine instead of appealing and follow it up with them yourself.

You can also appeal a Penalty Charge Notice and a Parking Charge Notice if the car was stolen at the time the PCN was issued.

‘I bought a car and got sent a PCN for the previous owner’

In this scenario, you’re not responsible for the parking ticket and can appeal on the basis that at the time the PCN was issued, you were not the owner of the car.

Make sure you include any details you have about the previous owner, a copy of the registration certificate and evidence of when you bought the car.

‘I got a Parking Eye fine – can I challenge it?’

As with any parking ticket, you can challenge it – but whether you’re successful will depend on whether it was justified and fair (ie you actually broke the terms and conditions of the carpark).

We understand most of the successful appeals against Parking Eye are because you were a legitimate user of the land.

Before appealing, contact the business you were using and show them evidence you were a customer.

Often they will then write to Parking Eye themselves or give you a letter you can use to appeal your ticket.

For example, if you were a genuine shopper and only overstayed a short time, you may want to provide evidence of purchases (such as receipts and bank statements) and the letter from the business you were using.

Or if you were at a hotel for a conference which over-ran, you could provide evidence of your invitation and confirmation from the host that the event ran on longer than expected.

Another avenue is inadequate signage – go back to the carpark and look for signs about time limits. Are they clear? Are they visible?

Make sure you always follow the appeals procedure set out by the private company or the council. You can find this on their website or in the correspondence they’ve sent you.

Have you had any successful PCN appeals you can share? How did you do it? Or what about any unsuccessful ones? Why did you lose? Tell us below.


Parking penalties on private land is reported here https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/07/parking-tickets-became-big-business/

8.1 million penalty charges issued and apparently 60% enforced and paid. At an average charge of, say, £60 that is an annual revenue of £300 million. Most from trivial offences, mistakes, or those bullied into paying rather than contesting.

There should be disincentives for motorists to misuse and abuse parking provided privately. It costs the owners money to provide. However, using penalties to boost profits rather than to regulate parking is wrong, in my book. And an “up to £100” penalty is wholly disproportionate.

Which? still appear to have no interest in challenging such unfair penalties. I have posted many times since the Barry Beavis case on this. It seems bizarre that when hundreds of millions of pounds are extracted from motorists in extortionate charges that many feel unable to contest, there is no campaign to challenge the practice.

Oh, and no complaint in the article about the size of such unfair excessive penalties.

The game changed completely when automatic number plate recognition systems [coupled with camera enforcement of car park entries and exits] were introduced by the parking site operators. This did away with the on-site patrols and the issue of tickets on the basis of personal observation and detailed evidence which probably had a ‘capture’ rate of 25% or less of ‘violations’. The automatic system ensures that not a single contravention, no matter how trivial, escapes enforcement. Since then, running a car park on private land has become a licence to print money.

Without the need for expensive patrols there is no longer any justification for the extortionate parking charges that are imposed routinely and indiscriminately in respect of 100% of potential cases. many of which do not get challenged so produce an income without the expense of defending the enforcement. The fact that around 40% of parking appeals to POPLA are either allowed or not contested by the operators is an indictment of the unreliability of the system. What the Article does not tell us [unless I have misread the data] is how many first challenges against parking tickets are accepted by the operators with the result that the charges are cancelled and no appeal is necessary. It is possibly not such as high a percentage as is the case with local authority enforcement where the public body is more likely to exercise discretion in the driver’s favour on compassionate grounds or in respect of a trivial contravention [as well as allowing a sensible grace period for overstaying a time restriction].

Like Malcolm, I cannot understand why Which? has shown little, if any, concern over the apparent injustice, unfair enforcement, and excessive penalties levied against consumers who, often unwittingly, get caught by the private land parking regime.

I wonder how many of the penalties could have been avoided if motorists had complied with the rules. In many other Conversations there are many posts about the need to take responsibility for your actions, for example in avoiding scams. That has not been advocated very often in this Convo.

There have been many posts about parking companies not behaving responsibly, for example failing to provide clear signage. The number of successful appeals suggests that they might be harassing motorists and perhaps the worst offenders should be warned that they must improve or lose whatever licence they hold to control parking.

Wavechange – I think in many cases where there have been no mitigating circumstances – such as absent or defective signs, unclear markings, disputes between the enforcement operator and the owner of the parking site, faulty pay machines, or patently unreasonable enforcement – we have consistently taken the line that drivers are responsible for complying with the regulations for each car park and must, with reluctance, accept the consequences [even though we agree that the financial penalties are disproportionate]. There has been little tolerance of people who have flagrantly disobeyed the rules and are hoping for an easy let-off; sometimes, such pleadings have been left unanswered for the truth often offends.

The first street parking meters I saw had flags labelled ‘Excess charge’ and ‘Penalty’, presumably allowing for different charges depending on how long the motorist had overstayed. I wonder if this sort of graded penalty system might be worthwhile implementing, John.

My preferred option would be to let people off for the first minor infringement of the rules, on the basis that we all occasionally make a mistake. That would be easy to implement for ANPR-controlled parking.

I would be in favour of graduated parking penalties according to the seriousness of the contravention and its impact on the authorised users of the space.

These could be according to days of the week [or even peak/off-peak], degree of overstay, amount of blocking of an adjacent parking space, a minor error in entering the VRM on a P&D machine, or a combination. It shouldn’t be too complex, however, as that would introduce other anomalies.

It would still be necessary for drivers to challenge a parking charge in certain circumstances [like when a car is driven into a car park and exits within five minutes having dropped off or picked up a passenger, non-display of a P&D ticket but evidence is produced of correct payment having been made at the commencement of the stay, shopping at shops on the site for which parking is provided on production of till receipts showing the date and time, parking by an authorised user in a bay other than their allocated one due to its unauthorised occupation, &c], and in situations where there is a dispute about the visibility and correctness of the signs and lines.

Overall the objective should be not to over-penalise drivers when there is little likelihood of other vehicles being prevented from parking [the Beavis judgment] although I believe the general purpose of parking enforcement being to ensure safe and orderly parking arrangements and to encourage turnover of parking spaces in areas of high demand should prevail.

My main concern is that charges for parking on private land are just too high. There are legitimate grounds for having high deterrent penalty charges for many parking contraventions on the public highway where they could impair public safety, impede public transport and emergency services, or add to congestion. I feel that, before discounts for early payment, £25 is enough for minor infringements and £50 should be the maximum for serious contraventions. Incremental escalation could be applied in the case of non-payment.

The question of a let-off for a first contravention is problematic because it needs to apply to the driver, not the vehicle. I can think of many situations where it could work unfairly if the vehicle was the trigger for the penalty. If the charges are set at a sensible level and the policy on degree of contravention is reasonable, patently fair and properly described, then I don’t see the need for any further concessions.

I cannot see any justification for a penalty to be issued “if a car is driven into a car park and exits within five minutes having dropped off or picked up a passenger”. That would be very petty. A driver needs to have the opportunity to read the terms & conditions and charges before deciding whether to stay, and to check that they have the appropriate means of paying, which differs between parks.

I would be interested to know how being let-off for a first contravention in parks monitored by ANPR might not work in any significant number of cases, since ANPR is already employed as part of the system used to issue fines and there is the possibility of making an appeal.

There are other examples of tolerance of human error. Average speed cameras are used to penalise those who are intent on speeding rather, than those who make an accidental mistake.

The example of a vehicle entering and then leaving a car park in quick succession and attracting a parking charge was taken from an actual incident I dealt with on Which? Conversation within the last year. I agree it is unacceptable but feel it illustrates the attitude of the commercial companies that run the car parks as cash cows.

In the case of the concession for a first contravention there would be a problem when the car was sold and the new owner could be unfairly denied the concession. Also, people using other vehicles could dodge parking charges by repeatedly committing ‘first contraventions’. It would be awkward in the case of hire cars. Speeding is a highway offence and the police have statutory powers to obtain the identity of the driver. Parking on private land is a civil matter and there are no such powers available to the owner or operator of the site; all they can obtain is the registered keeper details. I believe it is only the police that have the power to use the full extent of the ANPR system and get an automatic identity check of the owner; authorised parking operators can, when in possession of the vehicle number and description, apply to the DVLA for keeper details for which a fee is payable.

In dealing with parking issues I think there needs to remain a clear distinction between the way in which enforcement and penalty charging is handled in respect of the public highway and how parking charges are dealt with on private land. I don’t trust all the private companies who have figured in these Conversations to exercise any discretion in a fair and consistent way and give the driver the benefit of any doubt.

It would be interesting to know how many people are charged if they have stayed in a car park for a matter of minutes. I have done this numerous times when in towns that I am not familiar with and have never received a penalty. It would be an unfair contract term in my view and something that should be tackled.

Thanks for explaining possible problems of letting drivers off with a first infringement. I had thought of the problem with hire cars, but these cause problems anyway. Even if disregarding the first offence was limited to a particular car park or those operated by the same company in a town, I believe that there is benefit to exercising a little tolerance – applied in a consistent way.