/ 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.

Janice Fitzpatrick says:
17 February 2020

I was fined for parking over the lines and partly in the next bay I was literally running into argos I must have been a maximum 10 minuets away from my car and there was no other cars in sight I was fined £60 for parking somewhere where there is no charge to park

Janice, sorry to hear that.

I agree that £60 is a lot to be fined for such a minor violation in an otherwise empty section of a car park.

In fact, it is not far short of the £100 fixed penalty that applies to traffic offences like speeding.

It’s high time these companies were Licenced & Parking Notices & Schemes were standardised covering signage ligibility & location, legal text & size, position, & colouring, but of course this would drastically reduce revenues for today’s profligate Highway men.
Can Which? start a Which? Campaign? They would receive overwhelming support resulting in another success for Which? & common decency.
These companies should also be made to publish how all employees are remunerated including commissions, bonuses & incentives.
Meanwhile High Streets, & businesses, up & down the land become withering barren areas as ‘net shopping, rates & parking disincentives increase.
What kind of Country have we become when NHS Staff are subjected to daily extortion?

I got a PCN months after I tolok my kids trampolining near Lakeside. I tried to ignore mine as I had received the ticket over 3
months after the alleged
And the double yellow lines were almost too feint to see. I got debt chaser letters and then solicitors letters and was too late to appeal. In the end I recently caved in and it cost me £175. I feel thoroughly ripped off.

Was the contravention on the public highway or on private land, Alan?

Sandra says:
22 February 2020

I was given a ticket at a shopping centre having been shopping and then having a meal at the on site restaurant. Having exceeded the 3 hour limit, which was clearly stated, but I had not “ absorbed”, I was given a parking charge. I contacted the landlord of the car park, a land company, to complain that it was impossible to shop and have a meal within 3 hours. Having rented retail and restaurant space they were restricting customer use of the facilities on site which was very unfair to the retailers. I was told that I could have obtained proof of my expenditure and be allowed to stay in excess of the 3 hours stated on the Parking Notices displayed. Following the receipt of that information I visited a number of shops and the restaurant and none of them were aware of this information. I have it on e.mail from the land company.
The additional information is not displayed and as such I am presuming tat the parking company is fining a lot of motorists who are genuine shoppers. They have never contacted me again.

Sandra, thanks for sharing that. It is good to see some consumers wins in this conversation.

Many appeals against parking charges are successful and here is new advice from Which? to encourage us to appeal against inappropriate charges:

“One in four parking ticket appeals uncontested – five tips to make your appeal a success”

Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2020/02/appeal-a-parking-ticket/ – Which?

The new guidance is useful but does not resolve the overall situation of parking penalties for private land contraventions being excessive.

One of the problems is that some car park operators do not comply with the BPA guidance. From the evidence reported here over recent years, it is impossible to reason with some companies, or they do not respond to correspondence or telephone calls, and will not reduce charges insisting on either full payment or legal action.

The appeals process appears to be too unpredictable: it is impossible to know how consistent the rulings of POPLA are or which appeals will be allowed or not pursued, so it is a game of chance and many drivers just accept the penalty and put it down to experience.

We should remember that the private parking industry is there to make money out of motorists.

The last sentence sums it up – but public authorities also do the same. Between them they make £1.5 billion a year out of penalties.

We will not tackle this by appeals; many “contraventions” are correctly penalised. My problem, as you know, is that I consider the penalty imposed far outweighs the gravity of the offence. We see many posts here where people admit transgressing but appeal, probably because of the extortionate penalty. Reduce that to a sensible amount – £20 perhaps – and we might see a lot fewer aggrieved motorists (or not quite as aggrieved).

Hi Malcolm and John

I understand the frustration you both feel at the attitude of the parking companies and the level of charges, which can reasonably be viewed as excessive.

However, the level of charges do have legitimacy as a result of the decision in ParkingEye Limited v. Beavis [2015] UKSC 67, in which the Supreme Court decided that the imposition of a charge of £85 in that case was not a penalty (which would have been illegal) because parking companies had a legitimate interest in imposing charges that went beyond what could have been recovered in damages at common law (which would have been the contract price for the period that Mr Beavis overstayed).

The rationale was that the legitimate interest was ensuring that the parking spaces were able to be freed up for use by other members of the public and to deter against overstaying.

As such, unfortunately this has the knock-on effect of parking companies taking a very hard line approach, particularly (although in my experience, not exclusively) in whether they are prepared to reduce charges. Ultimately, my view is that reform in this area would have to come from Parliament before we see any dramatic changes, particularly with respect to the level of charges.

Best wishes,


(This information is provided by Which? Legal. To join call 01174 054 854 or visit Which? Legal to find out more.)

@james-attew, thanks James. I’m aware of the Supreme Court ruling. whether it is relevant I believe Beavis deliberately contravened the parking regulations; I doubt that helped his case.

However, my view is that these charges are excessive considering the gravity of the offence and I believe are unfair to consumers. As such, I think we should be campaigning to have them regulated to a more acceptable level.

I do not disagree that it requires Parliament to deal with this and have expected that Which? might have taken up this cause on behalf of consumers. It is clear it is a cause of great concern.

Thank you for your response, James. I agree with Malcolm.

The dynamics of parking enforcement on private land have changed substantially in the recent past and seriously upset the equilibrium between contraventions and penalties.

Automatic remote-controlled enforcement and PCN issue have tilted the balance heavily against the driver and in favour of the enforcement companies. Minor infractions that cause no detriment to the land owner or operator or to other car park users are now enforced to the second with charges that bear no relation to the factors held by the Supreme Court to be the rationale of its decision. On a different case the Court might come to a different opinion. It is good that the BPA has responded to the complaints about this with fresh guidance, but will it lead to an actual recalibration of the enforcement parameters by the operators? Probably not, so it remains for the driver to have to appeal and ask for the recommended tolerance or ‘leniency’ to be exercised.

As Malcolm says, local authorities are also making a huge amount of money out of parking enforcement but at least they have a statutory duty to fulfil, exercise their enforcement procedures in a more responsible and transparent manner, and probably issue millions more tickets than the private land operators so the amount of money raised is not comparable in either value or scale. Their actions are publicly accountable and any surpluses have to be spent on highways and public transport improvements.

Here is a notice at a recently opened Lidl store. It’s out of town and seems to have an adequate car park, though I have not been there on a Saturday morning:

It would be better if the time limit was quoted as “1hr 30 mins” or “90 mins”, but there are actually two separate limits under enforcement: the primary one being the time limit and the other one being the “Lidl customer” limit. So it would appear to be possible to get two separate parking charges if a driver overstayed the permitted period and had not entered the store. I trust that is not the company’s intention.

It might well be argued that if you are not a Lidl customer the 1.5h limit does not apply – and you can park as long as you like, unless other regulations are displayed. 🙁

I think most people would assume that non-customers would not benefit from free parking, Malcolm. 🙂

I would like to think the store would have a member of staff checking the car park at busy times and putting a brightly coloured notice under the wiper warning the driver that their details had been recorded and they would receive a penalty if they overstayed again. That would make sense, but I assume that the current signs are temporary and will be replaced by the usual type when cameras have been installed. 🙁

err…..I assume that too 🙁 However, I was musing on the legal interpretation. We see how legal eagles get celebrities off the hook – if they pay a fee.

🙂 I hope that celebrities are excluded from membership of Which? Legal.

Do I count as a Lidl customer if I just pop in to have a look in the store and don’t buy anything, or just to take photos of their parking signs? 🙂

Our local Lidl has free parking for customers.

The entrance says customer parking only, small print you can’t see when driving:
– Terms & conditions apply see notices for details.

The conditions on another sign say:
– Customer parking only (in big letters)
Then harder to read:
– You must enter your complete vehicle registration number using the terminal in-store
– A charge of £90 applies to non-Lidl customers and drivers who breach any of the other terms of parking.

All the info is there, but you could easily not see the second sign with the conditions.

I wonder if someone who popped in to look at the weekly hardware offers and found nothing of interest would constitute a non-Lidl customer. I would rather not find out.

I think you have to get a member of staff to endorse your visit if you don’t buy anything. I got stung for I think £60 when the scheme started and I didn’t notice, so I rarely go in there any more and if I do, I walk from another car park.

John mentions the condition of being a customer to use a car park. I wonder what happens if you park in shop’s car park and then visit a nearby shop. I regularly visit a town where there is a Sainbury’s store and a Lidl store next to each other. Both have small car parks that are not really adequate. Neither shop is large and it is likely that customers will want to leave their car and pop into the adjacent store. I presume that anyone who does this would risk a charge, even if they have made a purchase in the first shop they visited. I would not take the risk.

I don’t think there’s a hard and fast rule on this @wavechange apart from check the terms and conditions of the parking lot and lot operator.

A few of the local supermarkets will give you a set amount of time for free parking, regardless of where you shop. Equally, there’s a nearby garden centre which will require you to purchase something to use their car park, as the exit barrier won’t open unless you have a receipt (worth noting that some have attempted the brute force method of bypassing this as well).

On the more extreme end is a situation like when Joe Lycett discovered in attempting to park at a McDonalds and venture to a neighbouring Starbucks (starts at about 04:00).

Thanks Jon. If I manage to overcome the DRM issue I will watch the programme.

If companies are going to impose terms and conditions they really should make them clear, otherwise the consumer should be given the benefit of the doubt.

One thing to watch out for is changes in terms and conditions. Some years ago I learned that a car park I used quite recently now required users to remain on site. I only became aware of this when a friend of a friend received a PCN.

I’m surprised that it is legal for a retailer to force anyone to make a purchase. Imagine what would happen if someone had simply forgotten their wallet or arrived just before closing time. That seems like an unfair contract term.

Visiting the store is enough; you can visit a store without making a purchase. Some use surveillance to look for parkers who disappear elsewhere and return without entering the host store. They are entitled to be penalised.

I used to park in a Lidl car park and pop across to my bank, which did not have its own car park. I would go into the store to buy a bottle of milk or some sanding disks, but put them back if there was a long queue. There was no indication on the notices that I had to be a customer or stay on site, and at the time I visited I was not depriving anyone of a space.

Jon has given us an example of a garden centre that requires customers to make a purchase.

@jon-stricklin-coutinho Jon – At the second attempt I managed to watch the programme about the McDonalds and Starbucks car park at Stansted Airport that is in fact two car parks. I wonder how many customers MET Parking have tricked into paying parking charges.

This crazy carry on has been going on for some time: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/nov/10/parking-fine-starbucks-mcdonalds-stansted-southgate-park

Hi I have just been issued a parking charge notice from a company who are not on any official site.
The name is CAREPARKING. What can I do.

Hi Vincent – This looks like the website for Care Parking: https://www.careparking.co.uk

I have found many of the Parking Tickets are not in compliance with the BPA Code of Practice and IPC. 10 minute grace period is not applied and tickets often does not print registration number correctly such has only half the registration is missing from the tickets purchased. Also the terms and conditions are either not not at the paying meter or in poor light where the consumer barely read the information. There is no law that says you have to appeal on their parking company website. Also parking companies show a photograph of the contravened vehicle instead of showing when the vehicle entered the car park and when it left together with the purchased tickets. Parking companies only give you half the information. BPA & IPC say they carry out audit checks its surprising how many signs were incorrectly positioned and poorly light.
I often find the consumer has served with a notice 8 weeks after the alleged parking breach. Protections of Freedoms Act 2012 Schedule 4 make it clear none compliance with the schedule makes the parking fine unenforceable there are strict timetables and supporting information must be clear concise.

Garry white says:
25 February 2020

I received a parking eye fine through the post 20/02/20 but the offence was nearly 6 months ago what should i do

Hi Garry,

I’m sorry to hear about the fine you have received from Parking Eye.

In this situation you could have a legal defence that makes the ticket invalid. If they are intending to pursue you as the registered keeper of the car then they must serve a notice on you within 14 days of the alleged contravention. If you are the registered keeper and no ticket was left on your car when you left the car park then I would advise you to appeal.

However, if you are not the registered keeper of the car, or if your address on the DVLA database changed in the last 6 months, then there may be added complications.

If you want further advice about this then please do get in touch with us.

This information is provided by Which? Legal. To join call 01174 054 854 or visit Which? Legal to find out more.

Thomas Holloway

Legal Adviser

I have PCN through an ANPR system but the pay machine dis not tell me how long i had parked for and what to pay, so i paid what i thought which was wrong and recieved a PCN. I have lost both appeals and really dont know what to do now. Any advice.

I recieved a 2 PCN through an ANPR system at a hospital but the pay machine did not show my car or the time i had been their so i paid what i thought i had both days. But recieved a PCN because i had paid under the time. I have appealled twice and lost twice. I dont know what to do now. As i paid for an hour (i was not time keeping because i was seeing my ill baby) but they said was there for 3 hours. I dont know what to do now. Anyone help.

Has anyone successfully challenged a PCN for a visitors permit not being on display… It genuinely blew off the dash and I got a ticket… I’ve appealed but they have turned it down.

I parked behind cook & indis on paisley road as desperately needed toilet & was too far from destination . I assumed this was there car park as it is a restaurant . The que waiting on waiter to take them to table was lengthy & so run across road into a Burger King to use their toilet.
I have now been Given a Parking Charge Notice by
Civil Enforcement LTD
The stay was 18 mins in total .
I did not notice firstly that this was even a separate car park ,nor did I obstruct anything or anyone & in top of that it was pitch black .is this legal ?

It will depend on what the signs [if any] say.

Some sort of permission is required for any parking on private property so there should either have been No Parking signs and an explanation of what action could ensue if you contravene, or a sign giving permission to park but indicating the terms and conditions.

If there are no such indications I think you should challenge the parking ticket.

Hi i have recieved a pcn notice for the car i am the registered keeper of being parked in a no parking area infront of a building site entrance at 10:45pm on a saturday. It is a shared family car & the other driver lives in a different country, am i liable to pay the £100 or can i appeal & pass on the details of the other driver?

Thanks for that, im not sure how they will even go about contacting the driver abroad or if they will even bother? I guess we can wait & see what comes of it & i will try update here when i get a reply.

I believe this is a problem for car hire companies who may receive parking tickets after customers have gone or left the country. Fingers crossed and you might hear no more.

I recently received a parking notice for staying 20 minutes over the 3 hour limit at a retail park. I had not seen the signs until a got back to the car but thought I had not been too much over. I have receipts for spending and stopped for lunch in a cafe on site. I am appealing as one of the retail stores said they would back me. It will be interesting to see what happens or if anyone else has had a similar experience.

Hello, recently I went to a Vikings hotel Romford road to pick my friend as they came from abroad and stayed there. that day they check out and went there. when I was there they weren’t in the hotel they are in the bus to coming hotel I waited around 10 to 15 minits. after that they came and we left. it happened on 22/02/2020, I received a letter after 7days about penalty notice. they said if paid within 14 days then £60 pound or within 28 days £100. so can I do something about this?

Thank you

Yes, you can challenge the parking charge notice if you think it should not have been issued. The instructions for challenging the notice should be in the documentation you have received. Without knowing all the detailed circumstances it is impossible to give more guidance.

The article at the top of this Conversation might contain some relevant information to help you. You can click on the links printed in red for additional details and access to Which?’s parking appeals tool.

Hi Jasmin,

On Google maps, I can see there is a sign at the entrance that says Permint Holders Only , See car park signs for terms & conditions, PRIVATE LAND

Their website says Free Parking so visitors probably need to register their vehicles at reception.

You could try appealing nicely to the hotel and ask them to cancel the penalty notice. Explain that you were only there to pick up one of their guests who was late, so wasn’t expecting to wait in their car park. Did you speak to reception and they didn’t tell you to register your car? If so, mention it.

got a parking charge notice when parked in a council car park I paid the correct money and got a ticket i returned at the correct time and there was a penalty notice on my screen my ticket had blown over in high winds it was in the correct position but upside down the parking fine said ticket incorrectly shown it looks as if i will lose an appeal but have tried by sending photographs and explanation probably wasting my time but will try

There is no harm in trying but if the printed details were not visible you are unlikely to have success with the appeal. If a little intelligence was applied, this sort of penalty could be cancelled on production of evidence of payment unless someone was a serial offender in car parks operated by the council.

Lynam Grubb says:
5 March 2020

I have had the same situation. But because my ticket was valid the charge was withdrawn. They told me that they had initially brought the charge as they were unable to verify i had paid for parking at the time the officer looked at my car. On presentation of the valid ticket and an explanation the ticket had blown over when i shut the door they accepted the evidence and with drew the charge. All the best

Paul D says:
2 March 2020

Paid up for a parking ticket locally in my area for a Car which was a visitors permit as car was temp.
No notification was provided after payment. I received nothing.
So after some investigation online I note many car parks operate electronically upon payment.
Received ticket, called council, they told me my tickets unlike main permits, visitors permits are dispatched in the post!!
Refused to pay wanting legal process. but from TE3 doesn’t seemingly give me any room to challenge this scenario.

Lynam Grubb says:
4 March 2020

Hi, I received a PCN for stopping on a no stopping zone, Bristol Airport, at 22:30, so in the dark. There was signage and red lines on the road!
My intention was not to stop but to perform a three point turn. The mobile camera vehicle came behind me, I was unaware what the vehicle was at the time, and waited on the left hand side until I thought it was safe to turn. In that 20 second window the mobile camera vehicle took picture of my car, hense the PCN.
My question is, even in a no stopping zone, is there a reasonable amount of time when you can hesitate before moving in such a zone? Do I have grounds to appeal or is being stopped against the stopping zone rules, even for seconds?