/ 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.

teanel johns says:
4 September 2020

can you be charged for entering a car park for 14 minutes, when you were trying to download the car park app (which would not download on my phone).

I think that will depend on the displayed terms and conditions of parking. If you park in any car park, that can be taken as evidence of your tacit agreement to those terms. Hence it is always worth trying to read and understand the conditions.

Needless to say, I like free car parks the best.

I expect so, but hopefully the charge would be waived if you explained the reason to the company.

Derek – Free is best but you still have to comply with the rules. The only time I was fined was when the free period was reduced from three to two hours. 🙁

The problem is anyone could use this excuse for parking without paying. How do you separate genuine complainants from the chancers. The app should perhaps have been downloaded before parking? Was their no other means to pay?

As I have suggested before, the first offence could be ignored. This is easy when data is stored on a computer.

Every time you visit a car park you haven’t visited before you could avoid payment and claim it as a first offence? So a new shopping destination, on holiday, a first time at a hospital, railway station……. Seems just open to abuse.

The vast majority of people comply with car park requirement.

Mistakes regrettably, are penalised. I believe a major cause of dissatisfaction is not being caught but the extortionate charades made when you are. These should be capped at a much more acceptable level, reflecting the relatively trivial nature of most offences; depriving the parking company of 50p or even a couple of quid does not merit £40 to £60 penalty, doubled if you are not careful, or depriving another potential Parker of a space for a few minutes or so.

The first thing I’d be campaigning for would be to legally cap parking penalties that create an income of around £1.5 billion a year. Hardly peanuts. But there seems to be no interest in dealing with this consumer detriment. Too much work involved?

For “charades” please read “charges”. Why does my iPad do this to me!? ( I should proof read more carefully but don’t expect some of these substitutions).

As I have said previously I suggest ignoring the first offence for minor transgressions – such as the one described by teanel johns.

The main purpose of control of parking is to make best use of a limited resource. I doubt that ignoring the odd minor offence would cause a problem. A substantial number of appeals are successful, showing the need for overhaul of parking control and enforcement. The use of wheel clamps was banned because some operators could not be relied on to use them sensibly.

Jayne says:
7 September 2020

I had a fine sent for parking on a retail park firstly I entered my reg in the store i was shopping at and the computer said I had validated my parking…. I parked there regularly and always have done the same and only one fine I couldn’t have got the reg wrong as it picks it up if the car with that reg isn’t in the car park, it was close to closing and only a handful of cars there so massively unlikely I entered a reg of a car there that wasn’t my own!!!! ….. secondly the fine arrived 7 weeks and 1 day after the date they said the offence occurred on line I have read they have to issue it in 14 days??? I want to argue as I’m flat broke after Covid meaning I haven’t worked for 6 mths and I can’t afford it when I didn’t do anything wrong! Need advice on how to tackle it

Jayne – I would suggest you start with this Which? guide on how to challenge a parking fine –

I hope the store computer will still have a record of your reg number entry. Worth asking them.

I was issued a PCN for parking in a bay outside a store in a retail park. It turns out a large section was not owned by the store, and that the landlord was issuing tickets to unsuspecting customers.

The terms of the contract on the sign were in very small print, so not easy to read. Also they state that just being in the bay was breach of the terms and liable to £100 charge.

In your opinion – Are these contract terms fair and reasonable? Also as the wording was hard to read – would I have grounds for challenge if I go to court?

I have received a charge notice for not paying paying for parking – I was in the car park for less than 10 minutes but more than the minimum 5 minutes. I was in an unfamiliar area and needed to stop to work out where i was in relation to where i wanted to be. I considered parking but was put off by drunks and other anti social behaviour – this seems very unfair

Hi Susie, I think if you stayed longer than the minimum threshold time, you shoud have paid for your parking.

That said, I agree that, under your circumstances, having to pay an excessive penalty is disproportionate and hence is also unfair.

I guess – but there used to be a clear 10 minute rule for ANPR sites – this doesn’t seem to be in the BPA code of practice anymore – seems to always be on the side of the company not the individual 😔

I believe the 10 minute grace period applies to those who have paid for parking and overrun slightly. It does not allow for 10 minutes of parking without paying.

Susie – I believe there is still a tolerance for people overstaying their paid-for parking time but I don’t think there has ever been much of a grace period for buying a pay-&-display ticket, just the time it actually takes to get to the machine and back. If the vehicle is staying in the car park and payment has been made within a reasonable time [allowing for any operational delays] no parking charge should be issued. Parking and leaving without paying was the contravention in your case.

The introduction of automatic parking enforcement without an operative patrolling unfortunately means that public nuisances and misbehaviour go undetected and presumably the CCTV cameras are either not positioned to capture any incidents or the images are not being monitored. In return for what are sometimes quite high rates for parking and substantial charges for contraventions, the public are entitled to expect some security and supervision in my opinion.

I read a BPA code of conduct where it referred specifically to ANPR sites and a clear 10 minutes to make a decision about parking/buying a ticket – this appears to have been replaced with a minimum of 5 minutes – of course there is no maximum limit noted. I was in a strange place trying to work out how far I was from where I wanted to be – I have never been to Margate before! If it was clear on the signage/terms and conditions on the sign that you must pay within 5 minutes I would have done so. It is legalised robbery I fear

I have been issued a really unfair fine – when unsuspectingly entering a private car park – I was caught on CTV turning into the car park when it was logged – there was a 10 minute limit to buy a ticket but it was very busy and heavily raining – by the time I parked, went to the loo and queued for the meter it was more than 10 mins – I had no cash so had to pay online for 24 hours at £10.20 – I had paid but then was sent a £60 fine – I appealed and complained to IPC but it was rejected – there was no sign on entry when the car was recorded.

With the best will in the world I could not have parked in 10 minutes and paid at the meter- where the sign was.

– I am now being sent bullying letters to pay £100 or be taken to court – my instinct is to ignore it and go to court as it is wholly injust – but don’t feel my rights are protected or the rights of unsuspecting tourists.

This behaviour is predatory – I feel robbed.

Simon Holmes says:
11 September 2020

Hi, I received a PCN because I entered my reg number incorrectly. I appealed and the landowners acknowledged that although from the CCTV and data records they can see I paid the correct fee for the time I stayed in the car park, I am still liable for the PCN. They have offered to let me pay £20 instead of the full £60. Should I pay up or is it worth contesting the reduced £20 fine?

Simon – I think that is the most reasonable response I have seen in these columns to a challenge to the PCN over a keying-in mistake so I would accept the offer and get it over with.

Unfortunately it is an absolute contravention and usually enforced without remission; the parking charge is out of all proportion to the seriousness of the error. Which? has been pressed many times to campaign and make representations to government over the inequities of parking enforcement on private property but takes no notice. Not a ‘consumer issue’ presumably, unlike rescuing delinquent airlines and travel operators.

I suggest pushing for the charge to be dropped if it has been acknowledged that you have paid.

Anyone can make a minor error such as a wrong character and there was probably no opportunity to put your registration in twice, which would be offered if the system was better designed.

Simon, the BPA was introducing new rules for its members. For a minor registration mistake (say one incorrect digit) the penalty should be cancelled when challenged. For 2 digits it should be £20.

Thanks for that reference, Malcolm. I had a vague recollection that something along those lines was in the offing but could not remember the details. I was not aware of “an anticipated country-wide code being introduced by the Government” that was mentioned in the article. I wonder whether Which? will have an opportunity of commenting on the proposal [and will take it].

Let’s hope people will challenge any PCN’s issued for minor errors and not just pay up. In that respect it would be useful if all BPA members would display a prominent “BPA Member” sign at the entrance to the car parks they operate and also adjacent to any pay-&-display machines and wherever regulations are displayed. I would suggest that should also be printed on any ticket supplied and parking charge notice issued. The BPA website lists all its corporate members and gives their website address in most cases.

I am pleased that the two major operators of the car parks in our area [Norwich City Council and Norwich Traffic Control Limited] are registered members of the BPA and thereby bound by the code of practice. Parking Eye, which has featured frequently in these Conversations, appears to be out of alphabetical order because it is listed as ParkingEye Ltd.

kevin blackburn says:
14 September 2020

I recieved a Parking charge notice because the machine i put my car reg number in said payment of £2.30 was due which is for one hour although i had actually been about one and a half hours..I was obviously willing and expecting to pay for two hours but obviously the machine was faulty and only charged me for the one hour.The other of the two machines was not working at all…I have appealed my £100 parking charge because the short payment was not my fault…Luckily i still have the reciept from the machine which obviously has my car reg number,my £2.30 payment amount but the ticket states arrival time 9:35,departure time 9:36 which again is totally wrong…Any advise would be much appreciated..I am incedently waiting for a reply from MINSTER BAYWATCH to my appeal…

I received a parking charge notice to my vehicle because according to them – My car was parked in a manner whereby I become liable for a parking charge despite of paying the parking fees. I parked my car in the right bay and despite of having a parking inspector arounnd no objection was raised.
The photo I received of my car is clearly titled.
I need to file an appeal – any advice would be appreciated!

Hi Roo, are you paid for the time that you used but were then caught on some other rule breach?

If so, it may be easier to advise you if you can let us know what specific transgression you have been reported for.

In general, parking operators can be very picky about these rules. However, there can be grounds for appeal if the rules were not clear and obvious when you parked.

I received a parking fine in the post from London Parking Solutions. They took photographs of my car and said I had parked there for 5 minutes and the area was a loading bay. I disputed and appealed and they haven’t come back to me yet and its been 20 days. I was fined unfairly as the disputed area was in the middle of 2 buildings. I was driving to the other building where my brother lives to drop off his stuff. The car was always on motion. Never stopped in the area. They took the pictures of a moving car and said i parked there for 5 minutes. The first picture shows the front of the care and the last picture shows the back of the car. Other pictures show the car was approaching and leaving the spot. That is the only way to get in to my brother’s building which is way yo their parking lot of around 20 cars. I received the fine from the other building’s parking operator.
The parking company has a premium rate phone number only. I feel like it is a con and they just wasted my time.

Please advise.

Mark Oscroft says:
18 September 2020

I received a parking charge notice, private company, there was no ticket on my car. I received the PCN in the post on 18/09/2020, the ticket was issued on 16/09/2020. The alleged offence was on 31/07/2020. I no longer have my receipt, do I have to pay as it has taken 47 days for the PCN to be issued?

Dave Allen says:
19 September 2020

A case has been seen in court for private car park charges and upheld by a judge. If a sign advises on a charge you are expected 2 have seen it and entered into a contract based on the information given. When challenged in court by the offender, the court threw his unfair claim out and he had to pay.


for one previously featured here.

I have been issued with 7 separate parking notices (£100 each) from the company who manage the private parking at my home address. When I bought the flat 4 years ago, there was NO parking supervision. My car, with the parking permit inside it on the windshield, was stolen in January and written off. I did not get any of the contents returned to me. The estate management company has not issued me with a replacement permit despite me emailing them. I now have threatening letters from the parking company. I also live in dread that every morning I may have yet another ticket. The car park at my home is gated, code entry or fob. What can I do?

Francis Heyes says:
25 September 2020

I have just had a parking charge letter issued. I went to the parking meter and entered my registration number and the machine showed that I had to pay 0.40 p which I paid, the machine did not issue a ticket, it appeared at the time that numerous people were having problems with the machine, I actually thought it was a bit cheap but still paid. this was at Berry head Brixham, we have appealed and they have told us that there is no record of our car registration or any payment. What can i do now.

As others seem to have had the same problem and will, presumably, have received the same parking charge letter, the car park operator should void the charge. If they refuse you can challenge them to demonstrate that no one else had a similar problem.

It is cheap. I see that it is now a pay on exit car park – 40p for 20 minutes. Are you sure there was not confusion about when you should pay? Presumably if you pay on arrival the anpr would calculate your stay is less than 20 minutes and charge the 40p minimum? Just a thought. https://www.guardhousecafe.com/new-parking-system-berry-head/

It might also be worth contacting the cafe to find out if they know of others who had problems on the same day.

I have received 2 parking fines from a private car parking firm, Total Car Parks , because i parked but did not pay the parking fee until much later.
I was parking outside my place of work and then paying online once i got into my workplace.
Unfortunately, i got caught up with some urgent work, forgot about the parking charge and so did not make the online booking for several hours – and just to be clear – payment was made when i was about to leave the car park
So i have been issued with a parking fine tho the payment was made and covered a period ending at midnight, long after i had left the car park.
I ignored the initial demand and now have letters from a debt recovery company demanding payment.
Original parking charge was £3.90
Penalty payment £160.00

Should a fine apply
Unreasonable and excessive charge?

Any advice or comments?

Hi Ess Tee – You can appeal and explain the circumstances and that the fee has been paid, albeit late. If you regularly park there you can point out that this is the first time you have made a mistake. You have not helped your case by ignoring not only the initial demand but the first letter from the debt recovery company. Best of luck.

You will rely on goodwill to have the charge cancelled as you contravened the regulations, however valid the reason.

We regularly see posts from people aggrieved at being penalised and, I suspect, mainly because of the size of the penalty. Charging you £60 because you didn’t pay £3.90 is legalised extortion. Yet no organisation seems to think this is something that should be tackled so the extortion goes on, bringing in around £1.5 billion ( thousand million) a year – far more than online fraud and affecting far more people.

Time – one day – this was dealt with.

michael winters says:
28 September 2020

i received a parking fine over 3 years of the offence,is this not statue barred after this length of time.got a county court letter through the post this morning

christian says:
2 October 2020

6 months I think

Claire says:
1 October 2020

A warning light came on in my car so I turned into a Smart Parking carpark to quickly consult my handbook. I was apparently there for 11 minutes and did not get out of the car. I have now received a £100 fine reduced to £60 if paid within 28 days. Can I appeal?

Claire – You can, but you will lose the discount if your appeal is not upheld. The parking charge is extortionate but you did occupy a space in the car park, albeit for a short period and for a sensible reason.

I do not think there are grounds for a formal appeal as you parked without paying, whatever the reason. You may get something by way of goodwill if you explain the circumstances.

Don’t you think the real appeal should be to abolish the extortionate charges for relatively trivial transgressions? £60 for 11 minutes illicit parking? How do you think this should be pursued? Which? have declared they are not interested in getting a sensible limit place legally on car parking penalties that cost motorists £1, 500, 000, 000 a year, apparently.

Hi Claire – In your position I would make an appeal, especially if you can provide any evidence of taking the car to a garage (e.g. receipt or credit card statement) soon after the event took place.

I would like to see parking companies waive charges for minor infringements unless there is evidence of other infringements. Automatic number plate recognition at many car parks operated by the same company and computer records should help distinguish between those who deserve to be fined and people like yourself.

scott says:
3 October 2020

hi i recieved a parking fine for £160 for parking for 5 min in pub car park from debt recovery plus should i pay this as i never recieved a first letter sounds dodgey to me

Eileen Swindon says:
3 October 2020

I have just recieved a debt recovery letter for £160 for an insufficient time limit in a car park. I have never had an original parking ticket and am mistified by this letter. whilst i am happy to pay an original ticket do i have to pay an extortionate £160 for a £1 ticket ?

Dimitris says:
3 October 2020

I have been issued with 9 parking tickets while I was away and out of the country within a period of 5 weeks or so. When I returned i challenged all of them but The council insists that the issuing CEO could see the expiry date. Now, I have two issues with it:

One is the expiry date which has faded out because of the sun and its almost practically impossible to see the date.

The second is, the council refusing to send out reminder to the residents and expects from us to remember the renewal date.

I have challenged all the parking tickets and the council insists that I should pay regardless of any of the above issues.

Do I have a case here?

Many thanks

In addition to the above, the council has been caught out once again regarding the faded expiry dates and in the end the cancelled the parking ticket so after the case got published on the local newspaper.

Berta76 says:
3 October 2020

I have received a parking ticket by the DRP for insufficient paid time. This is the first letter that I have received and the claim was for 47 days ago.
However the letter stated that I have not received the original discount for failure to respond soon, but have not received a previous letter at all. They are now attempting to charge me £170.
What is my best course of action here?
I believe I may have stayed around 4 minutes after the ticket time. I am willing to maybe pay the cost of the discounted ticket.

The problem is that no proof of delivery is required when a parking penalty is delivered by post so it is hard to dispute. The parking code requires car park operators to allow a 10 minute grace period after the paid for time has expired.

What is your best course of action? Check how much extra time you stayed – that should be on the penalty ticket. Point out you never received the first payment request.

Finally, contact Which? and ask them to campaign for sensible parking penalties, not the legalised extortion that currently exists. If enough people who complain about parking penalties in Convos bothered to also contact Which? direct they might sit up and think about taking some action. 🙂