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How to know if you HAVE to pay for a parking ticket – your rights explained

Don't be tricked into thinking you must cough up the cash without a fight

Do you know what the difference is between a Penalty Charge Notice and a Parking Charge Notice?

Well, one is much easier to fight and knowing your rights could help you save hundreds of pounds.

Penalty Charge Notices are only issued by an official body like a council or police force.

These bodies are granted powers by legislation passed by Parliament and cover various parking misdemeanours.

These include breaching the terms and conditions of parking in council-controlled car parks and parking spaces.

But private companies have no such powers, The Birmingham Mail reports.

Instead, they try to trick drivers into thinking the penalty notices are the same in a bid to force people to cough up the cash.

Companies can do this in a variety of ways - and they usually try to make their notices look as official as possible.

But, thankfully, they are easy to fight.

Speaking on This Morning earlier this year, Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert.com explained where you stand when appealing the notices.

He said: "They do better impressions than Alistair McGowan to make you think it's the same council or police type ticket. It's very difficult to tell the difference."

He goes on to explain that tickets from private companies are not fines and just invoices - but they are enforceable under contractual law.

The main crux of his argument seems to be that most companies will not take drivers to court over the fines, so they are therefore easier to get out of.

He added: "They are saying that they believe you owe them money - you may agree, you may disagree."

He said you can therefore ignore it, contest it by letter, appeal through the firm's own system or take the matter to court.

With council tickets - or tickets from official bodies - they can be appealed through an informal appeal, formal appeal or an independent tribunal - but it is less likely you will be successful.

How to contest a Parking Charge Notice?

Simply respond that you are refusing to pay.

DON'T say you are appealing the ticket, as this legitimises the ticket.

Also write "Without Prejudice" on the letter – then no information in the letter can be used against you.

What happens next?

If the company rejects your dispute, then you can escalate to the firm's trade member association.

You must have an official reference number from the company and their reasons for rejecting your dispute.

They will refer you to POPLA, the Independent Tribunal for Parking Fines.

Around 40 per cent of appeals are upheld in the favour of the public.

If you wish to dispute the ticket, then you have 28 days in which to dispute after the firm that issued the ticket has rejected your appeal.

I've been issued a Penalty Charge Notice - what should I do now?

If you have received a parking ticket, the person who issued it has determined that you have parked your car somewhere you’re not allowed to.

Firstly, you should work out if it's from the council, or a private company (these tend to look alike).

Once issued with a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) you will be expected to pay a penalty charge of £130 for a serious parking offence or £40-80 for a less serious offence - although this can vary by council.

You can reduce your fine by paying within 14-days.

I want to appeal my case:

If you think the PCN has been issued wrongly you must make your reasons known as soon as you can by writing to the address on the notice or getting in touch online.

Your appeal will then be reviewed and you will be made aware of the outcome.

You have 28 days to challenge a PCN.

If you do it within 14 days and your challenge is rejected, you may only have to pay 50 per cent of the fine.

If you're appealing your ticket, hold on to any photographs from the scene (e.g. unclear lines), letters you've received, mitigating circumstances and any statements if possible.

This also includes:

  • A valid pay and display ticket
  • A letter from someone who was with you saying what happened – write ‘Witness statement’ at the top of this
  • A repair note, if your car broke down

Make sure you include:

  • The date the ticket was issued
  • Your address
  • Your vehicle registration number
  • The penalty notice number

To appeal your case, you'll need to prove your innocence.

You can appeal if the traffic signs were wrong, the council has made an error on the ticket, you've already paid the fine, the signs are misleading or confusing, you didn't own the vehicle at the time or you've been overcharged.

To start your appeal online, you'll have to enter your postcode at Gov.uk's 'Challenge a parking fine' page here.

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