Car expert explains the only time ‘you can ignore’ some ‘PCNs’

Martin Lewis explains council and private company parking fines

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Returning to your car to find you have been slapped with a “PCN” is frustrating for many drivers, but there is one key stipulation which may mean you are not legally required to pay. Mat Watson is the chief content officer at CarWow, which boasts over seven million subscribers on its YouTube page. Mat, who also shares tips on Instagram with an audience of 749K followers, spoke to about some crucial “details” of PCNs which motorists should always be aware of.

“The devil is in the details with parking fines,” he explained. PCNs can easily confuse drivers, as there are two very different types of motoring fine using the same three letters.

“If the ticket is marked ‘penalty charge notice’ (PCN), ‘excess charge notice’ or ‘fixed penalty notice’ (FPN) it will have come from the local council or police, and will typically have been issued when you’ve parked on public land, contravened box junction rules or driven in a bus lane, for example,” explained Mat.

“Tickets from private car-park enforcement firms will typically be labelled ‘parking charge notice’, and while they may be labelled ‘PCN’, these are an entirely different type of ‘PCN’ from those given by a council or police force, and are issued if you’ve parked somewhere like a supermarket or a private housing estate.”

The key difference between council or police-issued Penalty Charge Notices and privately-issued Parking Charge Notices is that technically, the latter isn’t classed as a “fine”.

Matt explained: “Parking charge notices aren’t actually fines – they’re invoices from private businesses for contravening the contract you implicitly agreed to when you parked on private land. The company must offer a 40 percent discount for any charge they issue if you pay it within 14 days.”

Though a privately issued invoice might not be a “fine”, this doesn’t mean you can get away with not paying it in all situations. However, there is one crucial circumstance which might void the Parking Charge Notice.

“The parking company issuing the ticket should be accredited with the British Parking Association (BPA) or the International Parking Community (IPC),” explained Mat. “Only firms signed up with these two organisations have access to driver data from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, meaning you can ignore penalties from non-accredited firms. “

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If you have been issued with a PCN for parking on private land, Mat recommends checking the BPA and ICA’s online databases to determine if a firm is registered.

In the case the firm is registered, Mat recommends drivers do not simply ignore the invoice as this could be detrimental to your credit rating in the future.

“Ignoring a penalty charge notice from an accredited company is unwise as private parking firms can pursue you through civil court to enforce fines,” he said.

“They may also use a debt-collection agency to write to you before they go to this expense – though they can’t send recovery agents to your house, and your credit rating will only be damaged if the case ends up in court, is found in their favour and you still refuse to pay.”

How to appeal a Parking Charge Notice

Motorists who think they have been unfairly hit with a privately issued PCN can fight their case, though they must be able to provide proof of their reason for arguing against the penalty. Mat explained: “It may be that there were missing or unclear signs for the car park, as you can only be charged for contravening advertised rules; or perhaps the ticket machines were out of order, or there were mitigating circumstances for you parking there, such as your car breaking down

“Either way, if you want to appeal a private parking ticket, you should write to the issuing company’s appeals department explaining why you consider the charge invalid, supplying supporting evidence in the form of photographs or witness statements.

“If your appeal is unsuccessful you can lodge a dispute with the PIC or BPA. If the case goes against you the fine will stand, though it will not increase, and the parking company can pursue you through the courts if you fail to pay, with you being liable for their costs if the court finds in their favour.”

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