Car parking fines and appealing them

Not all car parking fines need to be paid, especially when they are issued by a private company rather than the local council. It's important to understand the rules about how parking tickets can be challenged and appealed.

When can parking tickets be challenged?

In the following cases, a parking ticket, whether issued by a private company or the local council, may be open to challenge:

  • If relevant details in the 'Notice to Driver' are incorrect. This notice essentially forms the ticket which is normally affixed to the windscreen of the vehicle. It must contain certain details such as the alleged contravention and the registration number (see section 7(2) of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 for full details).
  • If relevant details in the 'Notice to Keeper' are incorrect. This notice is sent through the post to the owner of the vehicle and must contain certain details such as the alleged contravention and the registration number (see section 8(2) of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 for full details).
  • Parking signs were wrong or not visible - or the parking meter was broken.
  • The car had been stolen or was owned by someone else at the time the ticket was issued.
  • The fine is excessive (see typical fines).
  • If the car was moved only a few minutes too late.
  • There are other mitigating circumstances (eg there was an emergency such as taking an ill patient to Accident & Emergency).

See the Citizens Advice website for more details on circumstances in which parking tickets can be appealed.

What's the difference between penalty charge notices, excess charge notices, fixed penalty notices and a parking charge notices?

  • Penalty Charge Notices and Excess Charge Notices are issued by the council (eg on public land or car parks). The former operates under civil law whereas the latter (which is quite rare) is dealt with under criminal law.
  • Fixed Penalty Notices are typically issued by the police (eg on red routes and white zig zags) or sometimes by the council.
  • Parking Charge Notices are normally those issued by a private company or landowner (eg on private land, supermarket car parks etc).

How do I contest a parking ticket informally?

The first step to challenging a parking ticket is to ascertain what type of notice it is (see above). The ticket should not be paid if intending to appeal it - otherwise it is considered an admission of liability.

If the ticket was issued by a council or the police, in the first instance it can be appealed informally. A written appeal should be sent to the relevant authority, clearly explaining the reasons for an appeal and providing any evidence. Penalty Charge Notices are normally reduced by 50% if paid within the first 14 days.

If the ticket was issued by a private company, find out if it is an Accredited Trade Association (ATA) member (check the BPA and IPC member lists). If it is not an ATA member, there is no need to pay the ticket. Otherwise, it is possible to submit an informal appeal in writing.

How do I make a formal appeal?

  • Penalty Charge Notices - if the informal appeal was unsuccessful (or the ticket was ignored for 28 days), the council will send a 'Notice to Owner' demanding full payment. The ticket can then be appealed formally within 28 days using a form supplied by the council and a separate letter which sets out the grounds for appeal. The council then has 56 days to respond. If the appeal is rejected, a further appeal can be made to the relevant independent tribunal.
  • Excess Charge Notices - it may be possible to appeal to a more senior parking official. Otherwise, an appeal can be made to the relevant Ombudsman.
  • Fixed Penalty Notices - there is no formal appeal option, so this generally involves going to court.
  • Parking Charge Notices - the manner of formal appeal will depend on whether the parking company which issued the ticket is a member of the BPA or IPC approved operators scheme. If they are a member of the BPA, a formal appeal can be made to Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA) within 28 days. If they are an IPC member, the formal appeal can be made to the Independent Appeals Service within 21 days.

NB: Penalty Charge Notices which have been issued by post (as opposed to being affixed to the windscreen) are not subject to an informal appeal so must be appealed formally in the first instance.

What happens if I refuse to pay?

Official bodies and accredited parking companies may pursue vehicle owners through the courts. However, independent car park operators who are not members of an accredited trade association are unable to obtain details of the owners and therefore cannot pursue their claims.