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Not all parking fines are equal – some are fines, while others are more like invoices. Only councils and other licensed authorities including the police are allowed to issue parking fines – known as Penalty Charge Notices – which are legally enforceable. Private parking operators, on the other hand, are not able to issue these types of parking tickets and so often resort to underhand tactics to make their correspondence look official and menacing.
If you get a ticket in a public car park, on a street or in an NHS hospital car park, this will be clearly marked ‘Penalty Charge Notice’. Private parking operators will often attempt to mimic this legally enforceable fine by copying the look of a Penalty Charge Notice, calling it a ‘Parking Charge Notice’ or PCN, dressing their parking attendants to look like Police Community Support Officers or putting threatening phrases on the ticket like ‘Warning – Do Not Ignore’. These private parking tickets and notices are not fines – they are merely invoices for something that the operator issuing them is trying to get you to pay.
Unfortunately, parking tickets are big business and are seen by companies and other organisations as ways to make a quick buck for little effort. You could get a private parking ticket in a supermarket car park, outside an office or even, amazingly, at a motorway service area.
If you do get a ticket in one of these places, it is highly likely that it will be dressed up to look official in an attempt to panic you into paying it immediately. There may be an incentive to pay up quickly like a “discounted fine” if you pay it within 14 days, for instance.
The important thing is not to panic and not to pay it immediately. If you think that the ticket is unfair, exorbitant or disproportionate compared with whatever it is you have supposedly done wrong, then do not get your cheque book out.
If the car park’s signage was unclear, there was a technical fault which led to the fine, you made an honest mistake or believe that parking attendants were overzealous, then you have the right to fight the ticket. If you pay and then try to get the money back later, it is extremely unlikely that you will be successful.
You should gather as much evidence at the time of the ticket as possible. That means taking pictures of unclear signage, lines or parking bays. Take a picture of your car and where the parking meter is. Some motorway service stations give you two hours of free parking and then expect you to go online or phone a number to buy parking and it is questionable whether this is fair to people who may not have a phone on them or are unable to go online for several hours.
If you are sent letters by the company issuing the ticket, then make sure you keep all of this as well as any mitigating evidence like receipts from a vehicle recovery operator if you broke down
Oliver Jones has written for Solution Loans since 2015. His passion for personal finance comes through in the 150+ blog posts he's written since that time. His talent for explaining all things money means he's covered topics as diverse as...Read about Oliver Jones
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