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Do You Have To Pay A Penalty Charge Notice? article
Do You Have To Pay A Penalty Charge Notice? article

If you’ve come back to your car to find a parking ticket on the windscreen, it’s normal to feel frustrated and a little hard-done-to.

Before you get too worked up about any ticket, it’s useful to dig into the facts and work out whether or not you have to pay.

In this article, we’ll explore whether or not you have to pay a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN), some of the other kinds of parking tickets issued around the UK, and what can happen if you don’t pay when you should.

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Different types of parking ticket

There are different types of parking tickets and traffic penalties that you might get.

There are different rules for each kind – so it’s important to work out what kind of ticket you’ve got before you make any decisions about a way forward.

Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN)

  • These are only issued by the police

Fixed Penalty Notices can be issued for a number of reasons – including parking fines, driving offences (like speeding or using your phone) and other minor offences.

If you get an FPN, you may get a fine to pay and/or points on your driving licence.

Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) or Excess Charge Notice (ECN)

  • These are issued by local authority/local council traffic wardens

Most parking tickets issued in the UK are either Penalty Charge Notices or Excess Charge Notices. If you receive one of these notices, the ticket will usually state it clearly.

PCNs are usually issued when you park somewhere you shouldn’t (double yellow lines for example) – whereas ECNs are usually issued when you overrun the amount of parking you’ve paid for or are entitled to for free.

An ECN is a type of criminal charge – whereas a PCN is not.

Parking Charge Notice (private PCN)

  • These are issued by private companies

Although they’re often referred to as a ‘PCN’ – a parking charge notice is different to a penalty charge notice.

A private parking charge notice is issued by a company – usually one that runs a private car park on behalf of another company. For example, your local hospital or supermarket car park or hospital will have a company that manages parking for them on their private land.

Since Parking Charge Notices are issued by a private company (not the police or a local council) they are not backed by the law. This means that instead breaking the law, a private Parking Charge Notice is considered a ‘breach of contract’. This mean that by using the car park you agree to a series of rules (a contract) that’s usually displayed on signs, the parking machine, or the ticket you get. If you break the rules that are set, they consider you to have ‘breached’ (broken) the rules.

If you don’t pay these kinds of private parking tickets, the company will usually chase the parking fine debt. Some will even apply for a County Court Judgment (CCJ) to try to force you to pay the money.

Which types of ticket have to be paid?

You’ll hopefully now have a better idea of the kind of ticket you’ve got. The question now is whether or not each type of ticket has to be paid.

Again, this depends on the kind of ticket you have. Let’s look at each in turn:

  • Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs)

Since Fixed Penalty Notices are issued by the police for breaking the law, you have follow the guidance that goes along with them.

They can be appealed with 28 days – but if your appeal is unsuccessful, you’ll still have to pay the ticket.

If you hold off paying for too long (usually within 28 days) the fine will usually go up another 50%.

If you do not pay an FPN, you’ll be prosecuted. This will usually result in your having to pay a bigger fine and paying additional court costs.

  • Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) or Excess Charge Notices (ECNs)

Although PCNs and ECNs are issued by local authorities and not the police, virtually the same rules apply. As such, you have to follow the guidance that goes along with the ticket.

A PCN or ECN can be appealed within 28 days of its issue date, but if this appeal is unsuccessful, you’ll still have to pay the ticket.

If you hold off paying for too long (usually within 28 days) the fine will usually go up another 50%.

If you don’t pay a PCN or ECN, the local council will use your vehicle registration number to request your details from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). They will then send you a ‘Notice to Owner’ document to the registered keeper of the vehicle. After you get this notice, you’ll have another 28 days to pay the fine – and if you don’t, the outstanding amount will be registered as a debt.

If this debt is not paid after another 21 days, a ‘Warrant of Control‘ (previously known as a ‘Warrant of Execution’) will be handed to an Enforcement Agent (a bailiff) who will then visit your home to recover the debt or take steps to take goods to sell to pay the fine.

If the debt gets to this stage, significant additional fees are added on top of the original penalty charges. This is often as high as an addition £400-£500 – but could be significantly more.

  • Parking Charge Notices (private PCNs)

Since a Parking Charge Notice is issued by a private company, very different rules apply if you don’t pay the parking charges they’ve asked for.

Legally, you do not have to pay a Parking Charge Notice until a court asks you to. However, that doesn’t mean that the company won’t do a lot of chasing to get you to pay the debt.

First, they’ll usually give you a time period in which the original amount can be paid. Usually, after 14 days, this amount will go up.

After this, a parking company will usually:

  1. Send payment reminders and payment requests
  2. Add additional admin fees to the original amount
  3. Threaten to take you to court
  4. Pass the debt to a debt collection agency

You have the option to ignore this communication. If you do, the parking firm will occasionally drop the debt – but it’s a bit of a risky approach. They could also treat the outstanding debt like a loan or credit card company would – applying to the court for a County Court Judgement (CCJ) which will force you to repay what they think you owe.

Unless you have a legitimate reason for not paying the Parking Charge Notice, the hassle, additional costs, and threat of court action usually means motorists pay what is owed.

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Challenging or appealing your parking ticket

Now we’ve looked at the different types of parking fine and what can happen if you don’t pay, it’s worth looking at whether you can appeal a ticket.

If you lodge an appeal, this means you are giving the police, the local authority, or the parking company a reason why you think you shouldn’t have to pay.

If you want to do this, you should act quickly and collect any evidence you think you might need. Examples could include a witness statement, photos of unclear parking signs, or maybe the area surrounding your vehicle.

Your ticket will have details about how to make an appeal. This will usually involve writing a letter, putting it with any evidence you have, and sending it to the company or organisation responsible for issuing your fine.

When you write your letter or email, make sure you include:

  • Your address and contact details
  • The date of the alleged offence
  • Your vehicle registration number
  • The PCN number
  • The reason you’re appealing
  • Any evidence you think might help

What are some reasons that PCNs are cancelled?

Unfortunately, there’s no single set of reasons that will automatically get your parking ticket overturned. Each council or company will have it’s own process to review appeals.

That said, there are some reasons that will be taken more seriously than others. They include:

  • Situations where you’ve had to leave your car due to an emergency
  • If you’ve needed to leave your vehicle for medical reasons or compassionate grounds
  • If there was a fault with the parking equipment (for example, a ticket machine not working)
  • The person or equipment issuing your ticket makes an error

What if an appeal is rejected but you still feel like you shouldn’t pay?

There are usually three steps to an appeal – an ‘informal appeal’, a ‘formal appeal’, then an appeal through an Independent Tribunal.

If the first stages of an appeal (informal appeals and formal appeals) are rejected by the police, a local council, or a private car parks company, you might decide to talk to an Independent Adjudicator.

This is a good time to check whether the organisation that has issued your fine is part of an accredited trade association – such as the British Parking Association (BPA) or the International Parking Community (IPA). If they are not, you stand a good chance of having your ticket overturned by the adjudicator.

It’s worth noting that the adjudicator isn’t part of the police or the local authority, so they will be neutral – providing a fair service.

What happens if you can’t afford your parking ticket fine?

It’s easy to accidentally break parking rules – but that doesn’t make it easier to deal with the fine if you’re already struggling to make ends meet.

Since you usually have 14-28 days to pay the ticket before it goes up, you’ve got a little bit of breathing space to help you find the money.

If you’re certain you can’t get the money together, it’s really important not to ignore the ticket, as you could end up paying a lot more. Instead, you should call the organisation that has issued the PCN.

When you do, explain your situation. You won’t be the only person who is struggling and you won’t be the only phonecall they get that day – so you don’t need to be worried or embarrassed. Usually, the person you speak to will be able to add a little more time to give you a chance to get the full amount – or may even be able to set up a payment plan over a few weeks or months.

Taking additional steps if you’re struggling to pay a PCN

It might be bad timing that means you can’t pay your PCN – but, more often than not, struggling to pay a parking fine means that someone is struggling with money and debts in general.

If this feels familiar, don’t panic – you’re not definitely not alone. Millions of people in the UK don’t have enough money to make it from one payday to the next – and millions more are expected to be impacted by on-going cost of living increases.

If you’ve got debt that’s you can’t get on top of, it’s worth looking at getting some debt advice. Lots of companies are taking measures to help people who are struggling – and there are even government-approved debt solutions available which can see large portions of your debt written off completely.

Where can I get more advice on Do You Have To Pay A Penalty Charge Notice? and other debt solutions?

To discuss your options and get the support you need to deal with your debt today, contact us now on 0800 0431 431 or click the button to get started

Maxine McCreadie

Maxine is an experienced writer, specialising in personal insolvency. With a wealth of experience in the finance industry, she has written extensively on the subject of Individual Voluntary Arrangements, Protected Trust Deed’s, and various other debt solutions.

How we reviewed this article:


Our debt experts, and insolvency practitioners continually monitor the personal finance and debt industry, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

Current Version

August 17 2022

Written by
Maxine McCreadie

Edited by
Maxine McCreadie