Can you ignore a parking fine?
The possible outcomes for you if you ignore a parking charge notice depend on the type of fine or ticket you have received.
The types of parking tickets are as follows:
- Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) – issued by local councils or state bodies, such as Transport for London (TfL), for parking incorrectly on public land.
- Excess Charge Notice – issued by a small number of local councils, and strictly speaking operating under criminal law, rather than civil law.
- Fixed Penalty Notice – issued by the police and is a criminal, rather than civil, notice.
- Parking Charge Notice (or similar wording) – issued by a private parking company.
It is not advisable to ignore either a penalty charge notice, excess charge notice or fixed penalty notice under any circumstances. If you want to challenge or appeal against them, then information on how to do this is set out below. However, simply ignoring the parking charge notice should not be an option. This is because the council can make a claim against you in the County Court for payment of the charge. Even more worryingly, the police can take you to the magistrate’s court over a fixed penalty notice, where you may well end up with a criminal sanction.
In relation to a parking charge notice issued by a private parking operator, there are two important factors to bear in mind when considering your next steps.
First, the registered keeper of the car is liable in law for the parking charge. If you, as the registered keeper, refuse to identify who was the driver of the car at the time of the charge, you will be responsible for the charge. Private car park operators are able to access the identity of the registered keeper of the car directly from the DVLA national database. Therefore, the company will always have someone to pursue for the charge.
Second, the approach you take to your ticket may depend on the type of parking company that issued the ticket in the first place. Most parking operators (including all of the larger companies such as Euro Car Parks and ParkingEye) are affiliated to trade bodies and have signed up to a Code of Practice that regulates how they issue their tickets. If you simply ignore the ticket, then the charge may increase. Furthermore, many car park operators are large commercial organisations and have well-established administrative teams that will not hesitate to make a claim in the county court if you continue to fail to pay your parking ticket.
For these reasons it is strongly advisable to follow the established appeals procedures, that is either appealing to POPLA (Parking on Private Land Appeals) or the IAS (Independent Appeals Service). The parking company that issued your ticket will tell you to which of these you should submit your appeal. You have a reasonable chance of success by following this official channel.
For POPLA, in 2017-18, 41% of appeals that completed its process resulted in cancelled parking charges. The percentage for the IAS was lower, at 25%, but nevertheless it does not cost you anything to appeal, apart from your own time and you have a decent chance of success.
Regardless of how your appeal turns out, any disputes or fines you have with a private parking operator are not disclosable to your motor insurer and therefore do not affect the cost of your car insurance.
Not all parking operators are members of reputable trade bodies. There are some so-called ‘cowboy’ parking operators that are not regulated and issue parking tickets without the correct signs or permissions in place. You could choose to ignore tickets from these operators on the basis that they are much less likely to pursue all the way to the county court because they do not want to spend the time and money doing so, and in any case are in a considerably weaker position legally. You should avoid giving your personal details to these companies as they do not have access to the DVLA database and are much more likely to be ‘fishing’ for information from you.
Finally, as a reminder, in all cases it is imperative that if you receive county court papers you do not ignore them. If you do ignore them then the parking company will will the case by default and you will have a county court judgment against you.
Appealing a parking ticket
The appeals process will depend on the type of parking ticket you have received.
Penalty Charge Notice
PCNs are issued by local councils.
If the PCN is stuck to your car window then you must first make an informal challenge. If you do this within fourteen days and you lose, most councils and TfL will still allow you to pay the fine at the discounted rate. There is no form to fill in to lodge an informal challenge – you should simply write or email to the address on the back of the ticket.
If your informal challenge was unsuccessful, you will receive a ‘Notice to Owner’ or NTO. You will then have 28 days to pay the fine in full, or lodge an appeal. If you do neither then the fine could increase by 50% after the expiry of the 28 day period.
If you ignored the PCN the first time round, you will receive an NTO demanding payment or inviting you to appeal.
If you received your ticket by post, then that ticket is already an NTO. This is usually because you were caught by a CCTV camera as opposed to a parking attendant. Your next step is to appeal against the NTO. The NTO itself will contain a formal appeals form. It is usually necessary to attach a letter that sets out your reasons in full.
If your formal appeal is rejected then you will have 28 days to pay or to appeal to an independent tribunal. If you fail either to pay or submit a further appeal then you will be liable to pay an extra penalty charge. To avoid confusion, the notification letter you receive will be called a ‘Notice of Rejection of Representations’.
The independent tribunal is different depending on whether you live in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales (not including London) or London.
It is free to lodge this appeal, called a ‘Notice of Appeal’. Again, if you lose you will need to pay the penalty within 28 days or incur a 50% extra charge.
In very limited circumstances there may be the opportunity to take your appeal further but that is outside the scope of this article.
Excess Charge Notice
This type of ticket can also be called a ‘Standard Charge Notice’. There are only a few councils who give out this type of ticket, so they are pretty rare. If you do receive one, it is best to contact the issuer (most likely the council) as soon as possible after your receive it to ask them for details of the appeals procedure.
Fixed Penalty Notice
As stated above, this is a criminal ticket issued by the police. Some police forces allow you to make informal representations – you should check your ticket. Most of the time, however, you will simply have 28 days to pay, appeal to the magistrates’ court or nominate the driver who was actually responsible for parking the car.
If you appeal to the magistrates’ court you will be sent a summons with a date for your court hearing. It goes without saying that you need to be prepared to explain your case in person before a magistrate or appoint someone else (a solicitor or barrister) to do so on your behalf.
Parking Charge Notice (or similar wording that is not ‘Penalty Charge Notice’)
First, it is important to note that legally, the tickets issued by private parking companies are not fines, but ‘invoices’ or ‘penalties’. Under a legal analysis, by parking on the land in question you have entered into a contract with the parking provider, but failed to adhere to the terms and conditions of that contractual relationship and been invoiced accordingly.
Second, as mentioned above, the way in which you challenge a parking ticket issued by a private parking company depends on whether the company is part of a trade body or not. The two parking trade bodies are the British Parking Association (BPA) and the International Parking Community (IPC). The appeal provider for BPA members is POPLA and the appeal provider for the IPC is the IAS. Appeals to each of these organisations are explained below.
Where the company is not part of either the BPA or the IPC
Where you have received a parking ticket from a company that is neither a member of the BPA nor the IPC you may choose to ignore it and hope that it will go away. There is of course a risk that the company will, at least initially, continue to pursue you.
If you do decide to respond, you should not ask the company for their appeals procedure. This is because the company in question has chosen not to join either the IPC or the BPA, so it is questionable how fair its appeals procedure will be. Also, by co-operating with the company’s procedure you could be seen to be acknowledging the validity of the ticket in the first place.
Instead, you should simply write to the company explaining that you do not accept its invoice and that you do not consider the charge to be fair. You can give reasons as to why you consider it to be unfair.
Ultimately, you might have to be prepared to argue your case in the county court. However, it is likely that the company will have given up trying to enforce the ticket before that point.
Where the company is part of the BPA or the IPC
You challenge a parking fine by first appealing directly to the parking operator that issued your parking charge notice. Usually, you must make this first appeal within 21 or 28 days of receiving the parking charge notice. If the operator rejects your appeal then you can appeal to either POPLA or the IAS, either online or by post.
Under both procedures you will lose the ability to make the discounted payment, as this early-settlement period will not be extended or paused while the appeal is processed.
The appeals process usually takes 6-8 weeks. If you are appeal is unsuccessful then you will have 14 or 28 days to pay. Alternatively you could take independent legal advice if you wish to take the matter further.
Frequently asked questions
Can you just ignore private parking tickets?
If your parking ticket was issued by a private company then you may consider ignoring it, but this depends on the type of private operator that issued the ticket. If the private company is part of either the British Parking Association or the International Parking Community then the courts will enforce its parking tickets (provided there is no mistake or other ground for appeal). Therefore, it is possible that the company would seek a judgment in the county court against you, and, if you still refused to pay, to seek to enforce the debt via debt collectors. Where the company is not a member of either of the BPA or the IPC then it is less likely to go all the way to court to enforce its ‘debt’.
Do you legally have to pay a PCN?
Yes, legally you do have to pay a PCN (Penalty Charge Notice). This is because a PCN is issued by a local council or other state authority, such as Transport for London. If you do not pay then it is quite likely that the Council will make a claim against you in the county court. Unless you have an extremely good, legally sound reason for refusing to pay the fine, it is likely that the Council will win its case against you.
Can I ignore a parking charge notice from Euro Car Parks?
Euro Car Parks is a large, well-established car park operator and a member of the British Parking Association (BPA). The BPA is a recognised trade body for car park operators and to be a member, the company is required to sign up to a Code of Practice. Therefore, if you ignore your parking ticket, Euro Car Parks may well make a claim against you in the county court. In order to defend your position in court you would have to sure of your legal position and be prepared to speak in a hearing or instruct someone to do so for you. If this is a step you are willing to take, then you can ignore the ticket. Otherwise, you can engage with the formal appeals process by appealing to POPLA, and see if you can overturn the ticket that way.
What happens if I don’t pay PCN?
If you don’t pay your parking charge you run the risk of incurring further fees and of having a county court judgment against you. If your parking charge was issued by the police then you could end up committing a criminal offence if you do not pay. Alternatively, if the parking charge was issued by a company, it may simply give up and not pursue you any more.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.