Avoiding Costly Penalty Charges

Penalty Charge Notice | December 2023

In the UK, a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) is a fine for violating parking, bus lane, or other traffic regulations. Local councils’ parking services department controls the administration of such fines.

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Understanding Penalty Charge Notice

A legal document known as a Penalty Charge Notice is given to the registered owner of a car that has been observed breaking parking or traffic laws. 

This notice includes the offence’s date, time, location, and vehicle registration number. Additionally, it lists the penalty charge notice number, a unique code for every notice issued. 

A PCN may be issued for several reasons, such as parking in a bus lane or staying longer than allowed in a parking lot. Parking services typically give these notices, but other authorities may do so to bus routes or specific traffic infractions.

A PCN is more than just a piece of paper; it is an official demand that the vehicle owner either pay the fine or contest the charge. A PCN can have severe repercussions if ignored. For instance, a charge certificate might be issued, raising the penalty by 50%.

The vehicle owner must pay the fine 28 days after receiving a PCN or file an appeal. Most of the time, there is a discount if the fine is paid within 14 days. This is why taking immediate action after receiving a PCN is crucial.

Legislation Governing Penalty Charges

The primary legislation governing PCNs in the UK is the Traffic Management Act 2004. Local councils may enforce parking restrictions, bus lanes, and other traffic laws under this Act. Due to these enforcement measures, councils can issue PCNs and collect fines. 

PCNs are civil, not criminal, charges. This means non-payment does not result in a criminal record, even though it can be enforced through the county court

However, non-payment may result in a visit from an enforcement agent, the seizure of goods up to the charge’s value, and further expenses.

An independent body that hears appeals against PCNs issued in England (outside of London) and Wales is called the Traffic Penalty Tribunal. It provides a free service and seeks to offer an objective assessment of the choices made by the council parking services. 

Another crucial component of the PCN procedure is the Traffic Enforcement Centre. A council may file a claim with the Traffic Enforcement Centre to collect an unpaid PCN. This division of the county court handles PCN debt registration specifically.

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Types of Penalty Charge Notices

PCNs come in two main categories. A Notice to Owner (NTO) is a letter mailed to the registered keeper of the offending vehicle. THIS IS FREQUENTLY USED when CCTV cameras discover violations or when a Penalty Charge Notice attached to a vehicle is disregarded. 

A penalty charge notice attached to the vehicle may also be issued immediately. This frequently happens when a car breaks the rules, and the parking attendant can instantly give the warning. 

PCNs may occasionally be issued for moving traffic infractions as well. These involve operating a vehicle in a bus lane, making illegal turns, or entering a junction box when it is unclear which exit to take. 

Typically, CCTV cameras are used to identify these offences, and the PCN is then mailed to the vehicle’s registered owner.

It’s crucial to realise that a PCN’s specifics, including the appropriate amount, can change depending on the local council and the precise nature of the offence. 

For instance, parking in a disabled space without a current blue badge will probably incur a higher fine than briefly exceeding your time limit in a pay-and-display parking lot.

Process of Receiving a Notice

Parking attendants will issue a Penalty Charge Notice when they find a parking violation. The notice is typically handed to the driver or placed on the car’s windscreen. When a violation is discovered on CCTV footage, the vehicle’s registered Owner is notified by mail. 

The PCN contains a wide range of data. This includes the offence’s time, date, and place and the justification for the penalty charge. It also specifies the fine’s amount and how to pay or contest the notice. 

The vehicle’s registered keeper has 28 days from when the PCN is issued to pay the fine or contest the notice. 

Usually, a discount is given if the fine is paid within 14 days. The council may issue a charge certificate to increase the penalty if the notice is not paid or is contested within 28 days.

If a penalty charge notice attached to a vehicle is disregarded, the council will send a Notice to the Owner. 

This provides an additional opportunity to pay or contest the notice and is sent via postal mail to the vehicle’s registered keeper. The council can take other enforcement measures if this is skipped.

Penalty Charge Notice

Disputing a Penalty Charge Notice

A PCN can be challenged on several grounds. These ideas include the ones that the alleged parking infraction didn’t happen, the traffic ticket was void, or the car was stolen. Because the penalty exceeds the pertinent sum, it may also be contested.

The recipient must submit a formal representation to the council to contest a PCN. This needs to include any supporting documentation and the grounds for the challenge. These could be images of unclear or ineffective signage or records proving the vehicle was somewhere else.

The recipient may appeal to a neutral arbitrator if the council rejects the formal representation. This is the Traffic Penalty Tribunal for Wales and England outside of London. 

They aim to provide a fair review of the decisions made by council parking services and provide a free service to all parties.

It’s crucial to remember that while a challenge or appeal is pending, the fine is typically suspended. However, the total penalty amount will generally need to be paid if the challenge or appeal is unsuccessful.

"A legal document known as a Penalty Charge Notice is given to the registered owner of a car that has been observed breaking parking or traffic laws."

Consequences of Ignoring Notices

A PCN can have severe repercussions if ignored. A charge certificate, increasing the fine by as much as 50%, may be issued if a notice is not paid or contested within 28 days. 

The council may file a debt report with the Traffic Enforcement Centre if the fine is unpaid. This enables the council to employ enforcement agents, formerly known as bailiffs, and other enforcement measures.

Agents of enforcement have the authority to seize goods up to the acceptable and additional costs in value. 

This may also apply to the vehicle to which the PCN was issued. It’s crucial to remember that law enforcement officers are subject to strict regulations and have limited authority.

The council may occasionally request a county court warrant to clamp or tow the vehicle. The vehicle may be sold to pay the fine and any additional fees if the fine is not paid in full.

Payment Methods and Deadlines

Depending on the council that issued the notice, different payment options are available for PCNs. 

The majority of councils do, however, accept credit or debit cards for payment. Some also accept postal orders or checks as payment. At times, cash payments may be made at the council’s offices.

Information on how to pay the fine will be included in the PCN. This typically entails making a payment online or to a PO Box. Some councils also accept phone payments.

Usually, payment must be made within 28 days of the PCN’s issuance. If payment is made within 14 days, a discount is typically given; otherwise, payment must be made within 28 days.

It’s crucial to remember that if a recipient challenges a PCN, the 14-day discount period is frequently extended. This implies that the recipient typically can pay the discounted amount if the challenge is unsuccessful.

Tips to Avoid Penalty Charges

To avoid receiving a PCN, it is crucial to comprehend and abide by the rules. This includes reading and understanding the street and parking lot signage. It also entails taking by the regulations regarding where and when parking is permitted.

It is also crucial to pay close attention to the time. Many parking fines are given for staying too long in a parking space or car park. Remember to move the car or pay the remaining balance on the parking ticket, set a timer on your phone or keep an eye on it while parking.

Regularly verifying that the vehicle’s registration information is accurate can help you avoid receiving a PCN. The owner might only get the PCN or any other notices if the registered keeper’s information is correct. 

The owner may only be aware of the situation once enforcement agents get involved, which could result in a higher fine.

Keeping the car in good working order can also help you prevent a PCN. A broken-down vehicle may become an obstruction or be left in an area where parking is prohibited.

Legislation Governing Penalty Charges

Understanding Parking Fines and Penalties

In response to violations of parking regulations, local councils or private parking companies may levy a parking fine, also known as a parking penalty. This typically involves parking outside designated spaces, staying longer than permitted, or breaking other parking rules.

A penalty notice is issued when a driver violates parking laws. It may be physically attached to the car or mailed to the registered keeper’s address. The acceptable amount, the nature of the violation, and a link to the council’s website for payment or appeal are all included in the penalty notice. 

Parking acceptable policies are established by each council and must be followed. Understanding and following these rules is the best strategy for avoiding parking fines. 

Drivers can avoid penalties by knowing parking restrictions, secure areas, time limits, and authorised 24-hour parking zones.

Cookies and Online Information

Council websites frequently use necessary cookies to enable essential functions like page navigation and access to secure website areas. This includes locations where you can file an appeal or pay your parking fine. These services cannot be offered without these cookies.

Thanks to analytical cookies, councils can better understand how you use their website. They track visitor counts, track which pages are visited, and offer information on user behaviour. The site will be enhanced and made more user-friendly using the information provided.

When visiting these websites, visitors should know how councils use cookies. Usually, a link at the bottom of the main content area will take you to the website’s privacy or cookies policy, where you can find this information.

Types of Penalty Charge Notices

Reasonable Adjustments and Council Tax 

Councils are required to accommodate people with disabilities reasonably. This might entail giving a vehicle more time to leave a prohibited area or, in certain situations, waiving a fine. 

It is worth contacting the council to discuss reasonable adjustments if you feel you were wrongfully given a parking ticket because of a disability.

Council tax is a different kind of financial obligation to local governments, though it is unrelated to parking fines. Council tax arrears may be subject to enforcement actions like disobeying a parking ticket. 

Understanding your financial responsibilities to your local council is crucial for avoiding unwarranted fines.

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Meet the author

Jane Parkinson

Jane Parkinson

Jane is one of our primary content writers and specialises in elder care. She has a degree in English language and literature from Manchester University and has been writing and reviewing products for a number of years.

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