Parking charge notices: ‘The best’ method to avoid ‘unfair’ fines

Martin Lewis explains council and private company parking fines

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Getting a letter in the post to find you’ve been issued a Parking Charge Notice can be disheartening, especially when you know you paid for parking or were unable to pay for a genuine reason. Parking Charge Notices, also known as PCNs, are invoices issued by private companies for parking on private land.

However, a key thing to note is that a PCN isn’t a fine that is backed by law, and is rather an invoice for what is described as a “breach of contract”.

Increasingly, more and more motorists are beginning to find themselves being issued with these breaches for “unfair reasons”.

Daniel ShenSmith, a barrister who shares legal advice and explainers on his YouTube channel BlackBeltBarrister, spoke to to reveal one key step to take to protect yourself when parking in a private car park.

He said: “I read lots of stories about unfair Parking Charge Notices. I’ve read about this lots of other people get ticketed for not having paid when they have paid.”

As a result of this, Daniel says he has begun collecting evidence to prove he has paid, or in the scenario a ticket machine is broken, he makes sure to snap a photograph.

This includes photographing the car, the machine, the signage and having evidence of the time you were there.

He explained: “I [take] all the evidence and so I’ve done lots of videos about the best practices.

“As ludicrous as it might sound taking photographs of everything, as it happens is the best way of proving in court ‘this wasn’t fair or that didn’t happen’.”

Daniel also says being “preemptive” can help to avoid a PCN being sent out, but only if you have a genuine reason such as a ticket machine being broken.

Speaking anecdotally, he said: “I’ve had one before now, and I was very preemptive over it. I wrote to the parking company and said: ‘Just to put you on notice, if you send me one of these PCNs, I will be challenging it and you will lose, and here’s why.

“Sure enough, I didn’t get anything further. There’s nothing to stop me throwing the law at them to say what the law is and why they would be wrong if they did that. In my case, the machine didn’t work and it didn’t give me any confirmation that it was done.”

Having evidence such as photographs, dates and times can be crucial when trying to prove your case.

Speaking in a video on his Youtube channel, Daniel explained some of the “genuine” reasons people may be able to challenge a PCN if it does drop onto their doormat.

He said: “This guidance is for when there is a genuine reason to challenge one of these Parking Charge Notices.

“If the charge has been issued genuinely under fair terms then, of course, you should be paying it. But in many cases, there are several reasons that you might be able to fairly challenge it.”

Some of the most “common” include when a parking machine is not working or when “the contravention simply didn’t happen”.

The parking machine was not working

Daniel explained: “If there are no machines available, and there are no other means of making a payment, but you get a ticket before you have the opportunity to make a reasonable payment at a later date, this is a way you could challenge the ticket.

“You could quite reasonably make representations that you had the intention to pay, but you simply couldn’t do so because the machines were not working.”

The PCN is invalid because the contravention did not happen

There are a number of reasons you may be able to challenge a PCN based on the circumstance the contravention did not occur.

Daniel said: “Perhaps you simply weren’t there and you can demonstrate that you and your vehicle were in fact, somewhere else.

“Of course, this is a matter of evidence, but if you can prove and show that, this will support a robust challenge if you’re ever taken to court.”

However, even if you were in the car park, there are some reasons a genuine challenge can be made.

In some cases, the signs may have been misleading or were hidden altogether.

Daniel explained: “[The signs may have] told you one thing and then the parking charge told you that the charge was issued for another reason, which contradicted the information on the sign.

“As you can show what the signs were saying at the material time, then there was no contravention because you were accepting the terms written on the site, not the terms that were alleged in the parking notice.

“This may also be the case if the terms were unclear, or the sign itself was unclear. Let’s say it was faded covered by trees covered by snow and all these kinds of things.”

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This is why taking a photograph of any signage is so crucial.

Alternatively, the ticket may be issued for matters to do with your car, such as parking over the line of the bay.

Again, this is why photographing your car is crucial as well as the bay, especially if there are no visible lines or the lines are unclear.

Finally, there is the scenario that you did pay, but the machine simply did not dispense a ticket or register your payment.

Although this can be difficult to contest if you paid with coins, card payments make this type of situation a lot easier to prove.

Daniel said: “If you’ve used a contactless card, and most banking apps these days will show you that there’s a pending transaction almost immediately, then it shows that you’ve got a pending transaction for the money that you’ve paid to the machine, even if the machine hasn’t given you a ticket.”

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