Penalty Charge Notices

What is a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) and do you have to pay them? This concise guide is free to read and designed to help anyone wanting to get their head around a PCN. If you’ve received a PCN and want to know your options, you’ll need to hear this! 

What is a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN)?

A Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) is a fine that can be issued by a local council or a transport group, such as London for Transport (TfL). They are issued for parking contraventions and some minor driving offences.

The fine could be left on your vehicle windscreen by a Council Enforcement Officer (CEO), or it could be sent to the registered vehicle keeper in the post. The latter is what happens when you’re contravention is caught on camera. 

Difference between Penalty Charge Notice and Parking Charge Notice

We’ll interject here to make an important distinction. 

Penalty Charge Notices aren’t the same as Parking Charge Notices, which are parking tickets issued by private companies who manage or own private car parks (usually attached to supermarkets etc.).

Both can be known as PCN. This is no accident. Some private companies will want you to believe you’ve received an enforceable Penalty Charge Notice instead. If you want to know more about Parking Charge Notices – which is considered an invoice rather than a fine – click here

Throughout the rest of this guide, we’ll only refer to a Penalty Charge Notice as a PCN. 

What is a Penalty Charge Notice for?

Penalty Charge Notices are predominantly issued for:

  1. Parking contraventions in public areas, such as a high street
  2. Using a bus lane at times when not permitted
  3. Turning right or left from a junction when not permitted
  4. Not paying a road toll by the deadline, such as the London Congestion Charge or Dartford Crossing Charge

How much is a Penalty Charge Notice?

The cheapest Penalty Charge Notice fines are around £50, whereas the most expensive can be £110+.

Penalty Charge Notice fines differ based on the reason you’re being served the fine. There can be further factors that influence the cost of the fine, such as the location of the contravention and any danger the incident caused other motorists. 

However, you will be offered 50% off the fine amount if you accept guilt and agree to pay within 14 days. For example, a Penalty Charge Notice of £80 for a parking contravention will only cost you £40 if you pay within 14 days. 

Who is liable for a Penalty Charge Notice?

The registered vehicle owner is responsible to pay a Penalty Charge Notice, even if someone else was driving their vehicle

If someone else was driving, you should ask them to pay. Citizens Advice states that you should consider paying the fine even if they refuse. Delaying could stop you from taking advantage of the 50% discounted rate.

There are three scenarios where someone else might have been driving and you won’t be responsible to pay the fine. These are:

  1. Your car was stolen
  2. You recently bought the car and it is the former owner who should have received the PCN
  3. You recently sold the car and it is the new owner who should receive the PCN

You’ll need to appeal the PCN with evidence in either of these scenarios. 

Do you have to pay a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN)?

You must pay the Penalty Charge Notice or lodge an appeal within 28 days of the date of the alleged contravention. If your plan is to pay the PCN, then it’s wise to do so within the first 14 days if possible. This will save you some money. 

You can usually pay a PCN via the local authority’s website. You’ll need your vehicle registration number and your PCN number to get started. 

What happens if I don’t pay the penalty notice?

If you don’t lodge a PCN appeal or pay the PCN within 28 days, you’ll be subject to further action. The council first sends out a charge certificate, which is a notice that your fine has been increased by 50% of its original value. So an £80 fine would increase to £120. 

If you don’t pay the new fine amount within 14 days, the council will request a court order against you. This makes it your legal responsibility to pay the debt. And if you don’t they could use debt enforcement action, such as bailiffs. 

How to appeal a PCN

If you’ve decided to appeal a PCN, you should follow the process explained to you on the PCN itself. Councils might have different appeal processes, with some allowing you to lodge your appeal via their website.

The appeal, which can also be called a representation, requires you to state a reason against the parking ticket being enforced and supply evidence to support your arguments (when applicable).

The council will then write to you to inform you that:

  1. The appeal was accepted and the parking ticket cancelled
  2. The appeal was rejected and ways to escalate the appeal if desired

Escalating your PCN appeal

All PCN appeals that get rejected can be escalated. They’re escalated to an independent tribunal depending on the location of the alleged offence. For example, London Tribunals will oversee appeals against PCNs issued by London Borough Councils. 

The council must provide detailed instructions on how to escalate your appeal. The appeal will be free of charge. 

What is a PCN? (Quick recap!)

A Penalty Charge Notice is a fine from a local council or transport authority. They’re mostly served to drivers who have committed a parking contravention or minor driving offence, such as using a bus lane. They can also be used to fine people for not paying road tolls on time, such as the London Congestion Charge.