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Checklist for challenging a PCN

The process of appealing a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) could be a little confusing. We’ve made this checklist to help you work out what you need to include if you decide to appeal an unfair fine*. 

Traffic warden signing a parking ticket

We’ll be using the terms PCN and fine interchangeably throughout this guide. Similarly, we’ll be using the terms appeal and challenge interchangeably. 

What happens if I don’t pay my PCN?

If you refuse to pay the PCN, you could get a court order demanding payment and bailiffs could be sent to get what’s owed. You might have to pay 50% more than the original fine.

Luckily, PCNs don’t tend to result in penalty points on your licence, so it’s unlikely to impact your car insurance costs.

Before you make your appeal it’s worth thinking about whether:

  • You truly believe the fine was unfair
  • The fine itself is worth appealing
  • You’ve gathered all the relevant evidence to back up the challenge.

After you get the PCN, you have 28 days to make your appeal. You can appeal this formally or informally.

If you’re challenging a parking ticket specifically, Read our guide on fighting an unfair parking fine.

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How to appeal your PCN informally 

For some PCNs you can start by putting forward an informal challenge. If this is accepted then you may not have to pay your fine. 

For some PCNs you may have to start with a formal challenge, so you could skip to how to appeal your PCN formally

Here are some examples of PCNs with the type of challenge you might expect:

Type of PCN How you could challenge it
Local council PCN - you usually get this on the spot, for example on your windscreen.
You could make an informal challenge with the local council.
Local council PCN - you usually get this in the post. It's sometimes called a "notice to owner"
You have to make a formal challenge with the council. It's also called a "representation".
Dart Charge PCN - you can get this if you don't pay the Dartford Crossing charge 
Make a representation or formal challenge with Dart Charge
Red route PCN - you get one of these if you don't follow the red route rules in London
Make a representation or formal challenge with Transport for London
Congestion charge PCN - you get one of these if you don't pay the congestion charge.
Make a representation or formal challenge with Transport for London
Low emission zone PCN - you could get a PCN if your vehicle doesn't meet the emission rules for the low emission zone, and you don't pay the low emission zone charge.
Make a representation or formal challenge with Transport for London
 
Usually if you pay a fine within 14 days of the issue date you only have to pay 50% of the overall amount. 
 
You should have 28 days to challenge a PCN. If you make an informal challenge and it’s rejected within 14 days you might still be able to pay 50% of the overall amount.
 
If your informal challenge is rejected you get a ‘notice to owner’ through the post. Usually this explains how you can make a formal challenge.
 
It’s worth bearing in mind that from this point on, you might have to pay the full fine amount if you lose your challenge.
 

How to appeal your PCN formally

Appealing a PCN you had through the post is a formal challenge known as a representation.

A formal challenge has two stages:

1. Explain why you think the fine is unfair and why you’re challenging it.

2. Add all relevant evidence to support your appeal.

It might also help your appeal to include this information:

  • The date of the offence

  • Your vehicle registration

  • The PCN number.

You usually send your challenge to your local council. Check GOV.UK to find out how you do this.

 

1. Explain why you think the fine is unfair

Your reasons for challenging a PCN are your own. But some common excuses used in PCN appeals include:

  • Incorrect, unclear or missing road signs

  • Incorrect or unclear road markings

  • You didn’t actually commit the offence

  • You’ve already paid the fine

  • There’s no evidence supplied to back up the penalty

  • You don’t own the vehicle involved

  • Your car was stolen

  • You were within the 10 minute grace period.

 

2. Add all relevant evidence to support your challenge

It’s worth collecting as much evidence and documentation as you can to make your case robust.

The details of what's relevant to your challenge might change from person to person. But here are some common pieces of evidence:

Photos

  • Any unclear, obscured or missing signage

  • Unclear road lines or bay markings

  • The position of your car and nearby cars.

Correspondence

  • Keep copies of correspondence between you and the issuing authority. This is in case you need to refer to something later.

Documents

  • A receipt if you’ve already paid the fine

  • Police reports or crime number for a stolen car

  • Notification to the DVLA if you no longer own the car.

Witness statements

  • Any statements from anyone who was there at the time that can back up your challenge

You can get more information on what information to include from Citizens Advice.

 

What happens after I challenge a PCN?

If you’re successful, the authority might lower or waive the penalty altogether.

If the authority rejects your challenge, you should get a notice of rejection in the post. You’ll then have 28 days to pay the fine.

You could appeal the rejection and take the matter to an independent tribunal. Before you’re able to do this, you must have already taken the steps above and made a ‘representation’ challenge.

The process is a little different depending on where you are.

London

Visit the London Tribunals website, where you can submit your appeal online. You need:

  • The particular offence you’re appealing against

  • The issuing authority

  • Your vehicle reg

  • The PCN number.

The appeals process is free to use and contains useful information on what evidence might help your case, depending on the offence.

England (ex. London) and Wales

Visit the Traffic Penalty Tribunal website where you can submit your appeal online.

Once you’ve submitted your evidence, you have the option of explaining your appeal in more detail via phone or a video hearing.

Otherwise, you might get an ‘e-decision’, where the appeal process is done entirely online.

Scotland

You can appeal your Notice of Rejection using the General Regulatory Chamber Tribunal website. You can also request an appeal form in the post by calling 0300 303 576.

You’ll have the opportunity to submit any evidence you’ve gathered to support your appeal.

GOV.SCOT has listed examples of evidence that could be used:

  • A pay and display ticket

  • A Blue Badge

  • Photos that show signs or road markings

  • Witness statements that have the witness' name, address and signature

  • Documents relating to the sale of the vehicle

  • Delivery documents for loading or unloading

  • A garage bill for a breakdown.

Northern Ireland

You can get more information on the appeals process for Northern Ireland at the Northern Ireland Traffic Penalty Tribunal.

The service helpfully provides a list of examples of appeals that were granted or refused. While each appeal might be different, this should help give some guidance to anyone thinking about submitting an appeal.

For more information on the appeals process in general, visit GOV.UK.

 
 

What about an excess charge notice or fixed penalty notice? 

You challenge other parking fines, like excess charge notices (ECN) and fixed penalty notices (FPN) slightly differently.

ECNs are usually issued by local authorities - they’re similar to PCNs.

For an excess charge you should contact the ticket issuer for ways to challenge it.

They also have details on what to do if your challenge is rejected. You usually only have 7 days to challenge an ECN.

Fixed penalty notices are issued by the police, your local council or the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

For some FPNs you can get penalty points, for example if you leave your car in a dangerous position.

You can pay these online, and if you don’t pay within 28 days the cost might increase by 50%. 

If you don’t pay the fine, you could be prosecuted. 

To challenge an FPN you need to go to magistrates court. You can find out how to do this on the back of your ticket.

*This guide is not intended as legal advice, but rather guidance on what to do if you feel you need to challenge your PCN. Please consider your own circumstances before you appeal your PCN.