The issue has been raised recently that many people fall foul of parking charges unnecessarily because they simply don’t know the difference between the two.

Official council parking fines are called ‘Penalty Charge Notices’ and can be issued by the council parking inspectors (Traffic Wardens), or the police.

Private companies issue tickets which look virtually the same, but the requirements are very different.

An official parking ticket will be called a Fixed Penalty Notice,  Penalty Charge Notice or Excess Charge Notice. If you have an official car parking ticket then you have been fined and will have to to pay, unless you have grounds to appeal.

But what was a surprise to me, and many others I would imagine, is that Private Parking tickets are not Fines, they are invoices and do not hold the same rules as the council and police tickets.

Believe it or not, private companies do not have a legal right to fine you, all they can do is issue you with a notice of ‘breach of contract’ and invoice you on that basis.

Also good to note is the fact that private parking companies themselves have no legal powers to clamp or tow a vehicle themselves, only when sub-contracted by the police or council. There are plenty of cowboy firms out there who will tow a vehicle away illegally and charge a princley sum to release it, with no legal grounding at all. So before you part with your cash, ask them to produce proof as to who has given permission and if they can’t, it’s time to call the authorities!

In fact don’t pay anything until you are sure that you have an official fine and if a private company are charging you, you might not need to pay at all. It’s also worth checking the appeals for official fines and also to contact a landlord direct if you have an invoice from a private firm. The landlord might not agree with the circumstances in which you were ticketed and could instruct the company to cancel the invoice anyway.