About private parking tickets

Private parking tickets are parking tickets issued on private land – e.g. land not owned by the local council or other government departments. Places where you might receive such tickets are:

  • Supermarkets
  • Retail parks
  • Fast food restaurants
  • Hospitals
  • Motorway services
  • A managed residential car park

A Parking Charge Notice (PCN) is the name private parking companies typically use for parking tickets issued on private property. These Parking Charge Notices are very similarly named to Penalty Charge Notices, as issued for parking offences on public land – and it’s probably no coincidence that they are named so similarly! Funnily enough, Parking Charge Notices are also made to look like Penalty Charge Notices too – see picture below.

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Spot the difference

Spot the difference: A Parking Charge Notice on the left, a Penalty Charge Notice on the right

The private parking company (PPC) business model is based on the fact the public don’t see the distinction between private and public land, nor understand the legalities involved in contravening their terms and conditions. So social conditioning kicks in and the public act in the same way as they would as if it was issued by an authority.

Penalty charges are issued by statutory authorities such as the police or the council – there are explicit laws that state that they can issue penalties to the general public for breaking parking conditions. Further, certain bodies are allowed to create byelaws which may grant similar powers, such as at airports or railway stations.

However, this is completely different for parking tickets issued on private land. There are no laws that allow private companies to collect penalties or fines from motorists who break rules. Instead, a contract-based model is used. By placing signs around the car parks, the parking companies argue that by the act of parking or paying a fee, the motorist agrees to the conditions stated on the sign. Typically the signs state a set of conditions (e.g. time limit, parking within bay etc) that if broken, means that the motorist owes them an amount of money (typically between £40 and £100), usually with a discount for immediate payment.

So whilst it is designed to look like and be issued the same as a penalty charge, it is a completely different beast. It is more akin to a payment requesting payment.

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Now, take a look at the next section which describes how private parking tickets are issued and enforced.

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