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2 Jul 2021

'I got a parking ticket for using the wrong number plate details, what can I do now?'

What you can do if you're faced with a parking fine after entering the wrong number plate

Do you have an issue you would like help to get sorted? Which? is here to help sort your consumer problems.

Dear Which?

I took my young family on holiday to Cornwall in June, when I got home I received a Parking Charge Notice letter from Initial Parking.

The letter told me that I had parked without a ticket at Fistral Beach Car Park and faced a fine of £60 if I paid within 14 days, rising to £100 after that.

I was baffled as I was sure that I paid for parking using the JustPark app.

I checked my JustPark account and realised that I had accidentally selected the wrong vehicle when paying for parking - instead of my family car, I had selected my van. I had correctly paid a full day's parking at the beach, but it was an honest mistake as I'm so used to paying for parking with my van, and not the car.

I appealed the Parking Charge Notice, but my appeal was rejected. What can I do now? Surely I'm not the first person to accidentally pay for the wrong vehicle.

Matt Freeman, Buckinghamshire

Put to Rights

Lauren Deitz, consumer rights expert at Which?, says.

What a frustrating fine to come home to after enjoying a well-earned break with your family. This was an honest mistake and you probably aren't the first person to have done this - especially with an ever-increasing reliance on various apps to pay for parking.

We asked JustPark about the measures it puts in place to help its users correctly pay for parking. It told us that it tries to help its customers ensure all details are correct by showing the vehicle details on the checkout page, including make and model, it also reminds users to check that all details are accurate on the booking confirmation.

According to JustPark, of the complaints it receives about Parking Charge Notices, about 3% of them are linked to incorrect number plate details.

A fine from a private firm it's usually called a 'Parking Charge Notice', or PCN. The car park operator can charge you for contravening any rule that it has displayed on signs in its car park. Signs and notices must be clear and displayed.

Fistral Beach car park is privately owned and managed by Initial Parking, who is a member of the trade association the British Parking Association (BPA).

We asked Initial Parking about the fine and it told us that what happened is classified as a 'major keying error' under the BPA Code of Practice as every digit entered was incorrect.

BPA told us that it expects its members to deal with such errors at the first stage of appeal - for a major keying error its code outlines that the maximum charge you can face is £20 to cover the administration costs.

This is what Initial Parking offered to you after you appealed - a £20 administration charge to close the case or you could continue to appeal the fine, but face the £100 charge if you delayed beyond the 14 days.

We asked BPA about its code of practice and the charges and it explained to us that parking firms do face some administrative costs which include a DVLA fee, postage and processing of the Notice. Interestingly, a minor keying error where a single digit is incorrect should face no fine.

As the fine was issued by a private firm that's a member of the BPA, you could make an appeal to the independent adjudicator POPLA. If POPLA agreed with your appeal it would cancel the fine. If you lose, the company can continue to pursue you for payment and has the option of taking you to court.

As it was a bittersweet end to a nice family holiday, I understand why you have now decided to pay the £20 administrative fee rather than continue to appeal the fine.

Need to know

  • Parking tickets can be issued by councils, the police or private companies.
  • An official ticket is either a Penalty Charge Notice, Excess Charge Notice or Fixed Penalty Notice.
  • A privately issued ticket is a Parking Charge Notice and can't be imposed, but the firm could pursue you through the courts.
  • Find out how to appeal a parking fine.

Get in touch. If you've got a consumer rights problem you need put right, email us at yourstory@which.co.uk. Please be aware that we can't help with, or respond to every email that we receive. The inbox is monitored periodically during office hours, Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.