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Many private parking firms to spare drivers hefty fines for number-plate errors

Motorists who enter the wrong number-plate details when paying for private parking tickets will in many cases no longer be 'fined' the full amount, after the UK's largest parking trade body updated its code of practice. But you'll still need to appeal to get the charge cancelled and may still have to pay a reduced charge for "major" mistakes.

The British Parking Association (BPA) has clarified its rules around "keying errors" – when a motorist makes a mistake when providing their registration-plate details at a pay and display machine or on a parking app. 

Until now, motorists could face a full 'fine' for making a keying error, which in some cases could be up to £100. However, 'fines' from private parking firms are actually invoices – as private parking companies have no official right to fine you.

But the BPA now says it expects the 113 private parking operators which are members of its scheme to deal with such errors "appropriately" and avoid hitting motorists with unjustified charges for making a simple mistake. Its new guidance applies to tickets issued on or after 6 January this year.

If you've made a mistake entering your number-plate info, you'll still receive an initial parking charge notice (PCN). But if it's only a "minor" error, your ticket should be cancelled at the first appeal stage – though if it was a "major" mistake, you could still be asked to pay up to £20. For the difference between these, see below.

See our Fight Unfair Private Parking Tickets for full info on appealing against tickets from private firms. 

What are the rules around number-plate errors? 

If you're parking on privately owned land (ie, not in a council car park), which is run by a firm that is part of the BPA's approved operator scheme, there are now clearer rules on how you can be penalised for making a mistake when providing your registration details.

PCNs will still be issued for keying errors (though the BPA says it expects parking operators to filter out most minor mistakes). However, these can be cancelled or reduced if the motorist appeals:

  • Tickets will be cancelled completely for minor errors. A "minor" error could include typing one letter or number wrongly, typing the numbers/letters in the wrong order, or making a small mistake such as writing a zero instead of an "o".

    In this case, you can appeal against the PCN, and it must be cancelled at the first stage of appeal. 

  • 'Fines' will be reduced to a maximum of £20 for major errors, as long as you pay within 14 days. A "major" error could be providing the wrong registration details completely, only entering the first part of the number plate or typing more than one letter or number incorrectly. 

    In this case you can still appeal and have the fine reduced – but the BPA says it's reasonable for a parking operator to make a "modest" charge of up to £20 to cover their processing costs. You'll need to pay this reduced fine within 14 days though, as after this the 'fine' will revert to the original rate. 

It's worth stressing these rules apply only to BPA members, which include big firms such as NCP and Euro Car Parks. See more on the rules at other car parks below. 

I've been 'fined' for a number-plate error – how do I appeal?

If you've been sent a parking charge because you made a mistake entering your number-plate details, firstly check which trade body (if any) the parking firm is a member of. The two parking trade bodies are the BPA and International Parking Community (IPC), which list their approved members.

Remember, this rule on keying errors only applies to firms which are members of the BPA's approved operator scheme. If this is the case:

  • First appeal to the parking firm directly, mentioning the new rules. There should be information on your parking ticket on how to appeal.

    The BPA says it would then expect its members to "deal appropriately" with the appeal at the first appeal stage, which in practice would mean cancelling or reducing the 'fine' to no more than £20 (depending on how major your mistake was). 

  • If this doesn't work, take your appeal to Popla. The parking firm should comply with the newly clarified rules – but if your appeal is denied, you can take it further. Popla is the official appeals body for firms that are BPA members. You can appeal online or via post to Popla, PO Box 1270, Warrington, WA4 9RL.

What if the ticket isn't from a BPA member?

If your ticket's from a firm that isn't a BPA member, you may still be able to appeal.

We've asked the other trade body, the IPC, what its rules are on keying errors, and will update this story when we hear back. But as part of its 'Get Your Reg Right' campaign, the IPC says it encourages private parking operators to "be more sympathetic" when motorists make trivial typing errors – so it's definitely worth appealing.

There's full info on how to appeal against private parking tickets, including template letters, in our Fight Unfair Private Parking Tickets guide. 

But if you've been slapped with a parking fine by a council, and given a penalty charge notice rather than a parking charge notice, a keying-in error isn't one of the official grounds for appeal.

If fined by a council, you can ask for it to be cancelled due to mitigating circumstances, so you could appeal and explain you made an honest mistake when keying in your number-plate info – you won't have an automatic right to get the ticket cancelled, but the council may be lenient. 

See our Parking Ticket Appeals guide for more info on appealing against council-issued fines. 

What does the BPA say? 

Steve Clark, head of business operations at the BPA, said: "We recognise that genuine mistakes can occur, which may result in a parking charge being issued even when a motorist can demonstrate they paid for their parking. In recognition of this we have further clarified the situation for all parties."

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