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Penalty Charge Notice Number – What You Need to Know

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Have you received a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) and are unsure what to do next? This guide is here to help. We see over 130,000 people each month seeking advice on fines and parking tickets.

We know that getting a PCN can be troubling and the process may seem confusing. In 2021, Churchill Motor Insurance reported an 8% increase in penalty charge notices (PCNs) in Britain, with over 5.2 million issued1, so you’re not alone. To help you, we’ll cover:

  • What is a PCN and why you might have received one.
  • Understanding if you need to pay your fine immediately.
  • How to challenge the charge if you believe it’s unfair.
  • Situations where you may not need to pay your PCN.
  • What could happen if you choose not to pay.

We understand your situation and are here to offer guidance. Let’s delve into the details.

What is a PCN number?

Every Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) has a unique identification code called a PCN number. It can be found at the top of any PCN ticket and begins with two or three letters.

PCN numbers are used to identify the specific offence and are necessary for paying or challenging the notice.

Keep in mind that you won’t be able to pay or appeal your PCN unless you provide the correct PCN Number.

What is a PCN reference number?

A PCN reference is the same as a ‘PCN number’. It is a unique identifier of your PCN and is required to pay the fine or challenge it.

The PCN reference number can usually be found on the top of your PCN and starts with a prefix containing two letters. 

How can I do a PCN number check?

You can check your PCN number on the top of your PCN.

If your PCN was issued by Transport for London, you’ll find it in the top right corner above the image of the vehicle. 

If you have lost your PCN, you’ll need to contact the council or authority that issued the PCN to ask for the PCN number and other necessary details. It’s not possible to do a PCN number check online

Do I need to declare a PCN to my insurance company?

Most insurance companies do not need to know about any PCNs you have received. If you are applying for or renewing your insurance, they’ll only need to know about traffic incidents you have been involved in. 

Can I challenge a PCN?

You can challenge your PCN within 28 days if you believe you shouldn’t have been issued in the first place.

If the PCN was left on your vehicle, you must make an informal appeal to your local council first. If you lose, you may still be able to pay the fine at the reduced rate.

But if you received the PCN in the post, you must make a formal challenge with details and evidence. This could be:

This could be:

  • A valid pay and display ticket
  • Photos to show there were no road markings to restrict parking
  • Photos or video of unclear road signs
  • Witness statement
  • A repair note, if your car broke down

There are genuine grounds to appeal a parking ticket. For example, your notice may have been issued too long after the event, so it’s worth looking at the evidence you have at your disposal. Include your address, your vehicle registration number and the PCN number.

Here’s what a standard appeal process looks like.

If you have been issued a court order to pay the fine, you can challenge this order. You may do so if you already paid the PCN or weren’t notified of the PCN previously – among other possible reasons.†

It’s worth noting that the rules are slightly different if you have been issued with a private parking ticket (also known as a parking charge notice) rather than a Penalty Charge Notice.

Parking Charge Notices are not enforceable but act more similarly to invoices. You still should pay them, but appealing is a different process.

So, what is PCN number, and is it important? Yes, it is because you can’t appeal or pay the fine without a PCN number.

Can I check an outstanding congestion charge?

There is no official way of checking if you have an outstanding congestion charge for driving in London.

You will receive a letter if you have an outstanding charge, and if you don’t pay on time, you could be slapped with a PCN

But you may be able to use a free service to check congestion charges designed for people considering buying a used car. Since 2007, you can check for an outstanding congestion charge against a second-hand vehicle you are considering buying. 

You will need to send an email to [email protected]. Include the following:

  • Your name
  • Your address
  • Your vehicle’s registration number
  • State you have authorisation from the current vehicle owner to complete the check

You should receive a response within 10 working days. 

Have another PCN question?

We’ve been dedicating posts to all of the common PCN questions. So if you have any queries concerning your PCN, there is a good chance we have the answers.


  1. Direct Line Group — Parking Fines Statistics


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Scott Nelson is a renowned debt expert who supports people in debt with debt management and debt solution resources.