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I need help with a Penalty Charge Notice I just received from the UK

I received a letter yesterday from Europcar that enclosed a Penalty Charge Notice from Plymouth City Council. Evidently I drove in a bus lane shortly after picking up my Vauxhall car from the Europcar office in Plymouth. I did not realize I did this (it was raining quite hard at this point), but I obviously did it, so am willing to pay it.

However, I'm confused. First, I was a little miffed at Europcar for billing me £40 just to forward the letter. But that's another story.

The Penalty Charge Notice is for £70 and has a date of posting of April 9, 2024. I have 28 days after April 9 to pay this. It also said the charge is reduced to £35 if I pay it within 21 days. Of course, both of those days have passed since I received it yesterday. And if I don't pay it by then, the penalty charge can be increased to £105.

There are several ways to pay according to the notice. One is at a local PayPoint Shop, which is not viable. Another is by mailing a check or postal order to Plymouth City Council, but I doubt they will accept a US check or money order. There is a number I can call (maybe for credit card payment?).

Lastly, there is a URL listed under "How to pay." I went to the website listed, which is www.plymouth.gov.uk/parkingandbuslanefines, and found my Penalty Charge Notice but when I click on the green "Pay" button, it says, "There is no outstanding charge for this Penalty Charge Notice." Huh?

So I am very frustrated right now and was hoping someone could shed some light on this. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

Posted by
555 posts

Hmmm. I wish I could help. It’s not a situation where Europcar have paid it and you owe them, is it? Or maybe for some reason it’s not uploaded yet.

If you’re trying to pay it and it says you don’t owe anything, then fair enough - but I’d be worried about further costs from Europcar for forwarding future letters.

I’d be happy to pay it at a PayPoint shop if you wanted to transfer some money to me if that would help - but you probably want to get this mystery aspect sorted first.

The phone number will be autopay so you’ll be typing numbers in and maybe that too will tell you there’s no outstanding balance.

I will tell you that it took Plymouth City Council about six months to sort out my council tax, so…

Posted by
797 posts

Did you check and double check the details for your car and fine that you were entering on the website? It's not immediately clear to me whether you enter it with or without the preceding "PL" when you enter the ticket reference number.

That site should take you through to a page with a place to pay it via your card. You may want to enter a dispute if the charge is now £105 and it could have been £35 though. I'd imagine the letter from Europcar would support your dates to only pay £35.

Posted by
536 posts

I have a British friend who found himself in a similar situation in Italy. He said he received several hundred euros in traffic fines unbeknownst to him (apparently from traffic cameras), and was notified of the fact by his car rental agency. When he tried to pay, he was shunted from place to place by the various administrative offices, at which point he said "Screw it" and threw the notices away.

He's a bit uneasy about going back to Italy, though.

Posted by
1286 posts

I think try contacting eurocar..dealing with councils via email usually results in....we will contact you within...7/14 working days.

I am not far from the eurocar office in Sheffield I could go drop by tomorrow and ask what their policy is on stuff like this

Posted by
4543 posts

My wife owed some money to a hospital in Salzburg and in their demand letter they clearly laid out a plan to pay by wire transfer, which was a little tricky but it worked.

Since the people in Plymouth likely speak a form of English, try emailing or calling various governmental offices.

Posted by
33128 posts

I can make some calls for you if you PM me the details....

Posted by
6825 posts

Oh, thank you all so much!!!

Golden Girl, what a lovely offer and thank you! But let me try and get it sorted out first. That would be a last resort, I think.

Gerry, yes, I actually was able to go to the website and plugged in my vehicle reg. no. and the PCNotice, and it showed 2 photos of my car. It says it was at the S0003 Pemros Road Bus Gate. It's definitely my rental and it was raining, and about 10-15 minutes after I left the Europcar station. And I did enter the letters PL before it.

richard, I do have an email for europcar, so I might try emailing them. I also might try that automated number and see what happens. Thank you for your kind offer, though!

jphbucks, that's another last resort, lol!

Here is a screenshot of the msg I'm getting (I redacted the car reg # and PCN not because of you guys, but it's public here). https://photos.app.goo.gl/QdX3VGBAGccMeipY7

Posted by
6728 posts

Back in 2012 I received a ticket for speeding when I passed another car in Wiesbaden, Germany. I sent the municipality stated on the violation a check for the fine amount at the exchange rate at that time. The check was in USD and it was cashed.

Those administrative charges applied by the rental companies seem excessive, but it is what it is. For my German ticket the rental company charged a fee (25€), but when I got a ticket in Spain, I wasn’t charged a fee. I was able to pay the Spain ticket online.

Posted by
6825 posts

phred, interesting. And that's what I may need to do.

Nigel, thank you so much! I will PM you.

Posted by
797 posts

It kinda looks like you're in the clear for some reason to me. I didn't realise you had got through that first stage and seen the pic.

Posted by
555 posts

It says it was at the S0003 Pemros Road Bus Gate.

Ah yes, you’re not supposed to drive onto the bridge that way! It caught me out when I first moved here.

Posted by
8594 posts

Mardee, some banks have something like a money order that can be done in foreign currency. I think it is called a foreign bank draft or something like that. I got one once (admittedly it was 7 years ago) in Pounds at a branch of USBank. But I had to ask a senior manager about it as the regular clerks did not know. It cost a fixed fee of (I think) $15 for the transaction, and I dont know if you had to be a customer or not.

Posted by
975 posts

Mardee - you may already have seen this but this is the advice on the Europcar Uk website explaining how they deal with various penalty notices -https://faq.europcar.co.uk/q/i-need-help/with-my-rental/on-rental/tolls/r/who-pays-for-toll-or-congestion-charges/

The site suggests that they will pass everything on to you and charge a fee (as all hire companies would do) but it also suggests that in some situations they might pay the fine and then claim it back from you. I guess that could have happened?

Posted by
6825 posts

Golden Girl, I figured it had something to do with the bridge. Rats.

stan, that's good info to know. If I have to pay it that way, I'll check with a bank.

Johnnew52, thanks so much for that! I contacted them via the URL you gave me, explained my situation and sent copies of everything so hopefully will hear back from them about this.

Posted by
555 posts

Golden Girl, I figured it had something to do with the bridge. Rats.

It’s not the bridge so much as - that’s not the correct route to it for cars. You’re supposed to approach the bridge from the A38 (main highway) But yeah, you’re not the first to get caught out there.

Posted by
6825 posts

If I remember correctly, I think I got confused and got off the wrong exit right at the roundabout before the bridge and then had to figure out how to get back on without killing myself, lol. Guess I made a bad choice!

Posted by
6825 posts

I think I've figured it out (with a LOT of help from Nigel). It sounds like the council removed the charge because it was sent to Europcar. Europcar then gave them my contact information so they could send me a notice. So I suppose now I just have to wait for them to send me a notice of this.

In the meantime, I paid the Europcar invoice of £40 (after checking to make sure they hadn't already billed my card). So now I guess I just wait. :-)

Thanks again for everyone's help! I appreciate it so much!

Posted by
1286 posts

So far so good.

In these days of email and mobile phones a call from Eurocar could have top n tailed it in minutes
And be superb service

Posted by
27352 posts

There have been many earlier reports of traffic fines (usually in Italy) posters needed to pay. I haven't been one of the victims, but my sense of it is that the cheapest way to send money overseas is a service like Wise. Wise has been used by a lot of people here, .and I've read no complaints. It will probably be a great deal cheaper than going through your bank.

Posted by
7568 posts

I wonder if municipalities have arranged for a multitude of payment methods nowadays: various Apps, electronic options, maybe still “paper” options, and in various world currencies? I have to guess that the majority of drivers deemed to have been offenders in Plymouth are expected to be local residents, or at least from the UK, paying in Pounds Sterling. For the occasional visiting foreign driver in a rental car, perhaps the now involve the rental company and let its rental customers figure it out.

If the Plymouth Council have waived (negated and dropped?) the charges, then it would seem the offense was insignificant, forgiven, and/or not worth pursuing. But Europcar stands to pick up bonus revenue from a driver who just happened to be a customer.

Mardee, I’m glad you made it through the heavy rain safely, and across the bridge. The strain on you of trying to make things right is, arguably, worse than whatever infraction you committed. It’s not “No Harm, No Foul,” but apparently is Minimal foul, negligible harm, maybe no fine, yet still a Balance Due … just to Europcar??

Posted by
311 posts

My husband won't ever rent from Europcar again (he calls it Stalincar) for many reasons, the least of those reasons being that Europcar charged £35 (to his credit card) just for providing the Thames Valley police with his contact info, when he was caught on their speed cameras going 35 in a 30 mph zone. Thames Valley police never followed up ... So it ended up being an amusing/absurd story that he's gotten a lot of mileage (pun intended) out of.

Mardee, I'm sorry about this kerfuffle, and many thanks to Nigel for his help!
(I've also had the pleasure of meeting Nigel in person – an all-around great guy.)

Posted by
975 posts

Laura - I would be very surprised if there is any hire company in the UK that does not charge a fee of that order for the admin involved in in dealing with a traffic penalty notice here. The fee will be outlined somewhere in the T's & C's, admittedly somewhere where you would be unlikely to look at the time of booking.

Posted by
7496 posts

Most US car rental company contracts state explicitly that there will be an administrative charge of $xx for processing the request to identify the driver of a rental passing an electronic tollboth on a bridge or highway here, unless you rent their transponder with the car.

Posted by
6825 posts

Laura, that sounds like exactly this situation. Maybe they'll fail to follow up with me. But I will say that I agree about Europcar and not just because of this. I had other problems when I picked up the car, like the guy trying to aggressively upsell some items

Then when I returned it on a Bank Monday, he had told me just to leave it in the yard but gave no instructions as to where I should leave the keys. Plus the yard was locked when I first showed up, which caused me to panic for a bit until he showed up after a few minutes. From what he said, it sounded like he had forgotten about me returning the car and was just there to pick up something. The car wasn't that great either as it had terrible gas mileage. Overall it was not a great experience so I will probably avoid them in the future. I would have gone with Arnold Clark, but they don't have any offices in Cornwall or Devon.

Johnnew52 and Tim, there was something in the fine print about an administrative fee, but it didn't specify an amount. Regardless, I paid the fee and I'm fine with it, but it was really more the other things that put me off.

Posted by
311 posts

John, yes, that is not an unreasonable fee, and as mentioned, this incident was the least of his grievances with Stalin- oops, I mean Europcar. And apparently he WAS speeding 😬

He has rented a car on literally scores of trips to the UK (I am making 5 trips to the UK just this year alone, but I never hire a car, haha; I have driven a left-hand-drive stick-shift car in the UK, but only around car parks and private estates – I wouldn't trust myself on actual roads!!) and has now settled on a different hire car company that he likes, but which I'm sure would have a similar fee for forwarding his info.

Mardee, I hope it all works out! How aggravating (the other issues)!!!

We have paid various other fees in the past ... for example, for forgetting that in Switzerland there is no 'right turn on red'. Even though we lived in Switzerland for many years, we quickly became used to the different laws here in Cali (especially when someone behind you at a red light is impatient ... !)

Posted by
311 posts

about T&Cs – we just heard on a BBC World Service radio program about someone who had buried in his T&Cs that the first person who responded would be sent a free bottle of (good) wine, and it took several months for someone to respond – and, haha, the person who finally took him up on the offer was not a regular customer but someone actually researching T&Cs or something :-)