Private parking firm crackdown as government reveals new laws

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Net closing in: A new act passed into law today is designed to create a new code of practice and appeals process designed to clamp down on unfair charges


In a victory for This is Money’s campaign against private parking sharks, a bill that could potentially stop motorists’ details from being flogged to private firms has today become law.

The new Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2019 creates a single code of practice and independent appeals service that applies across the whole industry. 

The MP behind the act, Greg Knight, called it ‘overdue’, and said it would ‘bring fairness and transparency.’ 

Meanwhile, Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak MP, has written for us below, stating: ‘The rogue operators are on their way out for good.’

Net closing in: A new act passed into law today is designed to create a new code of practice and appeals process designed to clamp down on unfair charges

Net closing in: A new act passed into law today is designed to create a new code of practice and appeals process designed to clamp down on unfair charges

There are currently two different parking trade associations with their own individual codes of practice. 

Both the British Parking Association and the International Parking Community require members to abide by their codes, but the Government said the industry was largely self-regulating, and that a new single code would make parking ‘consistent, transparent and easier to understand.’

The code will be drafted later this year.

It added that the new appeals service would make it easier for drivers to challenge unfair parking charges. 

Drivers can currently appeal through the Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA) service, provided the issuer of the charge is a member of the BPA.

This is Money launched a campaign against private parking firms last autumn, following a deluge of responses to an article written by assistant editor Lee Boyce about how he beat an unfair charge.

Hundreds of readers responded with tales of their own unfair charges, and we also reported on the Basildon car park which led to so many shoppers being landed with fines that it spawned its own dedicated Facebook group with 5,000 members.

Our campaign has since been backed by AA president Edmund King, who wrote to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling calling for government intervention to ‘restore the principle of deterrence in the enforcement of parking and moving traffic offences – instead of the harvesting of charges at every opportunity.’

This is Money has called for three changes, all of which could partially be met by the introduction of this act: 

– To give drivers the option to stop the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency allowing private firms to buy their details for £2.50 a pop.

– For the independent appeal process to be made fairer.

– For the DVLA to investigate when large numbers of applications are made for a specific location frequently to see if the charge is fair.

The Government said that if private parking firms broke the new code they could be barred from asking for motorists’ information from the DVLA. 

A recent Freedom of Information request found the body, which looks after the records of more than 48million motorists, made £16.3million from handing out driver details to third parties last year.

Separate data analysed by the RAC Foundation predicted 6.8million drivers would have their keeper records sold to car parking firms in the 12 months to April 2019, which would be a 20 per cent increase on the year before.

Additionally, there could be an audit of car parks which see much higher numbers of charges issued compared to normal.

Conservative MP Sir Greg Knight, whose private members’ bill became law today, said: ‘My bill will bring fairness and transparency and is a good consumer protection measure, and I am honoured to have been able to steer it through parliament.

‘I think the fact that it had all party support is evidence in itself that the policy was needed and overdue. 

Almost all MPs have had an item in their postbag featuring someone who had been affected, and complaints were very widespread.

‘My bill mandates the introduction of a single code of practice and single appeals process, and would cap the level of penalties companies could charge. 

‘It will also mandate the DVLA not to sell details to companies who don’t play by the rules.’

Motoring groups, as well as the BPA, backed the changes.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: ‘Sir Greg is to be congratulated for his success in uniting MPs and peers alike to deliver the Parking (Code of Practice) Act the private parking industry so clearly needs.

‘The Act will tackle an issue which our figures show affects millions of motorists each year.’

Andrew Pester, the BPA’s chief executive, said: ‘We are delighted that Sir Greg Knight’s bill has achieved Royal Assent which will deliver our call for a single standard setting body, single code of practice and a single independent appeals service.

‘This framework will enable greater consistency and consumer confidence. 

‘As a not-for-profit association we will continue to work closely with Government and others, including consumer groups, to help develop a single Code of Practice that provides a fair outcome for motorists, landowners and parking operators alike.’

Nicholas Lyes, the head of roads policy at the RAC, said: ‘Motorists will warmly welcome this new Act. 

‘For too long, some unscrupulous private parking operators have made drivers’ lives a misery with some questionable practices which has sent levels of trust in the sector plummeting.

‘The code will create more consistent standards across the board which should eliminate dubious practices and create a single, independent appeals process. 

‘The RAC has long called for changes to the way the private parking sector is regulated and this new code will undoubtedly make the lives of drivers easier.’

The rogue operators are on their way out for good

By Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak MP

Rishi Sunak, MP for Richmond (Yorks) and Minister in the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government

Rishi Sunak, MP for Richmond (Yorks) and Minister in the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government

Rishi Sunak, MP for Richmond (Yorks) and Minister in the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government

We have all experienced that sinking feeling on returning to your car and finding a yellow parking ticket on the windscreen or worse, the arrival of a fine on your doormat weeks later. 

You wrack your brain to remember if there was a sign and you know you left the car park on time and paid correctly while you were there.

Last month, research from the RAC Foundation predicted that to April of this year 6.8 million drivers will have their records sold to car parking firms, an increase of 20 per cent on last year. 

These details are then used to send fines to drivers and many of these will be unjustified.

I am happy to say from today things are changing. The Government is putting an end to the bad behaviour of rogue parking operators for good as the Parking (Code of Practice) Act becomes law.

For far too long rogue private parking firms have been slapping unfair fines on unsuspecting motorists for breaking rules when it wasn’t clear what the rules were. 

If you have ever fallen foul of a rogue private parking operator you’ll also know it can also be very difficult to challenge the company and months of stress as you try to resolve a fine.

The new Act will ensure those who operate car parks on private land will have to keep to a single Code of Practice and any failure to comply will mean they risk losing access to DVLA data. Ultimately, this will put them out of business.

The Code of Practice will apply across Britain, so anywhere a driver parks across England, Scotland and Wales, the rules will be the same. 

A new independent appeals service will also be created to support drivers to challenge unjustified parking tickets and offer impartial advice.

Through the Parking (Code of Practice) Act, we are stamping out shoddy practices to get a fair deal for motorists. From today the rogue operators are on their way out for good.

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