BRITISH motorists have been hit with a major surge in the number of private parking tickets issued over the last few years.
More than 2.1million additional fines were issued by companies in the last 12 months compared to 2016-17, according to RAC Foundation analysis of Government data.
Some 6.81million vehicle keeper records were requested by parking management firms in 2018-19 to chase private fees, up from 5.65million in the 2017-18 financial year, and 4.71million in 2016-17.
This is the highest total on record, representing a 20 per cent increase year-on-year.
Parking companies obtain records from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) to chase car owners for alleged infringements in private car parks such as at shopping centres, leisure facilities and motorway service areas.
And each penalty charge can cost drivers as much as £100.
How do I beat private parking charges?
- If you get a ticket, speak to the parking company straight away and ask them to hold fire on charges while you gather some evidence. Put this in writing or put them on notice through Resolver. Photograph your receipts and tickets too, just in case the originals go missing.
- Explain the circumstances that lead to the charge, keep a record of all your comments and ask them to respond in writing. Some parking firms may be intimidating to deal with. This is to get you to pay up.
- Photograph the car park (make sure your licence plate is visible), notices, ground markings and payment machines. Parking information should be clearly placed and not hidden. Lots of people have successfully appealed fees after bushes or trees swallowed up the warning signs.
- Do a bit of research online. Wonky payment machines, dodgy attendants and firms and other problems are often discussed on online forums. Take a screenshot or links that prove there’s a problem with that parking area or firm.
- Some people get caught out by a sudden, unannounced change of rules. If you’ve been regularly parking and suddenly been ticketed, ask for proof as to how people have been notified about this new policy.
- Talk to the landowner. Many supermarket managers can cancel your ticket so stay calm and explain what’s gone on.
- Many parking companies have free periods. If these aren’t clearly explained – or you’ve been charged while still in one, you have the right to take it further.
- If you want to make a complaint about a private parking company you could use a free service like Resolver. The system allows you to construct a complaint, keep track of any communication, and escalate your case to POPLA (Parking on Private Land Appeals).
The DVLA charges private firms £2.50 per record, which the agency says are set to recover the cost of providing the information, and it doesn’t make any money from the process.
Legislation aimed at putting rogue car park operators out of business officially became law in March.
Sir Greg Knight MP’s Parking (Code of Practice) Bill is designed to stop firms accessing the DVLA’s database – thereby limiting their ability to issue tickets – unless they comply with a new code of conduct.
In the last 13 years, more than 33million vehicle keeper records have been obtained by parking firms from the DVLA. More than half of these were in the past three years.
But parking tickets issued on private land by independent companies aren’t always enforceable.
Councils and police are the only bodies with an official right to fine you and they can issue a Penalty Charge Notice, Excess Charge Notice or Fixed Penalty Notice – which you normally have to pay.
The surge in the number of private parking tickets issued to British drivers
Here are the number of vehicle keeper records obtained from the DVLA by parking management companies since 2006-07, according to RAC Foundation analysis:
- 2018/19: 6.81 million
- 2017-18: 5.65 million
- 2016-17: 4.71 million
- 2015-16: 3.67 million
- 2014-15: 3.06 million
- 2013-14: 2.43 million
- 2012-13: 1.89 million
- 2011-12: 1.57 million
- 2010-11: 1.17 million
- 2009-10: 1.03 million
- 2008-09: 687,000
- 2007-08: 499,000
- 2006-07: 272,000
But if you are given a Parking Charge Notice from a private firm, you don’t necessarily have to fork out for it.
Private companies aren’t allowed to use the word “penalty” when issuing a ticket and any notice is simply an invoice for services used rather than a fine as such.
In most cases, the only way they can force you to pay is by taking you to the small claims court.
Most of the big, private car park operators are part of a trade body such as the British Parking Association (BPA) or International Parking Community (IPC).
The Parking on Private Land Appeals (Popla) was set up by the BPA as an independent body to assist with ticket appeals – and if Popla agrees with the driver during an appeal, the charge is cancelled.
But if the driver’s appeal is refused, the company can carry on seeking payment and ultimately has the option of taking the vehicle owner to the small claims court.
And some drivers have been forced to pay private fees for large amounts of money in court.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “These staggeringly high numbers stand as a vindication of the urgent need for the measures in Sir Greg Knight’s Act to be put in place – a single, tighter code of practice, a single, consistent appeals body, and strict audit of parking companies’ compliance.
“Businesses who employ private companies to manage their car parks should be taking a close look at how they are operating, the implications for the drivers who will often be their own customers and, ultimately, what that means for their own reputation.
“We have never advocated a parking free-for-all, but for a system that is clear, transparent and fair for drivers and landowners alike.”