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Clamp down on rogue parking firms

Peter Patel
Nov 4, 2019


Traffic wardens are like vultures, hovering over a row of parked cars waiting for the chance to slap a hefty fine on a poor, unsuspecting motorist.

Don't get me wrong, sometimes it's needed. But all too often it feels like the time it takes to go to the ticket machine and back again is long enough to warrant a £60 fine.

But now rogue private parking companies could be forced to give drivers a 10-minute grace period after their tickets expire as part of government proposals to clamp down on unscrupulous firms.

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The planned stipulation unveiled by Local Government secretary Robert Jenrick over the weekend is expected to be part of a new Code of Practice for private parking firms following a recent spike in charges.

The introduction of rules to grant a grace period for motorists to return to their vehicles is aimed at ending the practice of clock-watching - commission-earning - staff slapping tickets on windscreens seconds after a parking ticket lapses.

Private parking companies found to be breaking the Code - including the 10-minute grace period - will be barred from requesting vehicle-owner details from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.

These records enable private parking firms to issue 'penalty' tickets of up to £100 to drivers and pursue them for alleged infringements on private car land. 

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The DVLA currently charges these rouge firms £2.50 a pop for a car-keeper's information - a practice that looks set to generate the government agency over £21million this financial year, according to a recent report.  

Robert Jenrick said the introduction of a code of practice for private parking firms operating in supermarket, hotel and multi-storey parks would bring rules in line with council-run sites.

'For too long rogue parking firms have operated in an unregulated industry, handing out unjust fines, putting drivers through baffling appeals processes and issuing tickets to motorists who were only seconds late back to their cars,' he said.

'That's why we've appointed the British Standards Institution to work with consumer groups and industry to write the first ever compulsory Code of Practice for private parking firms. 

'The new Code will restore common sense to the way parking fines are handed out, encourage people back onto our high-streets and crack down on dodgy operators who use aggressive tactics to harass drivers.'

10-minute grace period was introduced for all council car parks in England in 2015, but is currently voluntary for private parking firms. 

Under measures being considered, all private car parks in England, Scotland and Wales will have to give motorists up to 10 minutes before issuing a late fine. 

Extra measures to crackdown on intimidating and aggressive debt collection practices by private parking companies will also be considered as part of the code.

Unlike existing voluntary codes set by industry, the new Code will be mandatory and provide a single set of rules to follow.   

Official figures show that in the first half of 2019-20, management companies sought 4.32 million sets of vehicle keeper records from the DVLA. 

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With the agency charging £2.50 to issue private parking firms with a driver's details, it stands to make £21.6million from selling on information over the 12 month period.

The DVLA says it is allowed to disclose details of a vehicle's keeper under data protection laws, and that without such data-sharing motorists would be able to drive or park anywhere they wanted, without being responsible for their actions.

A spokesperson told This is Money earlier this year: 'The DVLA does not profit from the release of information from its registers. The £2.50 fee is set to recover the cost of providing the information.'

When pressed for further a breakdown of the £2.50 charge, we were told: 'The law allows for us to charge fees for some transactions, and offer a range of transactions free of charge.

'Our fees are set in order to recover the full costs of the Agency's activities and the fees charged are pooled together when received.'

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