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Parking ticket breaks new record – do you know your car parking rights?

Robin Bowman

Robin Bowman
Apr 27, 2018


The number of parking tickets issued by private firms was a record 5.65m last year, government data shows.

The RAC Foundation says the number rose by almost a 20% in a year and was far above levels of a decade ago.

Motorists can face penalties as high as £100 for staying longer than allowed, the foundation said.

The motoring research group said the number of tickets issued in the 2017-18 financial year rose from 4.71m - a year-on-year increase of nearly 20%.

RAC Foundation analysis of DVLA data shows that in the last financial year (2017-18) 5.65 million sets of vehicle keeper records were released to car parking management companies.

Almost all of these will have been used to pursue motorists who are deemed to have infringed regulations in private car parks. 

The 5.65 million compares with 4.71 million sets of records released to parking firms in the previous financial year.

Just a decade ago (in 2007-8) 499,000 sets of records were released.

The charges levied by firms for contraventions such as overstaying are often as much as £100 suggesting that parking firms could be demanding more than half a billion pounds (£565 million) from drivers on an annual basis.

The data paints a picture of an industry issuing a penalty notice every 6 seconds; the equivalent of 11 per minute, 645 per hour and 15,486 per day.

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In 2017-18, a total of 119 parking companies received data from the DVLA, ten more than in the previous financial years.

The top five purchasers of data in 2017-18 were:

ParkingEye Ltd – 1,768,233 records (1,530,259 in 2016-17)

Euro Car Parks – 406,323 records (306,857)

Smart Parking Ltd – 390,860 records (329,157)

Athena ANPR Ltd – 318,486 records (246,743)

Ranger Services Ltd for Highview Parking Ltd – 274,591 records (271,917)

Clamping on private land was banned (in all but exceptional circumstances) in 2012 by the Protection of Freedoms Act.

The Act also allowed for private parking companies to pursue the registered keepers of vehicles rather than having to prove who the driver was at the time of the ’offence’.

All private parking firms wanting to access the vehicle-keeper data held by the DVLA need to be members of an Accredited Trade Association (ATA) and abide by the ATA’s code of practice. There are currently two ATAs: the British Parking Association and the International Parking Community.

Both ATAs have established independent appeals services to which drivers can take their cases questioning the validity of tickets if initial appeals to member firms themselves fail.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Each year we publish this analysis and each year we are not only astonished by the numbers involved, but also by the fact that those numbers keep rocketing up.

“The true volume of tickets being issued might actually be significantly higher still as some firms will simply slap a demand onto a windscreen for the driver to find when they return to their vehicle.

“Pursuing so many people must be a major administrative task for the companies involved, but the questions the numbers really beg are: what’s going wrong? Are Britain’s motorists really flouting the rules on such an industrial scale?

“We strongly support Sir Greg Knight in his initiative to get some regulation in place through a private member’s bill that will establish much-needed independent scrutiny of what’s going on in the private parking world. Only then can we be reassured that the cards aren’t stacked against the motorist.”

Your rights

Wheel-clamping on private land in England and Wales has been illegal since October 2012.

In Scotland, clamping on private land has been banned since 1992.

Control companies can legally pursue motorists for any unpaid parking charge notices.

But parking enforcement on private land is unregulated and it relies on the laws of contract and trespass.

Motorists are deemed to have accepted the parking terms and sanctions if there is adequate signage.

Several organisations, including the AA, have campaigned for private parking to be regulated, but this has not happened.

Operators are also within their rights to send you a ticket through the post.

The AA advises motorists not to pay any money on the spot.

All genuine operators will allow you to pay by post.

If you disagree with the ticket, the AA suggests you should gather any evidence, such as photographs.

You should then follow the instructions on the ticket concerning the appeals procedure.

Campaigner and author of the book, "The Parking Ticket Awards: Crazy Councils, Meter Madness and Traffic Warden Hell", Barrie Segal, is not convinced that the industry is fair to motorists.

He also does not believe we should ignore these tickets, but at the same time doesn't believe POPLA's appeal service is the only route to follow.

His advice is to get your case heard and not get bogged down in a stream of continuous letter writing.

Mr Segal says this is what you should tell the parking company:

"I want my day in court, if you're going to pursue this. If you go to court, I want you to demonstrate:

1) There was a contract

2) That you're entitled to receive the money

3) That it isn't a penalty and

4) That what you've asked for is a genuine pre-estimated loss"

Top tips from the AA

Always look for signs setting out parking rules.

Read and note the parking rules.

Stick to the rules, eg, don't park in bays reserved for disabled badge holders.

Just because you don't see enforcement taking place it doesn't mean it isn't; cameras may be in use.

If you have a parking charge notice put on your car, don't ignore it. 

If you feel a parking charge notice is wrong or has been applied unfairly, gather evidence before you leave; take a careful note of signage and take photos if you can.

If your car is wheel-clamped in a car park where no by-law is displayed, call the police.

If heavy-handed ticketers demand money on the spot and that you pay in cash, drive away or consider calling the police.

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