Motorists are set to benefit from a clampdown on dodgy private parking firms, as the government has signalled its intention to regulate the industry more assiduously.
Moneywise reported in September 2017 that motoring group the RAC was backing calls for a crackdown initiated by Conservative MP Sir Greg Knight to introduce a legally binding code of practice and establish a fair appeals process for drivers.
Now, in a victory for Sir Greg and the RAC, the government has announced its intention to introduce a new code of practice for the industry, in consultation with motoring groups and other experts.
Breaches of the new rules will be punishable with fines and blocks on access to driver data, says the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG). The Ministry explains that these penalties would effectively put any unscrupulous company out of business.
The Private Member’s Bill will receive its Second Reading in the House of Commons on Friday (2 February 2018).
At present, there are two parking trade associations, the British Parking Association (BPA) and the International Parking Community (IPC). Each association has a Code of Practice that their members are required to abide by. But the government says a single code is intended to set a higher standard for practices across the sector, especially in the area of appeals against parking tickets.
According to data from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, nearly 10,000 motorists approached it for advice regarding private parking tickets in 2017. The charity says private parking firms are issuing 13 times more tickets now than a decade ago.
Common complaints include inconsistent practices, poor signage of rules, confusing appeals processes and intimidating communication from companies.
Secretary of state for communities, Sajid Javid, comments: “For too long drivers have suffered from unjust fines at the hands of dodgy parking firms.
“We need a fairer, clearer and more consistent system that brings the small minority of unscrupulous operators in line with those who are behaving appropriately.
“That is why government is putting the brakes on these rogue operators and backing new laws that will put a stop to aggressive behaviour and provide a simpler way for drivers to appeal fines.”
‘Something is still going badly awry’
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, adds: “Motorists will be delighted that the government is throwing its weight behind Sir Greg Knight’s move to bring some much-needed regulatory rigour to the world of private parking.
“We all hoped the ban on clamping would end the sharp practices that had come to plague private parking, but the fact that companies are issuing millions of penalty tickets annually is clear evidence that something is still going badly awry.
“Drivers don’t want a parking free-for-all, but they do want a system that is fair to all parties and that’s what a code of practice set by government – rather than the industry itself – should bring about.”