The number of penalty tickets issued to drivers parking on private land has leapt by more than a million in just 12 months to a new high, the latest official figures suggest. RAC Foundation analysis of DVLA data shows that in the last financial year (2018-19) 6.8 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 6.8 million figure is 20% higher than the 5.65 million sets of records released to parking firms in the previous financial year. In the last 13 years, more than 33 million vehicle keeper records have been obtained by parking firms from the DVLA, more than half of them in the past three years alone.
The charges levied by firms for contraventions such as overstaying can be as much as £100, which in principle suggests that parking firms could be demanding up to £680 million from drivers on an annual basis. The data reveals the industry is obtaining records on a scale that would allow it to issue a penalty notice every 5 seconds; the equivalent of 13 per minute, 777 per hour and 18,653 per day. In 2018-19, a total of 125 parking companies obtained keeper data from the DVLA. The top five in 2018-19 were:
ParkingEye Ltd – 1,852,085 records (1,768,233 records in 2017-18)
Euro Car Parks – 672,359 records (406,323)
Ranger Services Ltd for Highview Parking Ltd – 454,059 records (274,591)
Smart Parking Ltd – 391,048 records (390,860)
Civil Enforcement Ltd – 368,883 records (260,884)
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 that ATA’s code of practice. There are currently two ATAs: the British Parking Association and the International Parking Community. Both ATAs have established appeals bodies to which drivers can take their cases to assess the validity of tickets if initial appeals to member firms themselves fail. In March 2019 Sir Greg Knight MP’s private members’ bill Parking (Code of Practice) became law. This new act lays the framework for the establishment of: a single, government-sanctioned, industry-wide code of practice; a single independent appeals service; and an independent ombudsman to oversee the behaviour of the parking industry. 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.”