parking enforcement firms are reaping large sums from issuing automated ‘penalty’ tickets
A year after most wheel clampers were banned from operating in private car parks (1 October 2012) parking enforcement firms are reaping large sums from issuing automated ‘penalty’ tickets.
While communities Minister Eric Pickles is reining in local authorities who over zealously use CCTV, private parking operators now rely heavily on this technology and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) to watch drivers and issue tickets through the post when they put a foot wrong in parking areas.
There has been a surge in parking charge notices issued by private firms through the post with complaints coming in from Edinburgh to the south coast.
With clamps no longer an option in England and Wales it was inevitable that the number of parking charge notices (private parking tickets) would increase.
Complaints to the AA have increased and have exposed a new and hard-line attitude by private enforcement firms.
Recent cases have shown harsh treatment of a diabetic, who slept slightly beyond the two hour limit at a deserted motorway service area in the early hours after having concerns about his blood sugar level. Despite obtaining a doctors certificate the parking firm rejected his appeal and although he said this would cause hardship the firm said he could pay the £60 by monthly instalments.
Another member in London was threatened with a £160 parking ticket which breached the £100 maximum recommended by the British Parking Association’s code which the enforcement firm was signed up to. She was so scared she paid up rather than taking the case to the new independent appeal service POPLA.
It is estimated that 2.3 million private parking tickets are issued every year. It is also reported that DVLA received £1.4 million during the 3 months April-June this year with over half a million drivers details given out.
The Government's regulatory impact assessment prior to introducing the ban on wheel clamping estimated that the ban would result in 500,000 more private parking tickets being issued - netting around £30m.
POPLA appears to be struggling to cope with appeal demand with its website warning of high demand and a back log.
Latest statistics show that 13,611 appeals were registered up to late August with only 6,913 decided, of those parking firms (3,361) won more than drivers (2,856).
Although clamping has largely gone, its legacy remains. One AA member who was wrongly clamped and towed in 2012 secured a victory against the clamper in court but despite employing his own bailiff to recover the sum he has yet to see a penny of the £500 he was awarded because the clamper has gone to ground.
It seems many of the notorious clampers have moved their sharp practices to private parking enforcement
Edmund King, president of the AA
Edmund King, AA President, said: “We are pleased that after decades of clamper extortion their practices have largely been consigned to history. However, private parking enforcement remains unregulated and is a free-for-all when even firms signed up to a code of practice breach their own rules. It seems many of the notorious clampers have moved their sharp practices to private parking enforcement.
“Others seem to have adopted strong arm tactics to threaten drivers into paying tickets that are often unjust and set at an unreasonable level compared to those issued by regulated local authorities.
"With the new independent appeal system apparently bursting at the seams it is clear many drivers feel unfairly done by but are finding it hard to get a result. We are very concerned about POPLA’s difficulties, which they assured us they could overcome with additional staff some months ago and we hope meltdown can be avoided”.
(8 October 2013)
Read AA head of public affairs Paul Watters' article, "parking - a nice little earner?" in the October 2013 issue of Parking News.