8 November 2019

New parking code giving 10-minute grace period in private car parks could ease ‘fleet nightmare'

Private parking firms will be required to give drivers a 10-minute grace period after their tickets expire as part of a Government clamp down on rogue car parks.

Managing fines relating to parking, particularly on private land, has been called by ACFO, the UK representative body for fleet decision-makers, “a legal, financial and HR administrative nightmare” for fleet decision-makers and company car and van drivers alike.

Earlier this year, the Parking (Code of Practice) Act became law building on action the Government had previously taken to tackle rogue private parking firms, including banning wheel clamping and towing and stopping over-zealous parking enforcement by councils and traffic wardens.

That legislation had been championed through Parliament by Conservative MP Sir Greg Knight to tackle some of the major issues related to the unregulated parking of vehicles on private land raised in recent years by ACFO, which also said that parking fines on private land was “one of the major issues facing fleet decision-makers”

Under the Government’s proposals, a new Code of Practice is to be developed by the British Standards Institution to bring greater regulation to the private parking industry, making it easier for drivers to challenge unfair parking tickets.

In recent years the number of private penalty tickets being issued to drivers has soared. In 2008/9 some 690,000 penalties were issued, but the RAC Foundation estimates that in 2019/20 8.6 million penalties will be dished out - almost two million more tickets on private land in this financial year compared with last, a rise of more than a quarter - including many anticipated to be to company car and van drivers. The numbers are based on the volume of vehicle keeper records the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA) is selling to parking companies which allows them to send demands to car owners - including fleets - often for £100 and sometimes more.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “The volume of tickets being issued is now four and a half times what it was when clamping was outlawed back in 2012 and an astonishing 32 times more than it was in 2006 which is the first year for which the DVLA publishes data for. Whatever the outcome of the general election [on December 12] it must be a priority for the new Government to get a grip, quickly, of this out of control juggernaut.”

A 10-minute grace period was introduced for all council car parks in England in 2015, but is currently voluntary for private parking firms. Under the measures being considered, all private car parks in England, Scotland and Wales would 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. Rogue firms which break the Code will be barred from requesting DVLA data, making them unable to pursue motorists for their charges.

Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “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.

“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.”

The Code is also set to introduce a new independent appeals service, giving drivers greater support to challenge unjustified parking tickets.

The British Standards Institution will write the Code in consultation with consumer and industry groups. It will launch a full public consultation on the Code where all members of the public will be able to have their say on the new rules.