Drivers who receive ‘fines’ from private parking firms have more than a one in three chance of the charge being cancelled – and some firms waiver up to 93 per cent of tickets, a new investigation has unearthed.
The 10 major private parking companies operating in Britain revoked at least 33 per cent of the 14.7million charges they issued in the last four years, a report by consumer group Which? given exclusively to This is Money and Mail Online shows.
The Government is currently drawing up a code of practice to regulate rogue companies following a boom in private parking sharks in recent years.
Last year, This is Money launched a campaign to help put an end to unfair practices in the private parking industry.
Appeal unfair parking charges: More than a third of motorists who appealed private parking charges from the country’s 10 biggest operators successfully had charges cancelled
Millions of motorists have been held to ransom by these private parking firms who issue charges to drivers in the post.
Driver home addresses are provided by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, who sell details to these companies on request for £2.50 a go.
In 2017-18, the Government agency handed over information for 18,653 motorists a day – and earned £16.3million by doing so.
Which? revealed that requests to the DVLA for people’s details increased by 84 per cent in 2018-19 compared to three year’s previous as more supermarket, hospital and fast food car parks allowed private parking firms to operate at their premises.
The biggest of these firms is ParkingEye, which manages around 3,500 car parking sites across Britain, including NHS hospitals.
Below, the table shows how the biggest private parking firms are increasing the number of drivers they are charging for ‘breaching’ conditions.
Seven in 10 requests to the DVLA for driver details come from just 10 firms:
|Private parking firm||Requests for driver data 2015-19||Rise in monthly requests for data||Total appeals 2017-18||Adjudicated appeals awarded to driver 2017-18||Appeals not contested by operator in 2017-18||Total appeals won by drivers|
|Euro Car Parks Ltd||1,619,370||308%||3,478||11%||29%||40%|
|Smart Parking Ltd||1,455,931||3%||9,111||17%||33%||50%|
|Highview Parking Ltd||1,192,864||371%||1,351||14%||24%||38%|
|Civic Enforcement Ltd||997,769||204%||4,883||13%||22%||35%|
|Athena ANPR Ltd||980,965||65%||115||6%||27%||33%|
|CP Plus Ltd||643,762||43%||821||25%||20%||45%|
|UK Parking Control Ltd||582,094||61%||3,665||15%||23%||38%|
|National Car Parks Ltd||501,249||653%||3,736||9%||42%||51%|
ParkingEye claims to be able to ‘dramatically increase parking compliance and space availability’ and ‘improve the income potential’ of car parks.
It made a staggering 6.3million requests to the DVLA for drivers’ details between April 2015 and March 2019.
However, 38 per cent of the charges it issued were successfully appealed by drivers who contested it.
That said, ParkingEye profits are up 49 per cent to £9million, according to its last annual report.
Private parking firms pay the DVLA £2.50 for driver’s details so they can issue charges to motorists who break private car park rules
The biggest of these firms is ParkingEye, which manages around 3,500 car parking sites across Britain, including NHS hospitals
Other private parking firms lost even more appeals to drivers.
SmartParkingLtd – the third most prevalent company in Britain – lost half of its cases, having requested the details of 1.6million motorists in the previous four years.
National Car Parks Ltd, which is believed to have issued more than half a million charges in the since April 2015, lost 51 per cent of cases.
London-based operator, Spring Parking, didn’t appear in the top 10 major players but did have to cancel a whopping 93 per cent of its 376 charges given out in 2017-18, while motorists successfully appealed 81 per cent of charges issued by Local Parking Security in Warwickshire.
Who is regulating these firms?
Private parking companies should be members of one of two associations: the British Parking Association (BPA) or the International Parking Community (IPC).
Membership to either of these companies gives them the powers to request individual’s details from the DVLA by using CCTV footage to capture vehicle driving licences.
Some firms, however, are not members of these associations, so motorists are urged to check information given in parking tickets that are fixed to their cars rather than sent in the post.
You can cross reference the details with the BPA and IPC’s member lists online.
While both bodies do claim to have a code of practice for their respective members, the Government announced in March that it was stepping in to create the new Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2019 – a single code of practice and independent appeals service that applies across the whole industry.
‘I stopped at the same services twice in a day and received a £150 fine for parking there for 8 hours’
Ruth Hadfield regularly makes a roundtrip from Oxfordshire to Manchester.
She has a dashcam and a tracking device in her car – and without it, she may not have recently had a parking charge from a private firm quashed.
She was facing a charge of up to £150 after two quick pit stops at Norton Canes services on the M6 toll on the same day. It is a spot where she regularly takes a break, an important part of long journeys.
She says: ‘I stopped on the way up as normal and went round Manchester. I stayed there for a little while and then came back, again stopping at Norton Canes.
‘About 10 days later I received in the post a parking fine.
‘They said I had stayed at Norton Canes for almost eight hours and presented photographs of the front of my vehicle entering the service station when I was on my way up northbound and of it exiting after my second visit much later that day.’
The Norton Canes services and private parking instructions
Ruth has a ‘sophisticated’ tracking device on her car from the moment she switches her engine on until it is turned off, it pinpoints her location.
She pulled off a report from that day, while her dashcam also provided further back-up to show she had done nothing wrong.
After sending this in, 12 days later, she was told that decided no charges would be forthcoming. It highlights the importance of appealing – with 41 per cent of appeals heading to independent service POPLA resulted in a charge being cancelled.
Norton Canes allows two hours free parking, and is currently run by CP Plus Ltd.
This is Money has heard similar tales of people visiting retailers early in the day and then returning later in the evening – but ANPR cameras mistaking this for a longer visit, rather than two, shorter visits.
Other cases from Which? members include one driver who parked for a weekend in Bath and thought they had paid by card at the machine.
They didn’t realise the machine didn’t connect to take payment and had in fact issued a void ticket as it was dark. When they returned three days later, they’d be ticketed.
Another received a charge after not realising they had to validate their ticket at the hotel reception along with car details, while a Blue Badge holder parked in a disabled space, only to receive a charge after it transpired to be a private disabled space.
In the last 12 months, This is Money has received hundreds of cases of drivers who believe they have been unfairly treated by private parking firms, after we launched a campaign to try and help end shoddy behaviour.
If you’re in the wrong, don’t ignore it
While the Which? investigation urged motorists to always appeal unfair tickets, it also said drivers need to pay up if they know they were in the wrong.
This is Money echoes this – and has previously stated that our campaign is for common sense, not for motorists to just park wherever they want.
‘Don’t ignore a charge from a company that’s a member of the BPA or IPC; it won’t go away,’ the consumer organisation urged.
‘If you know you broke the rules and don’t have grounds to appeal, it’s better to settle quickly.
‘Most companies will give you an initial prompt payment discount of between 40 per cent and 60 per cent of the total charge if you pay within 14 days.’
Drivers who receive an unfair parking ticket are being told not to be pressured into paying fines and to contest the charge
However, those who are going to appeal should not pay this, though could miss out on the discount if their plead of innocence is thrown out.
‘Of you choose to appeal, you’ll likely lose the prompt payment discounts,’ the report said.
‘This is because it’s highly unlikely that your initial appeal to the private parking company, and potentially further appeal to POPLA or the ISA [the BPA and IPC’s respective dispute resolution services], will be completed within 14 days.’
The consumer charity said appeals to BPA operators takes up to 27 days and the IPA has a 19-day turnaround.
Which? added: ‘We think this unfairly pressurises drivers into paying charges when they have solid grounds to appeal.’
This is Money agrees, and has previously urged this practice stop to allow drivers to appeal fairly without fear of an escalating cost.
On average, POPLA said 41 per cent of appeals it processes are successful, while the IPA writes of 25 per cent in favour of the motorists.
Which? has a free tool to help drivers contest a parking ticket they feel is unfair from a private firm, to take the hassle out of appealing.
Steps you need to take if you receive to defend yourself against rogue private parking firms
– Always check whether a car park is privately owned and take a moment to read the notices so you know the conditions of the contract you’re entering into by parking
– Keep proof of your parking and payments for at least 14 days afterwards
– If you do receive a parking fine, don’t be intimidated into paying it if you feel it’s unfair
– Use all the appeal options available and may your case strongly as records show you have a reasonable chance of success
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