Rogue parking firms face crackdown
08 February 2018
Author: Sean Keywood
Businesses could be set to benefit after the government threw its backing behind proposed new rules for private parking firms.
Ministers support legislation to regulate the private parking industry, with a stringent code of practice to be developed by secretary of state for communities Sajid Javid, in conjunction with motoring groups and other experts.
Those falling foul of the new rules would be blocked from accessing driver data and issuing fines, effectively forcing them out of the industry.
The measures are outlined in a private member's bill by Sir Greg Knight MP, which is backed by the government.
Among those welcoming the proposal is business mobility provider Nexus Vehicle Rental, which says business drivers in particular could benefit from rules against rogue operators.
The company says its own data shows these drivers have seen a major increase in penalties, 95% of which are estimated to come from private parking firms.
Nexus says 2.6% of daily business-car rentals in the first eight months of 2017 incurred parking penalty charges, compared with just 1.6% for the whole of 2012.
As well as supporting the proposed legislation, the company has also produced a guide to help business drivers challenge parking penalties from rogue operators.
Nexus CEO David Brennan said, "As a major mobility provider for UK businesses, we've experienced first-hand the unfair and sometimes unavoidable fines issued by private operators that, according to recent reports, are now handing out charges every seven seconds UK-wide.
"As well as backing the bill, we urge motorists to be vigilant when faced with private parking charges."
Announcing the government's backing for the bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament, Javid said, "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."
Among the motoring groups supporting the bill is the RAC Foundation, which has carried out analysis suggesting that, in the 2017-18 financial year, six million tickets are likely to be issued by firms operating on private land, up from 4.7 million in 2016-17.
Director Steve Gooding said, "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."
Also supporting the bill is the parking industry itself, with Andrew Pester, chief executive of the British Parking Association, saying reputable operators welcomed the opportunity to prevent rogue companies damaging the rest of the sector.
He said, "We welcome Sir Greg's bill that aims to drive consistency and fairness in the private parking sector. Our membership already complies with a robust code of practice that we continuously seek to improve through consultation.
"A single, mandatory code of practice across the whole sector is important to ensure that unscrupulous providers don't undermine the parking sector with bad practice.
"As the leading authority in the sector, we shall continue to work closely with government and key stakeholders to press for progress towards a positive outcome for all."