Why are private parking companies issuing more fines than ever before – and what can you do about it if your hire car or van gets clobbered?
When a private parking company wants to issue a fine, it first needs the details of the vehicle it plans to slap a fine on. It gets that, of course, from the DVLA who, in 2006/7 handled 272,000 such requests.
Fast forward 12 years and that number has leapt to an eyewatering 6.81 million. Perhaps just as surprising, there’s been an increase of more than 1.1 million in just the last year alone – a 20% increase. What does this RAC Foundation analysis tell us (aside from that private parking is clearly a growth business)?
Well, it tells us a number of things: that a private parking company issues a fine approximately every 5 seconds. It tells us that drivers of our rental vans and hire cars are far more likely to get fined today that at any time in history. And, on the assumption that we haven’t all suddenly become illegal parkers overnight, it also suggests something unfair is going on.
Changing the law
First things first – we’re not talking about parking fines issued by police or councils here. Those are a different kettle of fish and there are clear procedures if you wish to challenge the legitimacy of those.
Nor are we saying that every private parking firm is unscrupulous. Many subscribe to industry codes of conduct and trade bodies and operate to clearly published guidelines. But some do not.
In March 2019 Sir Greg Knight MP’s private members’ bill became law and laid the foundation for 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.”
Challenging the fine
So what can you do if you return to your rental vehicle to find a penalty notice on your windscreen?
Money Saving Expert has put together a guide, noting first and foremost that private parking fines are effectively invoices, not legal demands. You don’t, therefore, have to pay them automatically, and you can fight unfair ones.