Sir Greg Knight: Act now to protect motorists from rip-off private parking operators
We need a mandatory code of practice across the private parking sector to end inconsistent practices and unfair treatment of motorists, writes Sir Greg Knight
Parking is an indispensable part of motoring. If you undertake a journey in a car, you need to park it. According to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, there are 38 million vehicles on our roads. Of those, probably 19 million will be driven and undertake at least one parking transaction each day.
The number of “penalty” notices issued every year from private car parks is nearly five million; so many drivers have experienced an issue involving excess parking charges.
In my view, it is essential that those who park on private land are treated both fairly and uniformly. Motorists should have certainty that when they enter a car park they are entering into a contract that is reasonable, transparent and involves a consistent process.
Poor signage, unreasonable terms, exorbitant “fines”, aggressive demands for payment and an opaque appeals process need to be properly outlawed.
Some private parking operators deploy tactics which are outrageous. One motorist, Mr O’Keefe, was driving on a private industrial estate, searching for a particular business that he was having difficulty finding. He stopped in an empty lay-by for 15 seconds to re-set his satellite navigation system and he was filmed by a passing security van equipped with a video camera. One week later he received a penalty invoice for £100 for stopping in breach of a sign situated some distance further back along the road that he had passed at 30 mph. The parking company agrees that he was stationary for only about 15 seconds – but when he used their appeals procedure, he was ignored, and he continued to receive threatening letters.
Another appalling case involves a pensioner called Angela. Her car was ticketed for £70 for exceeding the time permitted in the car park. Angela is 5 feet tall, and the parking sign was mounted so high up that initially she did not even see it. When she returned to discover the “ticket”, she looked for signage and eventually saw a small sign high up a pole. The text was so small that she could not read it.
In another part of the country, a pensioner incorrectly entered her number plate details into an automatic machine when paying for her parking, getting just one digit wrong. On returning, she discovered that the innocent mistake had resulted in a penalty notice. On appeal, she pointed out that it was an honest mistake and that no other car on the DVLA database had the registration number she had keyed in, but payment of the penalty was still demanded.
My Bill will bring this sort of behaviour to an end. It requires the government to create a mandatory code of practice across the private parking sector to end inconsistent practices and unfair treatment of motorists. It will ensure that the terms under which private parking is provided, including the rights and obligations of each party, are fair, clear and unambiguous.
The mandatory code will ensure drivers that private car park operators will in future treat them in a reasonable and proportionate manner. If they do not, motorists will have access to a robust and independent appeals service and erring car park operators could be put of business by being denied access to the DVLA vehicle keeper records.
I am grateful to have the support of the government for this Bill, as well as backing from the Official Opposition and the Scottish National Party.
Parliament has a real chance to make parking a fairer and more predictable experience for us all.
Sir Greg Knight is Conservative MP for East Yorkshire