Plans to curb the amount of money private parking companies can charge drivers in parking fines have been put on hold.
Alongside capping the amount private operators could charge, the proposed code of conduct also attempted to stamp-out any use of intimidating language adopted by firms when getting motorists to pay-up.
But the Private Parking Code of Practice – being overseen by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities – has now has been temporarily withdrawn after an appeal by some operators unhappy about the proposed limits on their charges.
Motoring groups, including the RAC, had welcomed the introduction of a clear set of rules private companies would need to follow, which it said would help root out any ‘dubious practices’.
With private firms issuing around 22,000 tickets every day, government minister Neil O’Brien said he too was determined to improve parking practices for drivers to encourage them back to towns and cities to shop after the pandemic.
He wrote: “Poll after poll – both before and during the pandemic – shows that a lack of cheap, easy parking is one of the greatest barriers to people visiting their local high street.This is unlikely to come as a surprise for anyone who owns a car, because if there is one thing that unites all motorists it is that poor quality, expensive parking – and the universal fear of a parking ticket – are enough to put anyone off driving into town.
“And that fear is not entirely unfounded. Private firms issue roughly 22,000 parking tickets every day, often adopting a labyrinthine system of misleading and confusing signage, opaque appeals services, aggressive debt collection and unreasonable fees designed to extort money from motorists.
“Apart from their inherent unfairness, these practices damage our high-streets, our towns and our city centres. We are determined to bring them to an end.”
Terms of the new code
The new measures would have seen maximum parking charge notices reduced to £50 in most cases outside London, with a 50% discount for early payment, would ban parking debt collectors charging additional fees when notices aren’t paid and introduce a 10 minute grace period before firms issue a late fine and a five-minute cooling off period during which a driver could consider the terms and conditions and change their mind about parking their car.
Minister Neil O’Brien said this would help stop people parking legitimately at supermarkets which are using private enforcement being hit with a ‘heavy handed fine’ for just being a few minutes late.
The RAC said the new code of conduct would also have enabled a crackdown on parking firms using aggressive or ‘pseudo-legal’ language for the benefit of getting drivers to hand over money and would make sure there were better signs for customers that explained the conditions of parking and how to appeal any charge.
But some private firms have opposed some terms in the new policy with a number of companies launching legal action to challenge the proposed caps on charges for suspected infringements of parking rules on private land.
The Private Parking Code of Practice has now been ‘temporarily withdrawn’ says the government website pending a ‘review of the levels of private parking charges and additional fees’.
RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes says he is disappointed by further delays.
He explained: “The new private parking code of practice was designed specifically to make things fairer for drivers and end some of the worst practices in the sector. It’s deeply disappointing that the code has been temporarily withdrawn which now almost certainly means yet more delays in it being introduced. Drivers have a right to feel infuriated.
“The fact that parking companies take issue with the capping of charge notices and debt recovery fees shows precisely why both the code and the cap are needed. For too long, some companies have been allowed to prey mercilessly on drivers who might make an honest mistake and then have to face both over-zealous enforcement and threatening debt recovery letters. The Government must stand up to these companies and get the code over the line so we finally have fair and transparent enforcement in the private parking sector.”