Nick Smith MP Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent
Nick Smith MP for Blaenau Gwent says government should do more to defend the motorist from predatory private parking operators.
Nick Smith MP said: “This month local authority parking charges have been in the news as it was revealed that English councils’ parking profits had swelled to £635m.
The Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, called for unfair town hall parking rules to be reined in.
“But Minister’s have been silent on the plight of the motorist subject to penalty charge notices (PCN) by private car park operators. DVLA* figures for 2012/13 show another substantial increase (20.5%) in the number of electronic requests for vehicle records from parking companies. This follows the bumper increase of 33.6% in 2011/12.* For the first quarter of 2013/14 requests have reached a record high of 563,925 -; a staggering 30.6% higher than the previous quarter.
(These requests are made so the private car park operator can issue a Parking Charge Notice (PCN) to the vehicle keeper for an alleged infringement of parking rules.)
“As we know in 2012/13 the DVLA finally called time temporarily on car park operators, who blatantly breached the BPA’s Code of Practice. Five operators had their access to the DVLA database was suspended for three months in October to December 2012.(See Notes to Editors for details ^). Without this suspension the number of requests for 2012/13 could have been much higher.
“These suspended operators are all members of the trade body, the British Parking Association. They are supposed to abide by the BPA’s Code of Practice -; and the BPA should have ensured they did. Yet it was left to the DVLA to suspend these companies.”
“It shouldn’t be the DVLA’s job to police the parking industry. We need proper independent regulation which puts the consumer interest first.”
“Minister’s tell me that there is now an independent body, POPLA (funded by the BPA) which will hear their appeal if they think a private car park operator has issued a PCN they don’t deserve. POPLA has reported that out of 4,051 appeals received up until 31 March, 1,969 had been decided and 54% allowed.+ So while POPLA is welcome it more action is needed.
“I’ve raised in Parliament my concern that one business model in the private sector gives the car park owner the income from the regular hourly parking charge: but the operators scoop the income from parking charge notices (PCNs) issued. So the more the motorist gets it wrong, the bigger the profit for the operator.”
“The DVLA figures show that some private car park operators are deliberately aiming to trip up motorists -; then their mistake is punished. They’re issued with a hefty PCN.
“The government has sat on its hands -; but now I’ve learned the similar worries were raised in June at a meeting of the DVLA’s Consumer Forum ‘it was felt this model encourages predatory parking enforcement practices as it is incentivised by collection of parking charges…………. Without seeking to regulate business practices, DVLA was keen to explore what action might be taken to curb over-zealous parking enforcement practices and would work with relevant areas to consider the options.’+
“It’s good news that the Consumer Forum is considering the issue but what we need is the government to show more muscle and stand up for motorists”