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The rate of tickets issued averaged 23,000 every day between April 2021 and March 2022, analysis of Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) data indicated – an increase of more than 50 percent compared with four years earlier.
Last month, the Government withdrew a long-awaited code of practice aimed at eradicating some of the sector’s worst actions following a legal challenge by parking companies.
The figures represent the number of times companies obtained records from the DVLA to chase car owners for alleged infringements in private car parks such as at shopping centres, leisure facilities and motorway service areas. Tickets can cost drivers up to £100.
The total issued in the last financial year exceeds the previous record total of 8.4 million in 2019/20.
Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said more companies were entering the market to “demand more penalty payments from motorists” at the same time the sector was “pressing government to water-down its long-awaited reforms”.
He added: “A cynic might suspect the industry continues to expand, confident it can water down the final changes so much that there is little impact on its activities.
“We would hope that these eye-watering numbers will stiffen ministers’ resolve to stick to their guns and get their much-needed code of practice and caps on charges in place pronto.”
Private parking businesses have been accused of using misleading and confusing signage, aggressive debt collection and unreasonable fees.
The code of practice, which was due to come into force before 2024, stated that the cap on tickets for some parking offences should be halved to £50.
The withdrawal pending a review of charges could lead to a further delay in its implementation.
A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesman said: “We’re determined to end rip-off parking practices, and it’s very disappointing that some in the parking industry are resisting this.
“We will continue to work with industry and consumer groups to introduce our new Parking Code of Practice as quickly as possible.”
Some 177 parking management businesses requested car owner records in the year to the end of March, up from 151 during the previous 12 months. ParkingEye was the biggest buyer in 2021/22 with 1.8 million records.
The DVLA charges private companies £2.50 per record. The agency says its fees are set to recover the cost of providing the information, and it does not make any money from the process.
Speaking to GB News earlier this week, a specialist in challenging the validity of parking tickets, said not enough people challenged their fines.
He told Eamonn Holmes: “If you look at the cases that have gone to adjudicators, on average the motorist wins more than 50 percent of those appeals.
“And in 25 percent of those appeals, the councils give up before the hearing.
“The private parking ticket operators operate in a much more different way, they’re there to make profit and some would say they don’t care how they do it.”
He added: “Councils are not permitted by law to make a profit, they can only recover their costs of roads etc.
“If you’re attending a hospital appointment and you parked on the road, councils will, in the main, be quite understanding.
“Private companies are much more difficult but not impossible.”
Dean Russell, the Tory MP for Watford, who voiced his concern about the issue on his website earlier this year, said: “I support the Government in its determination to end these totally unfair practices.
“It is not right that people who are already struggling with the cost of living risk being ripped-off by some operators that only see drivers as cash machines fining them at the first possible opportunity.
“As someone who worked for a car parking company part time for many years whilst a student, I know most car park operators are fair with customers, but it should not be allowed for those few cowboy operators who want to take advantage of drivers to think they can get away with a modern form of highway robbery.”
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