The private parking industry could not function without access to your personal data. The DVLA sells it to them.

The details about who you are, where you live and the car you own are held by the DVLA. However the DVLA has done a deal with Private Parking Companies (PPCs) and routinely sells them details about you.  Some of these PPCs have been rogue clampers until the law put a stop to that racket and they involve some questionable characters who use threats and bullying to frighten motorists and extort ‘parking charges' from those who park on private land.

Private land doesn't mean someone else’s front garden, it means large and small car parks which, for the most part, serve family and household names which you normally think of as friends such as Boots, Asda, Tesco and Morrisons.

These private parking companies (which operate as a business for profit) have managed to obtain the car park management business for these and many other companies by telling them that it won't cost them a penny – “enforcement is totally free as we generate our revenue from the tickets we issue” as one company puts it. But their businesses can only work profitably if they can generate income from penalising drivers with ‘parking charges' similar to Penalty Charge Notices which are issuedby local authorities.

They do this by imitating as much as possible statutory PCNs and, eventually with ‘notices sent to the vehicle's owner's home address.  All this is accompanied with large “fines” and discounts and official-looking letters sometimes including frightening threats of court action for non payment.

The legal situation is that parking on private land is a matter of contract law which is dependant on unmistakeably-clear signing of terms and conditions.  Such contracts cannot impose penalties; they must be fair to consumers and only charge ‘damages' for genuine financial losses caused to them by wrongful parking.

The reality is that if you park – even just a few minutes longer than an allotted time – the private parking company will claim that you have breached some contract and will levy a “parking charge” of up to £100 or even more.

Until the law changed in October 2012 their typical method involved clamping parked vehicles and even towing them away with release secured only by on-the-spot payment of exorbitant amounts.  Since then the private parking industry has done a deal with the DVLA which gives private car park management companies (PPCs) direct computer access to your personal data at the DVLA which then enables them send their demands, and threats, through the post to the vehicle owner.  This is regardless of who was the offending driver at the time (which is often not the vehicle's owner), whether any adequate signage was in place in the car park and whether or not the demanded charge is reasonable.
Let NMAG Explain

Q.
But how have these private parking companies done this deal?
A.
Through their club called the British Parking Association

Q.
But what is the British Parking Association?
A.
It is the British Parking Association Ltd, a company and trade association mainly consisting of the private parking companies.

Q.
Is there any regulatory external scrutiny?
A.
No.

Q.
Aren't there any set of rules?
A.
Well , sort of. There is a Code of Conduct which doesn't seem to have very sharp teeth.

Q.
Who created the Code of Conduct?
A.
The British Parking Association.

Q.
But the British Parking Association Ltd is, in effect, the Private Parking Companies  themselves?
A.
Well, yes – they do have a considerable influence.

Q.
So what does this Code of Conduct do?
A.
It sets out certain standards of behaviour and sanctions for breaches of the Code.

Q.
That's good, then?
A.
No. We think it's bad.

Q.
Why bad?
A.
Because we think that the Code is weak and inadequate. It is not created by a independent authority, it is not subject to scrutiny by any independent body and it isn't regulated.

Q.
So, how does this fit in with the DVLA?
A.
The British Parking Association Ltd has promised the DVLA (yes- promised) that those of its member parking companies which have access to the DVLA database will always abide by the code.

Q.
Does the DVLA run any checks?
A.
It doesn't seem to. It accepts the word of the British Parking Association. Have a look at this excellent report.
Q.
But doesn't the DVLA have a vested interest?
A.
You've hit the nail on the head!

Q.
So NMAG would like the private parking industry to be regulated?
A.
Not necessarily.

Q.
Why not?.
A.
As we've said before, there needs to be some way to regulate parking on private land which means that we need private parking companies. They just need to operate a more wholesome business model such as one in which the costs of car park management are paid for buy the retailers/land owners and not the weakest motorists picked off from the edge of the herd.

Where that isn't practical, and in appropriate circumstances, local authorities might use their existing powers to put suitable car parks onto a statutory basis, patrolled and managed alongside existing operations for local authority car parks?

Q.
So, what about the private parking industry?
A.
NMAG thinks that the more people that report the many instances of objectionable private parking enforcement to their MPs the better. For our part we're actively lobbying and supporting all the right people in this matter and we'll be looking for the right legal actions to support through the courts.

Q.
In the meantime do I have to pay up when they send me a Penalty Charge Notice?
A.
It is NOT and cannot be a “Penalty Charge Notice” which are statutory demands for a penalty payment which can come only from local authorities.  What you receive from a Private Parking Company is a “Parking Charge Notice” which is actually an invoice that is too often dressed up to look like an official document.

For help look at our the Private Land Parking page

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