Under the new Parking Code of Practice introduced by the Government today, the cap on private parking charges for the most common breaches will be drastically reduced from £100 to £50 across Wales, Scotland and England excluding London, where fines will be capped at £80. An existing 50 percent discount if the ticket is paid within 14 days will still apply, meaning drivers will only have to pay £25 for most fines.
Parking wardens will also be required to allow drivers to overstay their ticket by a maximum of 10 minutes, and car parks will be forced to display pricing terms and conditions more clearly to ensure drivers are not misled.
A new independent appeals process will also be introduced as part of the reforms, which will give drivers the chance to contest fines more easily for common mistakes such as accidentally entering their number plate incorrectly into ticket machines or overstaying after breaking down.
An ‘appeals charter’ aiming to clarify motorists’ rights will also be established in an effort to crackdown on bad practices by private parking companies such as deliberately unclear signage or complicated appeals processes which deter drivers from contesting fines.
Additional fees commonly demanded by private companies for unpaid contested fines – that can total up to £70 – will also be banned.
The new code, which is set to come into force at the end of next year, aims to bring car parks run by private companies more into line with council practices.
Any firms that break the new code will face being barred from operating.
The package of reforms follow years of complaints by motorists of “cowboy” firms using dubious tactics against drivers in thousands of car parks across the country.
According to the Daily Mail, demands from fines have surged over the last decade, from a total of £1million in 2009-10 to £8.4million in 2019-20. The number of firms cashing in has also grown by two-thirds over the last five years, from 97 to 163.
The move has been welcomed by motoring groups as hopefully bringing an end to rogue practices by private firms.
Nicolas Lyes, RAC roads policy chief, told the Daily Mail the reforms would “usher in higher standards”.
However, the British Parking Association (BPA) sparked outrage last month when it claimed that the fines of £50 discounted to £25 if paid quickly would be seen as a “bargain” for some motorists, who could opt for the fine rather than pay for parking.
The body has been campaigning against the changes and pushing for the current £100 cap to be raised to a whopping £120.
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Andrew Pester, Chief Executive of the BPA, has also raised concerns about how the changes could impact drivers.
He said: “We welcome the Parking (Code of Practice) Act and measures to introduce a single code, standards setting body and an independent appeals service.
“However, for this package of measures to be sustainable, there needs to be an effective deterrent to encourage compliance with parking rules and deter anti-social parking.
“Without effective parking management, places will become congested and inaccessible.”
The BPA has said that the move will not only push more people to flout parking rules but will also mean motorists who do comply with the rules will find it increasingly difficult to park, with free parking reduced and higher tariffs.
According to audit firm Mazars, the Government proposals would mean 23 percent of currently managed private parking spaces would no longer be managed.
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This could mean many destinations will become increasingly inaccessible for people trying to access hospitals, transport modes, retail or leisure services.
However, Nicholas Lyes, RAC head of roads policy, said: “No driver ever tries to get a parking charge notice, so the idea a lower penalty cap will mean more fines being dished out is baseless.
“The majority simply want to park, abide by the rules, do their business and leave the car park without incident.
“If drivers are flagrantly breaching terms and conditions, then it’s right they suffer the consequences but parking operators should always be following the standards set out.
“If a driver feels they’ve been treated unfairly then they should appeal, and ideally their case should be reviewed by a single, independent appeals system which will hopefully be part of the new Parking Code of Practice due later this year.”