Airports, sea ports, and train stations typically have on-site car parks for customers to use. Like many companies, these bodies (such as airport authorities or railway franchises) outsource their car park management to a third party private parking company (such as Vehicle Control Services (VCS), UK Parking Patrol Office (UKPPO), or Indigo). However, in contrast to typical private land holdings, these types of locations often have local byelaws which cover all sorts of matters, usually including parking and traffic management. Often these allow for the land holder to issue penalties for byelaw breaches.
Normal private parking tickets are based on contract law and breaches would be enforced in a civil court as a small claim. However a byelaw breach would ultimately be enforced in a magistrates court, with the penalty going to the government, not the land holder or their parking contractor. Enforcement of byelaw parking tickets is not profitable.
For private parking companies to operate a parking ticket scheme effectively they need to access to the DVLAs keeper database. Access allows the parking company to find out who the keeper of the car is and chase them to pay the ticket. It should be remembered though that the registered keeper was not necessarily the driver of the car on the day, nor necessarily the owner of the car. This is important in terms of determining who is liable.
To get access to the DVLA keeper database private parking companies must be a member of an Approved Operator Scheme (AOS) of which there are currently two – the British Parking Association (BPA) and the International Parking Community (IPC). Membership of an AOS requires the parking company to comply with all aspects of the Code of Practice (see BPA or IPC).
The two codes of practice tend to assume the tickets are contract-based, meaning that some aspects of the code might not be appropriate to tickets issued under byelaws. For example, AOSs require an independent appeals service to be provided as a second stage appeal if the first stage appeal to the parking company gets rejected. The circumstance is therefore brought up that an private body is making decisions about a matter of criminal law. Systematic or deliberate breaches of the Code of Practice could result in the parking company having its access to DVLA data removed.
Another headache for parking companies operating such schemes is that of keeper liability. Schedule 4 of The Protection of Freedoms Act (PoFA) allows vehicle keepers to be held liable for unpaid parking charges should the identity of the driver not be disclosed and they meet certain conditions. However, the keeper liability only applies to ‘relevant land’, which excludes highways, parking places operated by a traffic authority, or where parking is covered by statutory control. In other words, on land covered by byelaws, keeper liability under the Protection of Freedoms Act is not applicable.
The DVLAs KADOE contract is the enabling mechanism for the DVLA to release data to private parking companies. It states that they can only use the data released to seek recovery from the driver, or the keeper if the procedure in Schedule 4 of the Protection of Freedoms Act is used. Since PoFA cannot be used under byelaws, for contract-based parking tickets, only the driver could be held liable. In such a situation the parking company might still write to the keeper to ask them to nominate the driver, but they cannot infer they have any liability.
Recent case law has shown that if data is misused, then damages of up to £750 per instance could be awarded in a civil court. If a parking company misuses data (such as by breaching KADOE), then they could be sued. We have a piece that discusses this in detail – worth a read!
Some parking companies, such as Indigo, have tried to get around this by layering a contract model over the top of the byelaws. They make an offer to the owner to not prosecute them if they pay a £100 charge. This arrangement is legally flawed, and is discussed in one of our blog posts.
The final headache is whether byelaws on roads around airports are even valid anyway! The Road Traffic Act 1998 defines a road as any highway or other road to which the public has access; it makes no distinction between private and public ownership. Since the roads are accessible by the public, they would be covered by the Road Traffic Act. The Airports Act 1986 explicitly states that byelaws do not apply on airport roads to which the road traffic enactments apply. Only the Police have powers to act on breaches of the Road Traffic Act; not private parking companies.
As should be clear by now, the situation for private parking companies enforcing parking tickets on land subject to byelaws is very messy. As such, should you receive such a ticket, we would recommend you do your research into the specific site and don’t be bullied into paying; these can be fought! Since each set of byelaws is different you will need to investigate that specific site, using forums such as Pepipoo to understand the specific issues at that site.
Finally, here’s a video made by a forum regular to point out some of the issues at Newcastle airport.