A response to the BBC’s story on private parking ‘fines’

Today the BBC published a story on their website titled “Private parking fines: Your rights” by business journalist Ramzan Karmali. My heart immediately dropped since we all know they’re not fines – a private company cannot fine you. Calling them fines only reinforces the public perception that they’re the same as authority-issued Penalty Charge Notices. Anyway, I read on.

It starts with the story of Mr Bhatia, issued a £100 ticket for overstaying in a McDonalds car park, noting his shock at the amount being demanded by MET Parking. Great, I thought, I can only assume the story will discuss the level of charges, how they are determined, and whether this is lawful.

Spoiler alert: No, this is never mentioned again in the article. Particularly disappointing, since this is the biggest reason tickets are upheld at independent appeal (Ramzan, try Googling “genuine pre-estimate of loss“).

The story then goes onto discuss the appeals process. Who better to ask than Patrick Troy. You know, the chief executive of the BPA Ltd. The largest parking industry members association, funded by, and working in the interests of, private parking companies, such as MET Parking.

BPA chief executive Patrick Troy says private car parking companies are considerate

Oh FFS. Yes, sure they are Patrick. That’s why I get tweets and emails every day from people such as:

Patrick then goes on to explain how the service provides independent redress for motorists. Now, we’re not going discuss the independence of POPLA here (Mr Prankster does a good job on that front), but perhaps, Ramzan, you could have discussed how POPLA assess appeals? Perhaps you could have covered that mitigating circumstances, such as Mr Bhatia’s, aren’t upheld by POPLA. He would most likely have lost. Perhaps he could have questioned why POPLA refuse to add ‘Genuine Pre-Estimate of Loss’ as a valid appeal reason on their website.

Ramzan, for your information, when you question the basis on which the charge is made, the ticket is upheld almost every time.

But parking control companies are legally allowed to pursue motorists for any unpaid parking charge notices.

Now Ramzan, this is shocking misrepresentation. Yes, a parking company can attempt to recover a charge – but private parking tickets are not underpinned by any sort of legislation. Most shockingly of all, you give the reader no indication of the likely success such a claim might have. Hint: the claim success rate is falling despite sending in £300/day lawyers and £3,000/day QCs to fight untrained members of the public.

Motorists are deemed to have accepted the parking terms and sanctions if there is adequate signage.

Again, another misrepresentation. There is no legislation which determines what is adequate signage, and even if there was, only a court can determine whether a contract has been formed. For example, irrespective of the clarity of the signage, is the contract lawful? Does it contain what amounts to unlawful penalties? Are the necessary elements of a contract present?

However, only companies who are members of the British Parking Association approved operator scheme (AOS) are allowed to obtain your name and address from the DVLA.

This is simply not true. There is another Accredited Trade Association called the IPC. Give Patrick a ring if you don’t believe me. Further to this, there are some companies out there that get DVLA data without being a member of an ATA; though hopefully not for much longer…

You should then follow the instructions on the ticket concerning the appeals procedure.

Sorry Razman, should? From what I’ve read, I don’t think you have adequate knowledge to suggest what people should do. I’d suggest that actually, the motorist should do some research before they do anything. Parking Cowboys opinion is that under most circumstances you should appeal, but be very careful about how you word your appeal, and to make sure you use winning arguments. You know, there have been instances of parking companies providing misleading information on their tickets; they don’t make any money if the appeal is upheld. Who’d have thunk it?

The thing that I find most irritating is that being a BBC article, people will take this article at face value, and believe everything that has been written here. Not only is it factually incorrect (see above), but it does not question the industry in any way, nor provide motorists a balanced view of their options should they receive such a ticket.

This industry is ripe for proper investigative journalism – drop us a line if you want some leads, we’ll be more than happy to help.