The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs

One of Aesop’s most famous fables is that of a man who had a nice little business that produced him a nice regular income. Unfortunately he got too greedy and because of that greed he inadvertently killed off his business.

Unfortunately (for them) it seems the parking industry didn’t learn the moral of this story and may well come to regret their behaviour over the past decade as the Parking Act starts to shape up.

This week the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government published the outcome of its consultation on the Parking code enforcement framework that will decide how private parking is regulated in the future. The consultation looked at various aspects such as:

  • the process for managing appeals against parking charges
  • the enforcement of the Code of Practice
  • the establishment of a Scrutiny and Oversight Board
  • the level of parking charges
  • an Appeals Charter for motorists to challenge parking charges they believe to be unfair
  • proposals for a levy on the industry to fund the new Code and framework

I think it’s fair to say that the report hasn’t gone as the private parking would have wished.

The report kicks off with the MHCLG stating that it will no longer tolerate the race to the bottom of multiple appeals services. It’s long been evident that the competition between the ATAs was detrimental to the consumer, and it seems the government agrees. With the advent of a single appeals service, independent of a trade association, it should remove any conflicts of interest and increase transparency.

The consultation then goes on describe how it will raise standards of compliance to the code of practice. This is an area where the ATAs have continually failed, with a number of high profile breaches by their members, frequently resulting in being banned by the DVLA from accessing its precious keeper database. In the future an ATA will be assessed by the UK Accreditation Service to check they are fit for purpose with rigorous audits and inspections

Now, the real killer blow to the parking industry is that the MHCLG are stepping in to stop disproportionate charges being levied on motorists. Right now, if you overstay in an ANPR controlled free car park, you are likely to receive a £100 ticket. ONE HUNDRED POUNDS. And this opportunity (coupled with ANPR technology (i.e. to automatically issue these charges) is what has driven the industry to the size it is today.

Take for example ParkingEye – it was originally acquired for £57m by Capita in 2013, and 5 years later was sold on for £235m. The opportunity to automatically ticket motorists for £100 for inadvertent overstays is (was?) a licence to print money (or lay golden eggs).

The changes announced by MHCLG mean that this type of ‘offence’ will now have a maximum charge of £50, or £25 for prompt payment. Coupled with the parking companies having to act in more fair manner, this should both reduce the number of tickets issued, and will reduce the revenue they can generate.

The report does allow for higher charges for more serious breaches using a tiering system. And that is something we don’t disagree with. For example, if a motorist intentionally blocks a fire escape, or abuses a disabled space, then quite rightly they should have a higher charge.

However, again this does present an issue for the parking industry. Rather than focus on how to prevent and discourage bad parking, it developed systems that catch mostly unintentional overstays using ANPR technology. ANPR can only really capture overstays, and these are at the low seriousness end of the breach scale. Instead it will need to employ more parking attendants.

The tables below describe the new proposed levels of charge.

The final kick in the teeth for the industry is that all of the new reforms will have to be paid for by a the industry.