This article is designed for two audiences; fleet managers and company car drivers. For fleet managers this article is intended to give them an understanding of their legal position and obligations with regards to private parking tickets, including looking at the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. For company car drivers this article is intended to help you understand the situation in order to provide them the information to use when discussing ticketing policy with your fleet manager.
All too often company car policies do not differentiate between authority-issued parking fines (i.e. those issued by the council or police) and privately-issued contractual-based parking tickets or trespass notices. In the examples Parking Cowboys has seen, the policies discuss ‘parking fines’ and do not make this key differentiation. A common approach in the industry seems to be that when a ticket is sent by post to the lease company (as registered keeper of the vehicle in question), the lease company pays the fine. The lease company would then recharge the ticket to the employer, who would then recover the charge from the employee, Often administration fees are applied to cover the supposed handling costs, although these often seem to be disproportionate to the actual cost – more on that later.
Setting aside the rights and wrongs of this process for authority-issued fines, this is most certainly wrong for private parking tickets. Private parking tickets are not fines; they are charges from contracts made when a car is parked on private land. Signage is used to convey the terms and conditions, and an amount it set out as payment for breach of those terms. In those circumstances, any contract that exists would be between the land owner and driver of the vehicle at the time, who may not necessarily be the lessee. Under contract law, the lease company and the employer have no responsibility for any outstanding parking charge; they are simply not party to the contract.
Schedule 4 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 changed this position slightly to get around the issue of the registered keeper denying they were the driver to avoid payment. The Protection of Freedoms Act states that if a keeper does not name the driver of the vehicle, and strictly follows the procedure stated in the Act, then they may be liable for whatever charge the driver would have been responsible for. However, if the keeper does name the driver then they have completely discharged their responsibility. From the lease company’s perspective, all that is required from them to discharge any responsibility is a simple letter back to the parking company stating the lessee’s name.
Given this position, it is completely unreasonable for a lease company to pay and recharge private parking tickets. In the authors opinion, paying the charge would either be naive or, where a disproportionate administration fee is applied, could be considered profiteering. Furthermore, by paying the charge, the lease company would be denying the driver or lessee the opportunity to appeal to the independent appeals service (e.g. POPLA, the British Parking Association’s IAS). Again, given that they are not party to the contract, and can simply discharge their responsibility, it is simply unacceptable to pay the charge.
Another aspect that requires consideration is that of pay deductions. The Department for Work and Pensions set out clear guidance for making pay deductions, including the requirement for the employee to have previously agreed to such deductions. If the wording on any agreement is not explicit then it could be considered a breach of these rules. The example policies seen by Parking Cowboys include guidance for Penalty Charge Notices, which clearly does not cover contractual-based charges. This site has more details: https://www.gov.uk/understanding-your-pay/deductions-from-your-pay
We hope this information is of use to both fleet managers and company car drivers. Do get in touch if you have any comments, or as a lease company whether you have any comments on this.