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Beating the Parking Scammers: Your Help Requested

As some of you may know, the Government in the form of the DLUHC is calling for evidence to support the proposed cap on charges made by Private Parking Companies, reducing the maximum charge from £100 to £50 (£80 in London Boroughs), and to ban the so-called debt recovery fees of £70 that those companies try to gouge from their victims.

This is all part of an ongoing battle by consumers / motorists to reign in the predatory and aggressive practices of these firms. I am part of a consumer group which is advising Ministers on this matter, and it's important that we, the public, submit as much evidence as possible to counter the lies and spin of the private parking industry, who will claim that £100 is needed as an effective deterrent. 

In 2022, these firms issued over 11,000,000 PCNs, resulting in an estimated 140,000 County Court Claims being issued. I have represented Defendants in over 300 court hearings, with an 81% success rate.

The link to the response document is here:  What is needed, are photos of signs at car parks where the charge for breaching the terms is set at £70, £50, or lower. I've already got this covered for locations in the Wycombe area, but many WWFC fans come from far and wide, and we need evidence from those locations, particulary in and around London.

If you can spare a few minutes to complete the consultation response with evidence, that will be great, thank you very much.



  • Interesting. Parking is an emotive subject.

    Couple of questions if I may.

    1) In what circumstances is the "debt recovery fee" levied? Not something I have come across.

    2) what would be the logic for a higher maximum "penalty" for parking in London than outside?

    3) I believe that it is fairly standard for operators to offer a significant discount (50%??) for prompt payment of a ticket. If you made the limit £50 reduced to £25, would that in your view offer a sufficient deterrent to illegal parking?

    Difficult issue parking. There are undoubtedly some rogues in the industry but it is also true that some of the public are arseholes and it is right that private landowners should be protected from the public parking on their land without permission. Somehow a fair balance needs to be found. Not sure I know what that is.

  • @DevC , answers to your questions.

    1) When a PCN its not paid by the motorist, the parking company usually pass it on an unlicensed and unregulated debt recovery firm, such as Debt Recovery Plus, who add their £70 so that the £100 becomes £170. If it goes to court, most Judges will not allow this.

    2) The higher charge for London mirrors Local Authority penalty charges for Council issued tickets.

    3) Private companies currently offer a 40% discount for prompt payment. We have examples of many sites where the headline charge is set at £50 or £70, and that does act as a deterrent. You don't to have an exorbitant charge, just look at how supermarkets introducing a 10p charge for plastic bags changed people's behaviour.

    This isn't just about 'some rogues'. Many of the leading firms, such as Parking Eye, UKPC, VCS etc are guilty of sharp and misleading practices, misleading signage, designed-to-fail payment terminals, and made up silly rules hidden in the small print.

    Meanwhile, the MD of one of those firms paid himself £765,000 last year, to finance the gold fittings on his yacht ...

  • Its good to have an expert explain an issue his view of an issue which I certainly am less knowledgable about

    As I understand it, the issue at hand is the level of capping penalty notices charges. Surely matters such as misleading signage etc are not relevant to that for obvious reasons. Not to be honest interested in envy of how much successful businessmen get paid. Not my business.

    Going back to the three questions

    1) If a charge is not paid and goes to court, that process is likely to cost both parties money. Is it not legitimate then if the ticket was found to have been legitimately issued and the recipient found to have wrongly refused to pay for the recipient to be liable for the issuers costs in collecting money validly due to them. I thought that was a fairly standard legal principle. Why do you argue this should not be the case?

    2) Not sure the apparent fact that councils do it justifies why private contractors should do it. What is the logic why a higher charge should apply within London.

    3) Different circumstances apply surely. If the cost of daily parking in the location is say £8 and the maximum cost of illegal parking is £30, (60% of £50), many might well be tempted to risk it. Would you not see that as a potential downside of such a low cap? Is this not a case if you don't want the risk of a significant "fine", don't park illegally?

  • @DevC , more questions, more answers:

    1) If an unpaid PCN goes to court, and the parking company wins, they can legitimately claim back the court filing fee, the court hearing fee, and the £50 solicitor cost for issuing the claim. But the £70 'debt recovery fee' is usually disallowed, because in small claims cases this is a cost which is not recoverable. In any event, we know that these debt recovery firms operate on a no win, no fee basis, so the parking company hasn't actually paid out any money.

    2) The original draft Code of Practice issued by the DLUHC tried to align private charges with statutory Council tickets, and that's the reason for the different levels inside and outside London.

    3) These are not 'fines', they are invoices for alleged breaches of contract. And people do not park 'illegally', they may park not in accordance with the terms and conditions. Whilst there are a small percentage of motorists who will try to bilk the system, my group's experience over the past 10 years is that the vast majority of people who receive PCNs are just going about their legitimate business, and fall foul of these private companies for committing the heinous crimes of taking slightly too long to do their shopping, a hospital appointment taking longer than expected, or a residential permit slipping down in a parking bay demised to them in their lease, and so on and so on.

  • Just getting the popcorn in....

  • Thought this would be about the price of the club carpark!

    Thats five minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

  • thank you @bargepole . Interesting to hear from an expert on a subject as I say.

    1) There are costs beyond just the court fee of preparing the case surely. If as you say the debt recovery agent acts on a no win no fee basis, then surely surely he only gets paid for his work if the claim against the person parking is found to be justified and the person parking would only (if at all) be liable for this additional charge if the court found that the ticket was legitimate and he should have paid the ticket at first.

    Why do you feel it is not appropriate for someone who has parked against the rules, has received a ticket but refused to pay and incurred additional cost to the parking company to enforce the debt owed to be expected to cover those costs? Why should the wronged party be left out of pocket?

    2) Not sure you have answered this one but lets let it lie. Hard to see why people living in London should pay more or landowners outside London be compensated less for illegitimate parking

    3) I am aware of the legal distinction and was talking colloquially.

    There are people who scam the system by underpaying parking charges or not paying at all. Should they not pay a price for that and be deterred.

    People who pay say two hours parking while shopping are perfectly capable in the vast majority of circumstances of returning to their vehicle within the time they have paid for. If they overstay, they are effectively stealing from the car park owner. Should they not pay a price if caught and be disincentavised from risking it. Why do you feel £60 is not appropriate?

    There is a separate argument I think whether car parking in hospital should be charged at all.

    People in residents parking areas almost always are very keen that those schemes exist to prevent people from outside taking "their" spaces. Why do you feel it is unfair for those residents to be expected to display their permits at all times as the rules require?

  • edited August 2023

    It's like AI has mocked up this interchange 🤣

  • I can only see one side of it thank God. Planning, parking and legal matters...that's what I go to football to escape.

  • Unique opportunity to take a thread off topic by actually discussion football.

  • Which football ground (other than AP, of course) has the best car park?

  • @DevC, if you want to see examples of atrocious behaviour by private parking companies, there are hundreds of them here: Parking stories in the News/media — MoneySavingExpert Forum

    With regard to debt recovery charges, a large percentage of people pay up before it ever reaches court. But legally, these added charges are not recoverable, see section 4(5) of Schedule 4 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

    We see many examples of people inadvertantly exceeding the time at supermarkets, retail parks, etc., due to long queues at checkouts, queues to exit the car park, flat tyres or vehicle breakdowns etc.

    Hospitals in Wales and Scotland all have free parking. The Dept. of Health has advised all NHS trusts in England not to sub-let parking on any basis which incentivises private operators to issue charges, but most of them still do.

    Residents who are tenants or leaseholders of a property will rely upon the terms and conditions of their lease / tenancy. If that doesn't stipulate a requirement to display a parking permit (which the vast majority don't) then they are under no legal obligation to do so. This argument, known as Primacy of Contract, has succeeded in almost every case of this type that has been heard in court.

  • Dumbarton's is in the shadow of a castle, that's hard to beat.

  • At a privately run car park near the Liberty Stadium in Swansea, the signage said 'Free parking for 2 hours. 1 hour on matchdays).

    A motorist exceeded the 1 hour stay on a matchday, and when he didn't pay the PCN the parking company took him to court.

    His argument was that, as he had no interest in Swansea City FC or Ospreys Rugby, how was he to know which days the matches were on.

    The Judge agreed and dismissed the case, ruling that if the parking company wished to enforce that rule, they must also display a list of all matchday dates for the season.

  • edited August 2023

    I have not argued @bargepole that some parking companies sometimes act badly. That doesn't seem relevant to the mater you initially raised - should penalty charges be capped at £60 (£36 after early payment discount).

    Again I didn't ask you what the law was re debt recovery charges. You presumably accept that they will only be imposed when a ticket has been issued and the driver has not paid but subsequently he has either admitted or court has found that he is liable for the charge but the parking company has incurred extra cost to get him to pay money he owed. Why morally do you feel that the "guilty" driver should not be expected to cover the additional costs he has imposed on the parking company by not paying the money they were due?

    Individuals have responsibility for their actions. Why should they expect to be allowed to steal from the landowner because the supermarket queue was so long that not only did they overstay the period they paid for but stayed beyond the grace period that is almost invariably applied. I agree in the (very rare) instances when leaving queues genuinely prevent a driver leaving before the end of his grace period then a reputable company should waive the ticket if proven - feels unlikely though and again is irrelevant to your suggestion that charges should be reduced. Same goes for evidenced breakdowns.

    As for residents, again I am not challenging legal loopholes but looking at morally what is fair. Why should a resident - who no doubt almost invariably supports the residents parking restrictions - not be expected to comply with the reasonable requirement to display a pass?

  • Oakwell was good last season. Parked about 5 minutes walk from the ground. £10 but included getting the car washed.

    (And helped infinitely by it being a nice sunny day and a 3-0 win with 3 goal of the season contenders)

    (And being home indoors in less time than it takes to get from Adams Park to Wycombe station after a game)

  • @Devc - you appear to be making all the same arguments that the private parking companies use. You don't happen to work for one, do you?

    It was the DLUHC, not me, who first put forward the proposal to cap private charges at the same level as Council penalties. This followed the passage of the Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2019, in which the Government found it necessary to regulate the activities of these companies, because their two trade associations, the BPA and the IPC, were failing to do so, and MPs of all parties were raising questions in the House about how their constituents were being harassed and hounded for the most trivial of matters.

    To illustrate the fact that a lower deterrent works, and also that we don't really need these companies at all, here are four examples from the Wycombe area:

    Tesco Loudwater – an out of town superstore, with £70 Horizon signs but only for the disabled bays

    Knaves Beech retail park – Homebase, Dunelm, Home Bargains and Carpetright – no parking company and never had one

    Lidl, Starbucks and Wenzels on a former Homebase site on London Road – always busy but no parking company

    Tadros Court - an estate with multiple blocks of flats, been there 20 years with no parking company

  • This thread needs more cheese puns. Just not gouda nough.

  • You asked me @bargepole to support your apparent view that a cap on penalty charges should be reduced from £100 and that debt recovery fees - levied on people who incurred extra costs for the parking companies on charges that were legitimate - should be banned.

    You are the expert on this subject , I am just a member of the public. I have asked you several times to justify why morally this should happen. With respect you have failed to do so while introducing ever more strawmen. So for example no-one has argued that landowners should be forced to have parking enforcement companies for all sites just that they should be entitled to for sites that are geographically vulnerable to abuse.

    Given that you - the expert - have failed to make your case, I regret that I am unable to support your proposition.

  • You have asked me to justify this 'morally'. I'm afraid that just doesn't work, parking companies issue their charges under contract law, and it is legal arguments, not moral ones, that fly in court hearings. seen plenty of cases where motorists have tried to defend cases on hopeless 'moral' grounds, and Judges have said something like 'I'm sorry Mr X, it may seem unfair, but I have to apply the law'. This works both ways, and if the parking company fails to prove its case on legal grounds, they lose.

    It was always inevitable that when the Act was passed in Parliament, that the new statutory Code would cap charges at the same as Council penalty levels, to create clarity for the motoring public who often can't distinguish between the two.

    The only people disagreeing with that are the parking companies, their Trade Associations, and their stooges.

  • edited August 2023

    Do you think there would be a bidding war to name the Castle? Origins Castle? Cherry Red Castle? Wifaway Castle?

  • Cherry Red Castle sounds great. If painted in two shades of blue of course

    (PS: have they finished yet?)

  • You asked me to support your opinion that the cap on parking charges should be reduced and that debt recovery fees should be abolished. That can only be judged on moral grounds - what seems fair on balance to both parties.

    I gave you plenty of opportunities to make your case - you are the expert after all. I was interested in what you had to say on a subject about which I know little and was certainly open to persuasion but instead you introduced all sorts of straw men, which suggests you think your case is weak.

    Sorry not persuaded.

  • Bargey and Dev arguing about parking charges is like a piece of performance art

  • It's a very 'dads at a BBQ' conversation

  • You say you know little on this subject, but it was you, not I, who raised the subject of grace periods. That suggests that you are more ITK than you are letting on, and I still think you have some connection to the parking industry.

    Anyway, if a Council charge outside London is £50, reduced to £25 for prompt payment, why morally should a private parking company be allowed to gouge people for double that amount? It makes no sense whatsoever, and that's why the proposed new Code is leaning towards that option (with a little nudge from me and others).

  • Grace periods are hardly a secret....

    The car parker can avoid any charges if he/she follows the rules. You want to reduce the penalty for someone who has broken the rules. Despite multiple opportunity, you, the expect, have failed to justify such a course of action instead seeking diversion and strawmen. As I say I was certainly open to persuasion but you failed to make your case. Lets leave it there.

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