Have you been unfairly ticketed or taken to court? Want to do something about it? Why not write to your MP?
Here's our Open Letter to the Government. Use this letter for ideas or parts you might want to use. If you don't know who your MP is or their address then you can get it from the They Work for You website.
Draft Letter to your MP
[Your MP's Address]
Dear [MP Name]
PRIVATE PARKING TICKETS – THE NEW WILD WEST – ACTION NEEDED NOW!
In 2012, the then Coalition Government brought in Schedule 4 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (POFA), which criminalised vehicle clamping on private land, and enabled private parking companies (PPCs) to pursue vehicle keepers for unpaid parking charges, in cases where the identity of the driver was not known.
This legislation was introduced largely because of the aggressive and rapacious practices of clampers, who were extorting unjustifiable sums from motorists, often for the most trivial of incidents.
The current system of ticketing by PPCs requires them to be members of one of the two Approved Trade Associations – the British Parking Association (BPA) or the International Parking Committee (IPC), and to abide by the respective Codes of Practice of those organisations. By virtue of their membership, they are deemed to have ‘reasonable cause’ to request vehicle keeper data at £2.50 a time from the DVLA, and in the majority of cases, this data is released electronically with no human intervention.
Both trade associations also offer a supposedly independent appeals service for motorists to challenge parking charges – POPLA in the case of BPA members, and the IAS for IPC companies.
All of the above sounds perfectly fair and reasonable, you might think, and would be if the system operated in the way in which it was intended. However, the reality is that four years down the line, we are seeing the same symptoms of greed, aggressive and rapacious practices which characterised clamping, now being applied to ticketing – the new wild west.
Motoring campaign groups are contacted by hundreds of motorists every month, and can testify that in around 95% of cases, these are genuine people who have either taken a bit too long to do their shopping, or who miskeyed their registration number on a pay machine, or whose hospital appointment took longer than expected, or who forgot to display their permit in their residential space. For these heinous crimes, they are pursued ruthlessly by the PPCs usually for £100 a time, with additional escalating costs from dubious firms of ‘debt collectors’, and then shyster bottom-feeding solicitor firms who invent even further costs in pursuing these alleged debts in the County Court.
From the information sent to us by motorists, we can state with some authority that all of the following are taking place (not an exhaustive list):
- Most of the PPCs are operating in breach of their association’s Code of Practice most of the time. When reported to the BPA or IPC, they do little or nothing. The BPA has expelled three or four members in the last couple of years, the IPC has expelled none. Neither of these organisations is fit for purpose in terms of regulating or controlling their members.
- The POPLA appeals service for BPA companies was originally operated by London Councils, and their legally trained assessors did a reasonable job in adjudicating appeals fairly. However, in October 2015, the contract was awarded to Ombudsman Services at a much lower cost, and appeals are now assessed by minimum-wage customer service staff with no legal training, resulting in completely random adjudications using templated text, with little or no relevance to the grounds of appeal.
- The IAS appeals service offered by the IPC is even less independent, with appeals being sent to what the IPC claim are qualified solicitors or barristers, but whose names are not disclosed, and whose adjudications are heavily biased towards the PPCs, and only very rarely awarded in favour of the motorist.
- When POFA was in the Bill stage, the BPA (then the only trade association) vastly exaggerated the numbers of County Court claims arising from private parking disputes, and persuaded the Department for Transport and DVLA that the introduction of keeper liability would reduce the burden on the Courts. In fact, the opposite is true, and the number of court claims has risen from under 1,000 in 2011 to a projected 50,000+ in 2016 (Ministry of Justice figures).
- Many PPCs are now pursing unpaid tickets from up to 6 years ago through court action. In a large number of cases, the motorist no longer lives at the previous address, and consequently is unaware of the court claim, and inevitable default CCJ which follows, often resulting in them only finding out about it when they are refused credit for a mortgage or loan. This was highlighted in the media recently, and the Prime Minister publicly stated that she would take action, but there has been no sign of this to date.
In 2015, the previous Communities Minister, Eric Pickles MP, stated that he wished to put an end to the nefarious practices of PPCs, and began a public consultation, which continued under the present Government, with the results being published in May 2016. This showed that the overwhelming majority of the public – 83% - thought that the Government should take action on this.
The campaign groups have had a number of meetings with officials from the DCLG, and apparently the Minister is due to announce proposed new legislation and other measures in this area some time during the current Parliamentary session. I would ask you to use your influence to highlight the urgency of this with the Minister concerned, and/or the Prime Minister, to ensure that the Government acts, and is seen to act, to redress the imbalance of the current situation.
Should you require further details, my contact details are as above.