Drivers will continue to face parking charges of up to £100 after the Private Parking Code of Practice was temporarily withdrawn by minsters pending review earlier this month.
The introduction of official guidance on the code of conduct for operators has been delayed after parking firms launched legal action to challenge the proposal.
Several private parking firms have since been branded ‘bullies’ after starting the legal action against the new code of practice, which aimed to cut private parking charges in half from £100 to £50 and provide drivers with more powers to dispute unfair tickets.
Plans to also ban debt collectors from hounding motorists who do not pay within a time limit are not likely to go ahead after the Government backed down from the legal challenges.
Private firms reportedly issue roughly 22,000 parking tickets every day, essentially extorting motorists according to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Levelling Up, Neil O’Brien
In February, the Government announced plans to implement the new code of practice that would crack down on private car parking firms and cut charges by up to 50 per cent across England, Wales and Scotland.
Typically, parking charges would be capped at £70 outside of London, and £130 in the capital, with an early payment discount of 50 percent.
The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities unveiled the plans to reduce parking charges for drivers and make appeals simpler in a bid to encourage consumers to support their local high street.
According to the submitted proposal, Minister Neil O’Brien wrote: ‘Key to helping our local high streets and town centres roar back into life as part of our recovery from COVID, is encouraging more people to shop local and support local businesses.
‘Yet, poll after poll – both before and during the pandemic – shows that a lack of cheap, easy parking is one of the greatest barriers to people visiting their local high street.’
Private firms reportedly issue roughly 22,000 parking charges every day, essentially extorting motorists according to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Levelling Up.
O’Brien added that these private firms: ‘often adopt a labyrinthine system of misleading and confusing signage, opaque appeals services, aggressive debt collection and unreasonable fees designed to extort money from motorists.
‘Apart from their inherent unfairness, these practices damage our high-streets, our towns and our city centres. We are determined to bring them to an end.’
However, motorists have been left in the dark after Whitehall sources confirmed that officials ‘conceded’ to parking firms’ and the proposal was officially tabled on 7 June pending review.
The prospect of ‘Wild West’ parking firms continuing to issue charges of up to £100 is a blow for motorists amid the cost of living crisis, and is also bad news for the thousands who refuse to pay charges after protesting that they were treated unfairly.
Other measures, such as a compulsory ten-minute grace period before firms can issue a charge to drivers whose tickets have expired, will go ahead.
As will the plans to create a simpler and fairer independent appeals process to give more support to drivers in cases of honest mistakes, such as keying in the wrong vehicle number plate at a ticket machine.
The private firms argued that the legal case for the measures were not strong enough, and the Government is now set to consult more widely on the measures in the hope that the legal case can be strengthened.
Parking firms have also argued that the current cap should be increased to £120.
They claim reducing it to £50 would lead to more drivers flouting parking rules because a ticket, if paid at a discounted rate within 14 days, could be cheaper than paying for parking.
Usually there is a discount if a driver pays a charge earlier – typically £60 rather than £100. If a driver appeals the charge, this is frozen while it is investigated.
If the private firm decides the charge stands, drivers have to take it through POPLA – an independent appeals service.
It’s deeply disappointing that the code has been temporarily withdrawn which now almost certainly means yet more delays in it being introduced. Drivers have a right to feel infuriated.
RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: ‘The new private parking code of practice was designed specifically to make things fairer for drivers and end some of the worst practices in the sector.
‘It’s deeply disappointing that the code has been temporarily withdrawn which now almost certainly means yet more delays in it being introduced. Drivers have a right to feel infuriated.
‘The fact that parking companies take issue with the capping of charge notices and debt recovery fees shows precisely why both the code and the cap are needed.
‘For too long, some companies have been allowed to prey mercilessly on drivers who might make an honest mistake and then have to face both over-zealous enforcement and threatening debt recovery letters.
‘The Government must stand up to these companies and get the code over the line so we finally have fair and transparent enforcement in the private parking sector.’
AA president Edmund King added: ‘For too long, private parking enforcement has been allowed to degenerate into a Wild West where cowboy operators have been able to ride into a town and set their own rules and punishments.
‘The judicial reviews are a setback but the Government must hold firm and restore order among those who like to bully motorists.’
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