Page last updated at 10:50 GMT, Sunday, 10 January 2010

Parking fine appeal panel planned

Parking ticket
There are 26,000 private car parks in the UK

A new independent appeals panel to stop motorists from being unfairly fined by unscrupulous private car parking companies is to be established.

Transport minister Sadiq Khan said self-regulation was not working and the government needed to step in.

Currently there is little regulation of the private car parking industry and no independent adjudicator.

Drivers have complained of a lack of accountability, heavy-handed tactics and threats of county court judgements.

One driver who received a parking ticket was Tracey Tremlett, who was targeted after visiting a drive-in restaurant twice in 41 days.

She told BBC Breakfast: "They said I had actually overstayed my period by 60,235 minutes, I couldn't believe it. They threatened me with a county court judgement.

"It was quite scary to have it through the post in the beginning, knowing I hadn't done anything. I really didn't know what to do."

'Heavy handed'

There are 26,000 permanent private car parks in the UK. Most complaints come from people fined on these sites, but there are now calls for reform of the entire private parking industry.

The AA said it believed the industry was "running amok".

Paul Waters from the organisation explained: "It's really rapidly growing; they are trying to extort more and more sums from people. Enforcement is quite heavy-handed, in the night and in the day. They target people through number plate-reading cameras.

Tracey Tremlett
Ms Tremlett was threatened with a county court judgement

"People sometimes do not even know there are restrictions in force and they get a penalty in the post later."

The British Parking Association represents private firms and only its members can access the DVLA database to trace vehicle owners and send out fines. Even it admits a more robust system is needed.

Its chief executive Patrick Troy said: "There is no law which requires operators of car parks to abide by any kind of code of practice.

"That is why we have introduced a code of practice for our members and they are required to comply with that code as a condition of their membership. We are calling on the government to look at this and to consider regulating car parks."

'Wayward industry'

Mr Khan said it was clearly time for the government to step in.

"What the current bill going through parliament is saying is that there will now be hopefully be an independent complaints mechanism available so people who are aggrieved can make a complaint to an independent appeals panel," he said.

The AA welcomed the move but said it hoped the complicated legislation would get through parliament before the election, or motorists would continue to be victims of unscrupulous operators.

The RAC also urged the government to take decisive action.

RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister said: "Even now the minister is holding back. He is quoted as saying there will 'hopefully' be an independent appeals service. Yet why the uncertainty?

"Such a procedure is central to a reform of this wayward industry and is backed by many politicians from all parties. The government needs to stop talking and start delivering."

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