That is different to, for example, a local authority parking tickets when, under the law, the registered keeper of the vehicle is responsible for paying the fine. In reality, the registered keeper, for example, if an outright purchase fleet, leasing or rental company, will ultimately transfer or recharge the fine to the driver.
But, under the Protection of Freedoms Act, the registered keeper of a vehicle has a duty to identify the driver when enquiries are made by the private landowner or their agent/parking enforcement company.
If the registered keeper fails to identify the driver then they themselves become liable for any parking charges due as a result of the breach of contract or trespass committed in relation to parking on private land.
The BPA says parking enforcement companies can: “Write to the keeper seeking payment when a parking ticket remains unpaid for a specified period. The keeper has two options: firstly they can make the payment; secondly they can say who was driving at the time. Ultimately the keeper can be made legally liable for payment.”
The BPA adds: “Parking on private land is managed under the law of contract or tort of trespass and only the driver can enter into a contract or commit the act of trespass. The Protection of Freedoms Act does not change this principle.
What it does do is allow to seek payment of any charges due as a result of a breach of contract or an act of trespass from the keeper when the driver cannot be identified. This is different from road traffic law where the keeper is responsible in law regardless of who was driving at the time.”
Mr Watters said: “This could create a huge administration headache for fleets. I can foresee a huge paper chase taking place where the enforcement company contacts the registered keeper; the registered keeper contacts the driver; but they ignore the letter or perhaps the driver is on holiday; and then the enforcement company starts legal proceedings against the keeper. How can costs be recovered when the driver is still trying to be contacted?”
He added: “The BPA seems clear on its interpretation of the law, but I think it is as clear as mud. Parking companies will, I think, be relentless in trying to get money, but I think some registered keepers will be happy to go to court and see what happens.”
Parking enforcement companies registered on the BPA’s Approved Operator Scheme, which was launched in 2007, are able to obtain details of vehicle keepers from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.
Parking charges - the level of fine for breach of contract by motorists - are set by individual operators, but the BPA under its code of practice recommends that the standard parking charge should not exceed £75 including any discount for early payment with the maximum charge/face value of the ticket not exceeding £150.
A spokeswoman for the BPA said the code and level of recommended parking charge (fine) was now being reviewed ahead of introduction of the new law. However, the code says: “Parking charges must be fair, reasonable and not disproportionately high.”
But, drivers and registered keepers who believe they have received a parking charge (fine) erroneously do have a right of appeal via the newly established Independent Appeals Service (IAS). The Government insisted that it was established by the BPA as a condition of the introduction of registered keeper liability in the Protection of Freedoms Act.
More follows on page three...