Fleet News

Fleets encouraged to take back parking fines

Fleets are being urged to join a campaign that could see private parking companies forced to pay back the cash collected from penalties.

Cambridge law graduate Michael Green claims that private parking companies – used by supermarkets, hospitals and businesses to enforce parking  regulations – are breaking the law by employing unfair contractual terms.

He argues that the charges levied at at-work drivers and private motorists for staying longer than their permitted time in no way represent the loss incurred by the operator. Green, founder of the Challenge the Fine campaign, told Fleet News: “It is dubious that fining drivers £40, £80, £100 is legal.”

If a parking charge applies from the moment a driver parks and pays for a period of time but overstays by 10 minutes, “the charge for staying an extra hour would perhaps have been another 40p or 50p,” he said. “The car park operator has suffered that loss, not £100.” In total, Green estimates that these companies will collect around £176m in so-called 'fines' this year, almost double the £93m collected in 2010, and more than an 800% increase on 2006, when just £21m was charged to motorists.

Green said: “The fact is, if you over-stay by two minutes operators only have the right to ask for money lost, but they are slapping drivers with enormous charges. I think this is unlawful and I am set on fighting these  companies to set some proper legal standards.”

Green wants to launch a class action – a civil litigation device that allows multiple parties to sue over the same legal grounds – against the private parking industry.

He continued: “Most people do not know enough about the law to question a ticket’s legality, so the companies are free to engage in sharp business practices with impunity.”

By gathering the cases together and taking it to the High Court – rather than an individual taking case in the County Court – he hopes to set a legal precedent. He said: “Fleets and at-work drivers who have lost money need to know that there is a way to fight the aggressive parking firms."

He is urging them to join more than 5,000 others, who have already signed-up to the online campaign, by submitting their email address and the amount they paid. FN50 data showed that 19 leasing companies processed just over 124,000 fines last year, totalling more than £7.2m if all fines were £60.

However, a survey by ACFO suggested six out of 10 fleets do not appeal parking charge notices issues by either local authority or private company organisations.

Yet, those companies that do often report a success rate of up to 50%, saving the company thousands of pounds.

ACFO has called on leasing companies to improve their  administration processes to ensure fleets are given the  opportunity to appeal tickets.

The body responsible for dealing with parking appeals on private land across England and Wales has seen a 12-fold increase in appeals in the past year according to its annual report for 2013/14.

The Parking on Private Land Appeals (Popla) service was established in October 2012 to consider appeals from  motorists relating to charges for parking on private land, such as supermarkets or hospitals.

Last financial year, 25,214 valid appeals were registered and 23,500 appeals were decided. Of these, 10,661 (45.37%) were allowed and 12,839 (54.63%) were refused.

However, the number of appeals is very small in comparison to more than two million requests received by DVLA from private parking operators for vehicle and owner details.

Ahead of any class action, the focus will turn to a Court of Appeal decision due next year following a county case in which two drivers argued – and lost – their case after they were each fined £85 for overstaying at the car park of the Riverside Retail Park in Chelmsford, which is managed by Parking Eye.

Green said: “It could be a landmark ruling. The Court of Appeal hearing will decide whether these tickets are legal. If the appeal says the tickets are unlawful, we will then argue every ticket ever paid out ought to be refunded and take this to court with the class action.”

Earlier this year ACFO held a fines seminar reflecting the problems facing employees and employers when handling penalty tickets relating to parking breaches and motoring offences.

ACFO chairman John Pryor said: “We wish Mr Green well in his class action. He has contacted ACFO and we have decided that it is up to individual members and fleet decision-makers generally to decide whether or not they want to join his campaign.”

Whether or not the class action goes ahead will also be determined by the support as lawyers taking the case do so on a 'no win, no fee' basis.

If the case is successful, Green says all registered charges would be refunded to petition signatories who signed up with 20% of the proceeds going towards legal and operational costs.

He explained: “The ideal situation is that people who have been unfairly charged will get their money back, and the current charging structure will be radically overhauled. This is an industry that really needs legal accountability.”

Fines down by £10m but councils collect more

Councils in England collected £10 million less from parking fines, but increased overall income from parking by £21m to more than £1.4 billion. The figures from the RAC Foundation for 2013/14 show that the local authorities received £343m in fines compared to £353m the previous year – a fall of 3%.

Almost three-quarters – 71% or £242m – came from London, but this was also down on the previous year. The research suggests a 4% fall, despite London councils issuing 4.08 million tickets, marginally more than they did in 2012/13.

The RAC Foundation claims that, after costs, councils in England generated a combined profit of £667m from on and off street parking operations in 2013/14 – a 12% increase on the £594m collected the previous year. And, even after allowing for capital charges (interest and  depreciation), the combined surplus in 2013/14 was still £549m – a 19% increase on £460m for 2012/13.

Although not all councils made a large surplus, very few lose money on their parking activities. Just 55 (16%) of the 353 parking authorities in England reported negative numbers.

The authority with the largest surplus in 2013/14 was, once again, Westminster with £51 million.

The five biggest earners were all London authorities, with only Brighton and Hove and Nottingham – thanks to its workplace parking levy – breaking into a top 10  dominated by councils in the capital.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC  Foundation, said: “Parking profits seem to be a one-way street for councils having risen annually for the last  five years.

"Yet over the same period spending on local roads has fallen about a fifth in real terms.

“Parking policy and charges must be about managing traffic not raising revenue.”


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Comments

  • Reg - 22/12/2014 12:02

    Is it true to say that where a car is parked on private land and the outfit trying to claim parking fees has to ask for instance a company who the driver was, the company can with impunity just ignore the request ?

    • Colin Pattison - 23/12/2014 02:06

      @Reg - no, the Conservative Govt introduced the Protection of Freedoms Act (which does the complete opposite to its name) - this Act makes the Registered Keeper liable if the driver is not identified. The DVLA makes money by selling the Keeper's details to the parking company - probably in breach of Data Protection.

    • Patriot - 23/12/2014 20:38

      @Colin Pattison - Quite true. However an FM with more than two brain cells will reply back to the PPC with an invoice for say £25 to cover 'admin' costs related to finding out who the driver was at the time the PPC's invoice was issued. Simples.

    • Patriot - 23/12/2014 21:34

      @Colin Pattison - 'The DVLA makes money by selling the Keeper's details to the parking company - probably in breach of Data Protection' Actually no. Data is sold under Regulations made in 2002. However, it has always been the DVLA’s position that in providing data they have to do so in way which meets its obligations as data controller under the Data Protection Act 1998 (“DPA”). The DVLA exercises the duty (as far as Reg. 27(1)(e) is concerned) on behalf of the Secretary of State. The regulations stipulate that in order to make register data available that the SoS must be satisfied that the the person applying for it has "reasonable cause". If a PPC is a member of an ATA (Accredited Trade Association) then on paying DVLA £2.50 the driver's details are released. A Fleet Manager breaches the DPA if and when he supplies a driver's details to a third party without the driver's permission. .

    • Reg - 24/12/2014 10:33

      @Patriot - Thanks for that very useful clarification. Is it correct to say that the regulations apply equally to parking on private property eg hospital parking ? Have a good Christmas !

    • Patriot - 24/12/2014 21:16

      @Reg - Parking on private land; Yellow lines and parking for disabled people signs have no legal validity on private land. A landowner can choose how to control parking whether by ANPR, barrier controlled parking or employing ex-clamping chimps to stick invoices on vehicle windscreens. Nobody believes in unregulated parking and a lot of hospitals use barrier controlled parking whereby you collect a ticket on entry and pay for your allotted time on exit which is fair and practical. The easiest way to challenge a windscreen ticket from a PPC is to write to the the Hospital Trust and ask for a copy of the contract (unredacted) to clarify exactly who the contract is with and what the contract says about the extent of the powers granted to the PPC to pursue a driver who does not pay the sum claimed. Always, always appeal to a PPC and when they reject your appeal-as they do-ask for the POPLA code . This costs the PPC £2.50 for the RK's details from DVLA and £27.50 + Vat for the POPLA appeal. The POPLA Ajudicator's decision is binding on the PPC but not on the driver. As I mentioned previously a PPC has never won a properly defended case and there is plenty of information available on how to beat a PPC's unrealistic demands for your your money. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

    • reg - 05/01/2015 11:06

      @Patriot - Thanks - much appreciated, and for your good wishes. Have a splendid 2015

  • Company Car Driver - 22/12/2014 12:39

    Fleets won't be interested in appealing illegal parking tickets, they prefer to pay the tickets whether the driver is guilty or innocent - then charge the driver a ridiculous "admin fee" for doing so.

    • sam - 22/12/2014 13:59

      @Company Car Driver - not all companies charge an "admin fee" for dealing with the fines process, myself I do not and will challenge any fine I feel has been issued incorrectly or we "might" get away with it, I always give my drivers the opportunity to pay themselves or I can make representations on their behalf.

    • Company Car Driver - 23/12/2014 11:26

      @sam - It's a shame other leasing companies don't do the same. When I received a fine, my leasing company contacted my fleet manager with an invoice for payment of the fine plus £20 "admin fee". They'd paid the fine without checking with the driver (me). It was left to me to reject the fine and deal with the associated paperwork.

  • Sam - 22/12/2014 13:53

    I have a fleet of over 700 vehicles and am inundated with parking fines every day, we contaest a lot and have a 82% success rate but I have still paid out over 11,000 this year, majority of costs have been recouped back from drivers.

  • Mark M - 22/12/2014 14:37

    This isn't advice for all, just a personal observation. I have been filing away these 'fines' and the numerous, increasingly desperate reminders (for private land) on behalf of my drivers for the last 4 years. I have resolved to act on them only when I get an actual Letter of Claim. I have not received one such Letter of Claim since I have adopted this practice. However, I still have to pass on the admin fee that I am charged by the lease company for administering these annoyances. Good luck to Mr Green.

  • Patriot - 22/12/2014 21:50

    'Cambridge law graduate Michael Green claims that private parking companies –................founder of the Challenge the Fine campaign, told Fleet News: “It is dubious that fining drivers £40, £80, £100 is legal.” If he is a Law Graduate he will know PPC's do not and cannot issue 'Fines' or 'Penalties'. They issue invoices. Secondly the point he is challenging is already well known, it is known as GPEOL-Genuine Pre Estimate of Loss. 90% of appeals to POPLA are successful using the GPEOL argument. The remaining 10% are won on the 'unclear signage' challenge.No driver has lost a properly defended case-including me. Fleet Managers are well aware they cannot disclose the driver's details to a third party, if they do then they breach the DPA. I could go on about the incompetence of FM's who pay invoices without checking their validity but as it is Christmas week I won't spoil their self inflated ego's.

    • stumpy61 - 23/12/2014 10:37

      @Patriot - Interesting to see that you call FMs incompetent and egotistic but you fail to recognise or mention that the driver should be solely responsible for their own actions (and in particular when they incur some of these 'fines' outside of their business hours) and being careless or arrogant enough to ignore signage means the FM having to spend a disproportionate amount of their time unnecessarily mopping up a mess, let's hand back this responsibility directly to the driver to decide what he wants to do and then sort it out themselves.... we advise our drivers to be aware of these businesses and to look and act responsibly as they will have to deal with any consequences themselves.... yours, a disbelieving FM

    • Patriot - 23/12/2014 20:45

      @stumpy61 - Nothing to do with the driver's actions. If you take the time to research the PPC business model you will discover most of their income is derived from breaching the UTCCR and relying on motorists to pay their invoices without quibble. As well as the GPEOL challenge very few PPC's are the landowners and therefore do not have any legal standing to pursue motorists with threatened legal action. I've beaten four PPC's and two (different) Local Authorities. How many have you won?

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