We’re facing an epidemic of private parking tickets stuck on our windscreens, but do they have any legal basis, do we have to pay and anyway, what is a private parking company and how do they operate?
Well, let’s start by saying what they’re not.
By and large, only local councils and their traffic wardens or the police can issue a Penalty Charge Notice or PCN. These are tickets for overstaying your paid-for-period at a council controlled car park, or a double yellow line infringement or something like that. Parliament has passed the necessary powers authorising their use and detailing how, when and where they may be issued.
A private operator can also stick a PCN on your windscreen which will probably look very similar but this is a Parking Charge Notice – a subtle but important difference. These operators work for other companies and patrol spaces such as supermarkets or retail parks and a PCN from them is essentially a notice that they believe you have breached the terms of the contract you entered into by parking there. If you look, you’ll see the terms and conditions displayed around the site, often by the ticket machines.
So, strictly speaking a private PCN is not a fine and motoring groups such as the RAC Foundation say you can think of it as an invoice to pay. Or not, if you think you have done nothing wrong…
If the company are members of the British Parking Association or Independent Parking Committee, these firms can ask the DVLA for the vehicle’s registered owner and address and post a PCN to you.
If you choose not to pay they will then have to proceed through the civil courts which can work one of two ways. Either they think the case is not worth the time and cost to them in which case they might drop it, or if it goes in their favour you will end up with a bill many times that of the original. It could also affect your credit rating.
It is worth remembering that if such an operator is not a member of the BPA or IPC the DVLA probably won’t give them your details; but, if you write back following a `ticket’ being stuck on your windscreen you’ll be giving the company your name and address for them to pursue…
Are private parking company staff parking wardens?
Well, strictly speaking no because a traffic warden – or a civil enforcement officer to use the correct term – has their duties tightly prescribed within the boundaries set by Parliament. Someone working for a private parking firm is just an employee and has no more authority outside the area they are paid to patrol than anyone else.
Do private parking company staff have targets for the number of PCNs they issue?
To avoid the `cowboy’ tag, private parking operators are encouraged to join one of two industry associations which issue best practice guidelines and the official line from one, the British Parking Association, is no, there should not be targets.
According to its Code of Practice, from January 2, 2018, `the practice of offering financial incentives relating to the quantity of parking charge notices in new and existing employee contracts is prohibited'.
On the other hand, the Independent Parking Committee seems less clear on the issue, advising members that 'You may use incentive schemes to motivate your staff and improve productivity. However, you may not use an incentive scheme which focusses solely on the volume of parking charges issued without introducing sufficient checks and balances so as to ensure that operatives do not issue Parking Charges where they should not’.
You can make of that what you will.
Council employed parking wardens do not have targets.
Do I get a few minutes leeway if I overstay my time allowance?
Since 2015 parking wardens must give a 10 minute period of grace before issuing a ticket. If an offence is recorded on CCTV, the Traffic Management Act of 2008 says the penalty charge notice has to be issued within 28 days; if not, the driver can contest it and the authority may cancel it and it may not, in which case the motorist can take the case to the parking adjudicator.
Can my vehicle be clamped if parked on private land?
No. Since the 2012 Protection of Freedoms Act you cannot be clamped or your vehicle otherwise prevented from moving.
For more guidance on this issue try these websites.