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News & views

DVLA orders Excel Parking probe

[24 Oct 2011] In efforts to get illegible notices improved at the Peel Centre car park in Stockport where tens of thousands of motorists have been hit by £100 penalties, we’ve taken our campaign to government ministers, regulators and MPs. 

At last there’s some progress, as the government’s Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has asked the British Parking Association (BPA) to investigate its member company Excel Parking Services Ltd and the signs at the Peel Centre. This is embarrassing for the BPA, which had already announced that the signs complied with its ‘approved operator scheme’ code of practice and that it would do nothing to discipline Excel, whose managing director sits on the BPA board overseeing the scheme.

Martin Cutts of Plain Language Commission, whose courtroom victory on 15 September (see Pikestaff 52) has led to the DVLA’s action, has now called on the BPA to investigate properly by appointing a team of independent lawyers, consumer experts and legibility experts to examine the signage at the Peel Centre and the BPA’s own legibility standards. ‘This investigation must clearly be impartial and the DVLA should insist on it. Anything less will look like a fraud.’

Relations between the DVLA and the BPA have until now been cosy. The DVLA earns up to £3 million a year for supplying private parking companies who are BPA members with the registered-keeper details of vehicles whose drivers have supposedly broken parking rules. This enables the companies to pursue keepers for the fees they claim for breach of contract. The BPA/DVLA love-in is on display in this clip from the BBC’s Watchdog programme, with presenter Anne Robinson in majestic form: 
A transcript of the programme is available here:

Private Eye, the satirical magazine, ran a good story on Martin’s case and other Excel activities (download (1MB)). 

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