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News & views

MP on warpath over private-parking signs rip-off

[9 Dec 2012] The first meeting of a consumer forum on private car-park management takes place on 10 December. It’s been arranged by the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency). Martin Cutts of Plain Language Commission and other consumer representatives who have complained about car-park rip-offs, particularly around misleading signage, will attend.

Meanwhile, Nick Smith, MP for Blaenau Gwent, has launched a broadside against private car-park operators who, he says, keep on mining motorists through ‘sharp practice’ supported, he alleges, by the British Parking Association (BPA), a members’ club. 

He said, ‘Motorists are the seam that keeps on giving. Private car park operators [have] set out to fleece motorists.’  Smith says the business model of some operators is based on motorists ‘making mistakes’ so they can be fleeced for an alleged breach of car park ‘rules’.

Smith has raised this issue several times in Commons debates on the future of town centres and high streets after the Portas report was published in December 2011. In September 2012 he introduced a Private Member’s Bill to improve signage and ticketing technology in car parks. It will get its second reading in January 2013.

Smith said: ‘The BPA tells me its members have “declined to provide information about their business models”. There is a veil of secrecy here that needs to be lifted.

‘One business model gives the car park owner the income from the regular hourly parking charge, but the operators scoop the income from parking charge notices (PCNs) issued. So the more the motorist gets it wrong, the bigger the profit for the operator.

‘But the BPA say their Approved Operator Scheme, is “designed to ensure that the motorist is not unfairly or unduly penalised as a result of these (profit) motives”. [cont]

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