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News & views

Crunch day looms in private parking war

[22 Feb 2015] [Update 25 Feb 2015] There’s been a welter of mass-media coverage this last week about the predatory tactics of the largely unregulated private parking companies, an occasional theme of Pikestaff and news items here.

Our particular beef, the ambiguous signs used by some firms, has been picked up in some of the stories. Several media outlets seem at last to have understood that the only way these outfits make money is if by penalizing motorists as much and as often as they can. The ‘parking charge notices’ they impose, which are in reality penalties, are often £70–100, and the total take is about £200million a year.

The British Parking Association (BPA), the trade body that acts as chief apologist for most of the biggest companies, trotted out its standard line to BBC News on 20 Feb that it was ‘very easy to avoid parking enforcement – don’t park where you shouldn’t, and pay where you should’.

But it’s not quite as simple as that when signs are ambiguous or complicated – see our various articles under ‘Publications – Articles – Parking’, where we expose the appallingly complex signs approved as ‘clear’ by the self-serving BPA. In a report by the RAC Foundation (see PDF link below), one classic sign outside TK Maxx (a clothes shop) shows how sneaky the companies’ rules can be, as it says drivers will be penalized for ‘Waiting for passengers who went elsewhere before/and or after visiting the car park providers premises’ (sic). In other words, folks, you are being spied on by parking wardens and tracked by cameras.

Many legal authorities believe the amounts charged for breaking the rules at the UK’s 20,000 private car parks are excessive. Contract law requires them to be a ‘genuine pre-estimate of loss’. They should not be punitive because only the State may fine a citizen. Since any loss to the companies is usually just a few pounds, the current amounts seem hefty exaggerations. The RAC Foundation report compares a typical £100 charge with the average weekly amount spent by UK households on food and drink: £56.

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