The Parking Code of Practice Act was brought into law in March 2019. Its purpose was to provide motorists greater protection from ‘cowboy’ parking firms. Prior to the Act, the private parking industry were asked to self-regulate. This failed, and so the government were forced to take action, resulting in this piece of legislation.
The Parking Code of Practice Act 2019 does the following:
- Provides for the creation of a single Code of Practice regulating private parking firms
- Provides for the creation of a single independent appeals service for challenging parking charges
The Act is an enabling piece of legislation meaning that it does not itself define the detail of the code or other aspects. Instead it grants the Secretary of State the power to define it as they see fit. This will be done by consulting with the industry, consumer associations, and experts in the field.
Parking companies who do not follow the single Code of Practice will be barred from accessing the DVLA’s keeper database, meaning they will find it effectively impossible to enforce parking charges.
Code of Practice
Currently both the British Parking Association (BPA) and International Parking Community (IPC), the two current industry associations, have their own codes of practice which their members should follow. The respective codes are different, creating inconsistencies and confusion to motorists. Worse, parking companies need to be a member of one or the other, the demands of the code is a differentiator between them. One can see that a code that favours the operator over the motorist may be more favourable, and lead to a race to the bottom, with the motorist losing out.
The codes themselves specify things such as:
- Methods of operation
- Signage standards
- Appeals processes
- Parling attendant bonuses
It is expected that a single code should therefore rebalance the industry to ensure fairness, and remove this race to the bottom.
Independent Appeals Service
The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 introduced the requirement for an independent appeals service. This acted as a second stage appeal, if the operator themselves refused an initial appeal against a parking charge.
Since private parking firms depend on issuing and enforcing charges for income, there is little or no incentive for them to cancel charges. As such, POFA 2012 introduced the concept of the independent appeals service, independent of the parking company to remove this conflict of interest, and result in fairer decision making.
The British Parking Association’s Parking on Private Land Appeals service (POPLA) has generally been a success. To date, the service has been run independently of the BPA, firstly by London Councils, and later by Ombudsmen Services Ltd. It has been reasonably transparent in its operation, producing annual reports detailing issues, and at one stage overseen by an independent board, although this was later closed down.
The IPCs service, the Independent Appeals Service has been much less a success for motorists. The IAS has been run as a subsidiary of the same solicitors firm that runs the IPC, Gladstones. As such, there is a perception that a conflict of interest could exist given than IPC is funded by its member parking companies. Further, the operations of the IAS are not transparent – the motorist does not get to see the parking company’s evidence, and the identity of the adjudiactor is not even revealed. Evidence suggests that a high proportion of IAS decisions are made in favour of the operator, compared to POPLA which is around 50/50, indicating that something is wrong with this model of appeals services.
Details of the single appeals service has not been revealed yet, but it should only drive higher standards and lead to fairer outcomes for motorists.