Tonight’s Watchdog programme on BBC1 again goes for the throat of the private parking industry, challenging the British Parking Association on why one of its member firms was found guilty in a county court of not displaying adequate signage which led to a driver not ‘paying and displaying’ and hence receiving a ticket.
For those who can’t see the programme this is the gist of the situation and the BPA’s response:
“Mr Cutts received a parking ticket for not ‘paying & displaying’ at a car park for the Peel Centre, Stockport managed by an Approved Operator Scheme (AOS) member, Excel Parking Services.
Mr Cutts refused to pay the ticket, stating that he did not consider the Excel signage present visible enough. This matter was taken all the way to the County Court where the Judge found in Mr Cutt’s favour.
Firstly, Watchdog are asking why the BPA failed to make Excel change the signs.
The core issues within our response to this are;
• The signs used by Excel at the site comply with the AOS Code of Practice
• There are enough of them that Mr Cutts should have noticed that parking conditions applied at the site
• While 11900 tickets have been issued there over a 3 year period, 2.9 million motorists have complied at the site and paid to park – compliance rate of 99.63%
• Judgement in a County Court case does not set precedent
• For every Court case where the Judge may find in favour of the motorist, there are numerous others where they find in favour of the operator
Watchdog are then asking whether the BPA management of the Code of Practice for the management of parking on private land is robust enough.
Our responses to this question are as follows;
• We now have a robust Sanctions Scheme where, if members are found to be in breach of the Code, sanctions points are awarded which can eventually result in expulsion. Currently, 29 members have sanction points on their record and five members have been expelled from the Scheme.
• We have a dedicated Compliance Manager and have conducted over 2000 investigations into member behaviour last year following complaints from the public.
• However, we believe that our Approved Operator Scheme is no substitute for legislation which regulates the sector. We have campaigned for many years for the Government to fully regulate private parking operators so that those who are currently not answerable to any authority can be held to account. A robust regulatory framework enshrined in law is the fairest and most effective way to achieve this but the Government have consistently refused to take this important step to protect motorists.”
If nothing else this case highlights the gulf that exists between many drivers and those who operate private car parks. It also shows why there is a strong case for unenforceable, voluntary regulation (of clampers, ticketers or whatever is set to follow) to be taken out of the hands of the private parking industry iteslf – whether or not you believe they are doing a good job – and given to Government.