The government has issued its first code of practice for private parking operators, designed to set clearer rules and protect motorists from excess costs.
Private parking firms issued 22,000 tickets per day in 2019, according to PA Media research , and the lack of clear, consistent rules a common bugbear for motorists. An AA driver survey found one in five drivers who had received a fine weren’t aware they had done anything wrong at the time .
Concerned that this could slow high street recovery after the pandemic, the government has stepped in to bring private companies – currently a self-regulated sector – in line with local authority parking charges. It’s hoped that doing so will protect motorists from unreasonable charges and rogue operators, while still creating a deterrent for rule-breakers .
How is the industry being regulated?
The Private Parking Code of Practice was presented to parliament in February, following almost three years of consultations and collaborations with consumer and stakeholder groups. If approved, it will come into force across England, Scotland and Wales at the end of 2023, affecting public and private car parks, short stay areas and prohibited parking zones, but not public highways .
In the meantime, there will be an implementation process creating:
- An independent certification scheme which parking associations must adhere to, otherwise they will be prevented from accessing DVLA data – effectively meaning they can’t issue charges.
- An independent appeals service for motorists, authorised by the Secretary of State for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).
- A scrutiny and oversight board to monitor the system, including reviewing the code every two years based on judgements made by the appeals service.
What does this mean for motorists?
It sets a consistent set of rules which should make it harder to accidentally fall foul of an operator’s terms and conditions. The most important measures are:
Drivers will get at least five minutes after they arrive to either find a space or leave without getting charged, and another ten minutes after their ticket has expired to get back off site. Large or complex sites will be advised to offer more time on arrival, short stay facilities and areas which don’t invite parking will be able to charge straight away
Clear signage explaining tariffs, terms and conditions and penalty charges, and (where necessary) how to display a ticket and what to do if payment machines are out of service. Private operators will also have a templated design for notices, differentiating them from legally enforced local authority parking charges.
Car parks will have to provide clearly marked bays and at least one sign showing terms and conditions (with specific guidance for Blue Badge schemes) that can be read without getting out of the vehicle. Operators are also encouraged to consider adjusting any grace periods to account for disabled users.
The Code introduces three tiers of charges for parking contraventions, and stops operators charging for debt recovery. For most cases, this will be capped at £50, with a 50% (up from 40%) early payment discount, but there are higher limits for blocking charging points (£70) or parking in bays for residents and Blue Badge holders (£100).
Controls on operators:
Operators will have to get written permission from landowners before enforcing parking regulations. They won’t be able to incentivise attendants based on how many charges they give out, and enforcement vehicles with cameras will have to be clearly marked.
Appeals and complaints:
There are also requirements for a document complaints procedure and for operators to offer an appeals process within 28 days, or longer for exceptional cases. Mitigating circumstances for cancelling charges include entering a number plate incorrectly, breaking down, or forgetting to display a Blue Badge.
 Lancefield, N (2022). Drivers slapped with more than 22,000 parking tickets every day. [online] Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/business/drivers-slapped-with-more-than-22-000-parking-tickets-every-day-b1986162.html [Accessed 18 Feb. 2022].
 The AA. (n.d.). How to avoid getting a parking ticket. [online] Available at: https://www.theaa.com/driving-advice/legal/avoid-parking-tickets [Accessed 18 Feb. 2022].
 Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. (2022). Private Parking Code of Practice. [online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/private-parking-code-of-practice/private-parking-code-of-practice [Accessed 18 Feb. 2022].
 Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. (2022). Private Parking Code of Practice: explanatory document – how was it developed and what will it change? [online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/private-parking-code-of-practice/private-parking-code-of-practice-explanatory-document-how-was-it-developed-and-what-will-it-change [Accessed 18 Feb. 2022].