The Parking Code of Practice has been a hot topic of conversation in the parking community, among consumers and parking operators alike. Here, our Deputy Managing Director, Gareth Brierley, breaks down the key information about the incoming legislation.
What is the Parking Code of Practice?
The Parking Code of Practice is part of the Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2019, the result of a private member’s bill introduced by Sir Greg Knight to implement a statutory code of practice for private parking operators. The Act and Code of Practice aim to bring the industry under government regulation, as opposed to the current system in which parking operators can choose to register with either the British Parking Association (BPA) or the International Parking Community (IPC), who oversee the standards and practices of their members. The Act represents a welcome development in ensuring the private parking industry is further professionalised, and that all industry bodies work together to provide safe, accessible, and regulated parking management to the communities in which they operate.
What does the Parking Code of Practice say?
The Code of Practice is still at draft stage, so it is not yet clear what the final version will say. However, there are three key areas which look set to be addressed under the code that could significantly change the way private parking operates in this country.
- Parking Charge Notice (PCN) Values
Currently, PCNs are capped at £100 per contravention. Consumer groups have proposed changing this amount to mirror Local Authority Penalty Charge Notices, which are capped at around £50. However, many industry bodies are concerned that in many cases this would make PCNs too “affordable”, and reduce their effectiveness as a deterrent to antisocial parking practices. At consultation, we have supported a three tier system, which would set separate caps on charges depending on the severity of the contravention. This would maintain the incentive to park within the rules, while reducing the charge for a large number of contraventions, and reserving the greatest consequences for the worst incidents.
- Independent Appeals Service
The BPA and IPC currently each have their own independent appeals service, but the Code of Practice suggests that there should be one central appeal service for all private parking operators. While this could in theory simplify the appeals process, there is also an argument that the current dual approach promotes competition and continuous improvement, to ensure that the appeals service stays fit for purpose and develops in line with the ever-changing world of parking. It seems apparent that the government are very keen on a single appeals service, so any other decision would be a surprise.
- Debt Recovery & Fees
There are ongoing debates about the role of debt recovery companies, particularly around the processes they should follow and the fees they should be allowed to charge. Debt recovery companies represent an important halfway house between the parking operators and the courts, enabling the former to collect PCNs that otherwise go unpaid, while reducing pressure on the latter to hear large amounts of cases that can be resolved without legal action, and the fees charged should represent a deterrent, encouraging motorists to pay their PCNs promptly on receipt from the parking operator.
How will the Code of Practice affect the Parking Industry?
Overall, we believe the Code of Practice will benefit the industry. It’s great that the government are engaging with industry bodies and stakeholders to develop an effective regulatory system, and we’re hopeful that this will increase consumer confidence in private parking and give them a greater understanding of the need for fair and rigorous parking management. Private parking is an important part of people’s lives; we all like being able to park in a safe, accessible car park with an available bay, and this legislation is a great step towards greater understanding of the industry.