Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Wycombe District Council banned from DVLA access for private car parks

Wycombe District Council has been banned by the DVLA from data access to keeper information for tickets issued in private car parks. Council issued tickets under statutory powers are not affected. The ban will remain in place until the DVLA have examined the issues around the situation.

The ban has arisen because Wycombe DC have attempted to re-designate council-owned land on which statutes apply so that it runs under a private parking regime. This means the council's statutory powers where it could issue penalty fines no longer apply.

The council have stated 'the land has been taken out of the Off Street Parking Places Order under the Road Traffic Regulation 1984 Act and the Council is using its powers at Common Law rather than under Statue to operate the car parks.'

Previously the land was under the ruling of the TMA 2004 act, which means motorists could have their cases adjudicated by TPT/PATAS, which is a well-run, independent scheme which as final resolution allows motorists access to an oral hearing with an independent adjudicator.

Although Wycombe DC are members of the British Parking Association Ltd, they are not AOS members according to the list on the BPA Ltd web site. This means that motorists will not have access to the adjudication service POPLA run by the BPA Ltd. It is possible a third party operator could do this on their behalf, but it is believed Wycombe DC are running this all in-house.

This leaves motorists without an independent body to appeal to.

Currently, Wycombe DC have stated that they will take motorists directly to court if they do not pay and the council decide to unilaterally reject their appeal.

The new regime tries to impose a charge on the motorist of £60 which will be 'issued for a breach of the terms and conditions.' As this is a breach, the charge must be a genuine pre-estimate of loss to the council. It is difficult to see how a loss of revenue of £1 for an hour's parking can cause a loss of £60.

Although this does not appear on signage the council have stated the charges will be discounted to £25 if paid within 24 hours and without appealing, or £40 if paid within 14 days of issue. This is stated on the tickets, but in a confusing way. The motorist will need to read two different parts of the ticket to find this out.

This has not changed substantially from the statutory regime where the previous charges were fines also amounting to £60 or £40 if paid early

It is not clear whether the council will pay back any charges which have been issued up to this point. However, they have been known to cancel tickets as this thread in pepipoo shows.

Any data the council may have obtained from the DVLA is likely to have been under false pretences using the council's powers to obtain data for CPE statutory tickets. As landowners, and non members of the BPA AOS, they must only use the DVLA V888/3 manual forms, for which they have to demonstrate reasonable cause. Councils are charged a nominal sum for CPE statutory tickets, believed to be about 5-10 pence.

This issue was raised with the council's solicitor, Catherine Herries-Smith, to clarify the situation. However, she decided that there was no problem in requesting data in this manner. It seems the DVLA have not agreed with her.

The Prankster does note that the ANPR system offered by this car park has some features which are a welcome step forward. The motorist can pay on exit, and the system will always charge them the correct amount. The veri-park system offered by this car park has some desirable features - customers using the pay-as-you-go option, for instance, would not find it possible to underpay and would always pay the correct amount.

The Prankster welcomes this kind of innovation and notes that ANPR controlled car parks should always be pay on exit, with the system set to only accept registration numbers from vehicles which have entered the car park.

The Prankster feels the council could go a step further - first time transgressors, for instance, could be offered the option to join the pay-as-you-go scheme, for instance, rather than having to pay a penalty. This would show the council are committed to the needs of the community and are not using the scheme as a money-making operation.

Despite the good features of the scheme, The Prankster welcomes the suspension of keeper details until an independent arbitration body is available. Mr Mustard's experience of council tickets shows that sadly councils cannot be trusted to deal fairly with tickets and that they play the system to maximise fines.

Finally, The Prankster notes the DVLA have taken action because it seems the council were cadging data for 5-10 pence, instead of shelling out the £2.50 required for private parking requests.

In other similar situations where private parking companies are clearly bending the rules, such as at ports and airports where statutory regimes also apply, the DVLA continues to provide data as long as the company coughs up the £2.50.

In other situations where companies have stated at court they are charging for parking, but are not members of an associated trade organisation (currently the BPA Ltd or the IPC Ltd), the DVLA also provides data for £2.50, even though this contravenes the DVLA's own rules. Currently the DVLA provide data to ProServe at Ransome's Business Park, Ipswich even though they charge £250 for as little as a few minutes of parking, and there is no independent arbitration body which ProServe use.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

1 comment:

  1. Looks worthy of a mention in Private Eye's 'Rotten Boroughs' column.