Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Keeper Liability Impact Assessment due for review January 2016

In 2011 an impact assessment was undertaken by the government to help decide whether to introduce a law regarding keeper liability. That impact assessment is available online here, and comes up for review in January 2016.

In this blog The Prankster takes a look at the impact assessment in light of the data available since the keeper liability act was passed.

The first question is whether the act is necessary at all. If we look at keeper data released to parking companies in 2014 by the DVLA we see the following are the top 5 most unsuccessful companies at managing car parks properly:

975352 ParkingEye
317593 ICES (Smart Parking)
291941 Ranger Services (Highview, CP Plus)
152335 Excel
151027 Euro Car Parks

Of these, only the first and last (ParkingEye and Euro car parks) use the keeper liability legislation. The others all issue deliberately non-compliant notices to keeper and do not use keeper liability legislation; they pursue the keeper on the basis that they are likely to be the driver.

(The DVLA releases more detailed data here.)

If 3 of the top 5 parking companies do not need the keeper liability legislation, the big question is whether the legislation is needed at all?

Description and scale of key monetised costs by ‘main affected groups’ 
We do not believe that this change would increase costs to government. Parking companies would have a one-off cost to amend signs/paperwork and to set up an independent appeals service. There would also be annual costs thereafter to fund the independent appeals service. 

The annual cost of an appeal service was estimated at £0.6m. This appears to be an underestimate. The BPA currently have a disagreement with London Councils over an apparent £180,000 amount still owing, and of course there are two appeals services as the IPC have entered the sector.

Other key non-monetised costs by ‘main affected groups’ 
A reduction in the number of complaints/appeals where the defence is that the keeper of the vehicle was not the driver at the time. An increase in the number of tickets being paid. This has not been costed as the rate of increase is unknown.

The number of appeals where the defence is that the driver is not the keeper may have decreased, but other appeal reasons are equally valid. Data which ParkingEye filed in court admits they issue 65% of tickets in error. A further 45% of tickets are then cancelled by the appeals body, POPLA. It appears then, that most tickets are issued without a valid reason.

Description and scale of key monetised benefits by ‘main affected groups’ 
Reductions in administrative burdens on DVLA due to fewer claims being processed from the issue of parking charges (costs to DVLA are recovered via the fee charged for providing vehicle keeper information). 

In 2010/11, the year before POFA 2012 started, Parking Companies made 1,178,034 keeper enquiries. In 2014/15, Parking Companies made 3,083,276 enquiries. In the 6 months April-September 2015, Parking Companies made 2,273,254 enquiries, or an extrapolated 4,546,508 enquiries per year. So, the legislation has increased the burden on the DVLA fourfold.

The impact assessment predicted that the number of extra tickets issued would only be 500,000.

The DVLA are not too unhappy about this. At £2.50 a pop, this represents substantial income to the DVLA. Senior members of the DVLA have KPIs which depend on this income, so in effect they are financially benefiting by allowing this to continue. The DVLA attempted to erect a smokescreen about this and told the Government it costs £2.80 to process an enquiry, so actually they made a loss. However, The Prankster can reveal this is an accounting trick The DVLA have stonewalled a number of FoI request to find the true costs, but eventually the figures have been prised from their grasp.

Total cost of running the system          = 12.2m
Total number of enquiries                    = 17,998,048
Total enquiries by parking companies =   2,430,130
Average cost per enquiry = 0.75p  (note - although some types of enquiry are more expensive to handle)

Parking companies make 13.5% of enquiries but pay 45.2% of the costs

This biggest category is LA/TfL/Police/Gov who made 10,200,707 enquiries (56.7%) but pay nothing.

The DVLA are therefore using the parking company income to subsidise other services and are artificially inflating the parking company costs to try and justify this.

Other key non-monetised benefits by ‘main affected groups’
There will be consistency between the enforcement regimes on the public road and private land. Motorists
may have a clearer understanding of their responsibilities.
Enables landowners to effectively enforce parking charges.
A reduction in the number of cases taken to court, due to the introduction of an independent appeals
service, which in turn would benefit the Criminal Justice System.

"The BPA has said that of the 1.8 million parking charges currently issued each year around 2-5% (36,000 to 90,000) of cases are taken to civil court per year. Court costs are not expected to increase 10 and have not been forecast because keeper liability will not be brought into force until an independent appeals service is operating throughout the country. "

In fact this was false information provided by the BPA. Only 845 cases were filed that year, of which 49 went to a hearing. This can be contrasted with data from 2014 from the MoJ, which shows that over 37,000 claims were issued;  ParkingEye issued 30,309 of these.


The number of tickets issued has massively increased from 1 million a year to over 4 million. If all these were paid at a discount rate of £60, this would result in £240 million being taken out of the economy each year to line the pockets of parking company bosses. This is money which shoppers will no longer spend in the shops and so is a blow to high street retailers. This charge level is also a serious concern to pensioners and other vulnerable members of society - the people who are most likely to fall foul of the parking companies. As this is most of the weekly pension it leaves pensioners struggling to pay for food rent and heat, all  because they are too slow and frail to shop as quickly as able bodied people.

The key question is; has the number of tickets increased because motorists have become much more badly behaved, or is this because parking companies have introduced ingenious schemes which are hard to obey so they can milk the motorist? The answer is obvious.

The Parking Cowboys website 2015 survey shows that most tickets are issued to genuine customers overstaying at retail parks. There is no evidence that this enforcement results in a benefit to retailers. After all, genuine customers staying longer means they buy more things. Some retailers have even been forced to take action due to the drop in sales - both Somerfield and B&Q fired ParkingEye because of their aggressive parking enforcement hit business.

It turns out that the money which can be generated from a car park depends on how it is managed. Car Parks such as Bristol Eye Hospital are well managed; almost all motorists obey the regulations, and only a few fines were issued over a 4 year period. In contrast ParkingEye have introduced ingenious ways of milking motorists which allowed them to issue over £1 million of parking charges at one hospital trust alone. The way this is done is by making it difficult for motorists to know exactly how much to pay, by allowing incorrect numberplates to be entered, and by providing poor and confusing signage. Analysis of a typical ParkingEye car park shows entrapment zones where signage coverage is poor. This gives the car park the air of responsibility while ensuring a steady stream of victims. Rectifying these defects reduces the number of parking victims to almost zero; but this does not fit in with their business model.

Parking management is needed, but allowing parking companies to operate systems which incentivise them to issue as many tickets as possible has led to a massive outbreak of abuse of power in the last few years. Is this what the impact assessment envisaged? How should this matter be addressed?

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

1 comment:

  1. The chance to correct this business model has sadly slipped by.
    Beavis was a poor example to throw in front of the Supreme Court as it was a paid for operation so PE had some sort of direct monetary loss. It shouldn't make it easy for those who face court for non payment when overstaying on free car parks, or on car parks where the operator pays nothing to the landowner.

    That said, it won't make a ha-penny difference now as most courts are just going to throw the defendant to the wolves.

    It will take some unprecedented legislative change to bring the situation to rights but I guess I'll be well dead by then.

    As much as I loathe them with every ounce of energy, if I had to invest in something to build up a decent pension I think my money would go somewhere towards shareholdings with one or other of them now.

    Happy New Year.