The number of driver details sold to private parking companies reached a new high last year, according to analysis of government figures.
The RAC Foundation found 6.8million sets of vehicle keeper records were released to parking management firms in 2018 to 2019, up a fifth from 5.65million a year earlier.
The figures from the DVLA, which looks after the records of more than 48million motorists, work out as 18,653 sets of records sold every day, or 13 every minute.
A recent Freedom of Information request revealed the DVLA made £16.3million in 2017 to 18 from selling details.
The number of details sold to private parking companies by the DVLA has increased a thousandfold over the last decade – from 687,000 in 2008-9 to 6.8million in 2018-19
Parking companies can apply to the DVLA to request details for £2.50 a pop in order to charge them for ‘breaching’ contracts, which is how they then issue fines to motorists who have parked without a valid ticket.
This is provided they are members of either the British Parking Association or the International Parking Community.
The rise of the widespread use of Automatic Numberplate Recognition Cameras, known as ANPR, combined with the DVLA’s willingness to sell on details has led the number of private parking tickets being issued soaring.
Firms currently do not have to explain why they are asking for details and often issue tickets for minor infringements and use hardline tactics for dispute cases.
This is Money has campaigned since last autumn to make it harder for drivers’ details to be sold and for a crackdown on private parking tickets.
In March a private member’s bill introduced by Conservative MP Sir Greg Knight, which could potentially bar parking companies from accessing driver’s records if they break the rules of a new independent code, came into law.
Car parks that saw a flurry of parking charges issued could also face an audit under the proposals, with local government minister Rishi Sunak writing in This is Money that ‘the rogue operators are on their way out for good.’
This is Money’s Parking Sharks campaign
This is Money began its campaign against the private parking sharks last October after being inundated with emails from affected readers.
In short, we call for common sense, after some shocking cases that have seen motorists chased, bullied and harassed over private parking charges for dubious and minor infringements.
We have called for three simple changes in our ‘stop the private parking sharks’ campaign:
1. To give drivers the option to stop the DVLA allowing private firms to buy their details for £2.50 a pop;
2. The independent appeal process to be made fairer;
3. The DVLA to investigate when large numbers of applications are made for a specific location frequently to see if the charge is fair.
This is Money has previously calculated that it only requires a private parking firm to claw back a £60 charge from one in every 24 drivers to break even on the cost of buying your details.
Meanwhile, 24 per cent of drivers surveyed by comparison site Go Compare said they had received at least one parking charge from a private company.
The rise in charges slapped on motorists has coincided with the introduction of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, which lets private firms pursue the recorded keepers of vehicles for parking infringements when the driver cannot be identified.
The parking companies often routinely turn down appeals made to them directly by motorists, often for reasons that lack common sense.
This forces drivers to take it to independent appeal body POPLA, but charges can often spiral above £100 if unsuccessful.
The RAC Foundation said the figures suggested as much as £680million could be being demanded from drivers, if penalty charge notices reach three figures.
It also broke down the figures according to which parking companies obtained the most vehicle records. Parking Eye bought a staggering 1.85million sets of records in 2018-19, nearly three times as many as the firm in second place. That was Euro Car Parks, which bought 672,000 sets of details.
The numberplate shopping spree
125 parking companies obtained keeper data from the DVLA in 2018-19. The five who bought the most were:
1. ParkingEye Ltd – 1.85m records
2. Euro Car Parks – 672,000 records
3. Ranger Services Ltd for Highview Parking Ltd – 454,000 records
4. Smart Parking Ltd – 391,000 records
5. Civil Enforcement Ltd – 368,000 records
Smart Parking, which made the lives of Basildon residents and shoppers a misery for several months with its management of the Westgate Shopping Centre car park, came in fourth place, purchasing 391,000 details.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: ‘These staggeringly high numbers stand as a vindication of the urgent need for the measures in Sir Greg Knight’s Act to be put in place – a single, tighter code of practice, a single, consistent appeals body, and strict audit of parking companies’ compliance.
‘Businesses who employ private companies to manage their car parks should be taking a close look at how they are operating, the implications for the drivers who will often be their own customers and, ultimately, what that means for their own reputation.
Businesses who employ private companies to manage their car parks should be taking a close look at how they are operating
‘We have never advocated a parking free-for-all, but for a system that is clear, transparent and fair for drivers and landowners alike.’
The DVLA has previously said it is allowed to disclose details of a vehicle’s keeper under data protection laws, and that without such data-sharing motorists would be able to drive or park anywhere they wanted, without being responsible for their actions.
It added: ‘The DVLA does not profit from the release of information from its registers. The £2.50 fee is set to recover the cost of providing the information.’
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