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Private parking fines on the increase

According to motoring organisation, the AA, private parking fines, known as parking charge notices, have seen a steep increase in the past year. In fact, the number of notices has risen 22% to 2.3 million this year. The system of parking charge notices was introduced to replace the largely discredited system of clamping on private land.

According to motoring organisation, the AA, private parking fines, known as parking charge notices, have seen a steep increase in the past year. In fact, the number of notices has risen 22% to 2.3 million this year. The system of parking charge notices was introduced to replace the largely discredited system of clamping on private land. Clamping firms had become notorious for demanding sometimes hundreds of pounds from motorists in return for releasing their cars. The new system allows private landowners to issue the tickets where cars are parked without permission on their land or have overstayed their time in a car park.

As part of the system, private enforcement companies who are registered with the British Parking Association (BPA) are allowed to gather motorists' details from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) at Swansea. The AA, however, claims that the behaviour of some of these firms has been dubious as fines have risen. AA president, Edmund King, commented: "Private parking enforcement remains unregulated and is a free-for-all when even firms signed up to a code of practice breach their own rules. It seems many of the notorious clampers have moved their sharp practices to private parking enforcement. Others seem to have adopted strong arm tactics to threaten drivers into paying tickets that are often unjust and set at an unreasonable level compared to those issued by regulated local authorities."

Examples of sharp practice recorded by the AA include fines of £160, which is 60% higher than the BPA's own recommended maximum. Motorists are in theory protected by the Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA) service but as they appear to work closely with the enforcers, their independence has been questioned. However, chief executive of the BPA, Patrick Troy, defended the record of the private parking enforcers, saying: "It is disappointing that the AA has taken a typically negative attitude to the significant changes brought about by changes in the law introduced last year. The BPA established an independent appeals service to ensure that motorists who receive unfair tickets from our members can seek independent redress, something not available before 1 October last year. We've invited the AA to join us in managing the scheme which ensures BPA members comply with a robust Code of Practice but they have consistently declined, unlike many other organisations representing the motorists' interests. We and they are interested only in placing the motorist at the heart of our thinking, not scoring cheap political points."

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