Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has today warned that car owners in Scotland could be getting an unfair deal from private parking companies due to a loophole created by two different laws passed by Holyrood and Westminster.
A section of the Scottish Parliament’s recently-passed Transport (Scotland) Bill on ‘keeper liability’ makes the registered keeper of a vehicle shoulder the burden of a private parking charge if the car’s driver at the time cannot be identified.
The Scottish Government has previously committed to adopting a UK-wide code of practice for private parking firms but this is still to be published by the UK government.
With the Transport Bill now passed by Holyrood and a lack of clarity about when keepers will become liable for private parking charges, CAS is warning that private parking companies may have an unfair advantage over consumers in Scotland in the absence of the wider UK code.
The UK’s Parking (Code of Practice) Act from March 2019 requires the UK government to develop and consult on a code of practice that all private parking firms must follow.
If firms break this code they can be barred from asking for owners’ information from the DVLA to contact and enforce payment of parking charges.
In the past 12 months CAS’s ‘Advice for Scotland’ website has had over 200,000 (207,731) views to pages related to parking tickets on private land and how to challenge them.
Citizens Advice Scotland’s Strong Communities spokesperson, Gillian Fyfe, said: “The passing of the Parking (Code of Practice) Act was a welcome step forward in protecting drivers from unscrupulous private parking firms.
“Unfortunately what we have now is a situation where private parking firms may have an advantage over consumers in Scotland if keeper liability in the Transport (Scotland) Bill comes into effect without the wider context of the code of practice.
“CAS has long called for an independent appeals process and a code of practice which will make sure private car park practices in Scotland are consistent, transparent and easier to understand for consumers.
“But we haven’t heard when the draft code will be published and in the meantime, the burden will fall to registered keepers when that part of the Transport (Scotland) Bill takes effect. This means a lack of safeguards against unjust fines and overzealous firms.
“Given the code of practice will also go out to public consultation, UK Ministers must publish it in draft as soon as possible to end the imbalance and make sure car owners get a fair deal and greater protection.
“As the largest provider of independent consumer advice in Scotland, the CAB network is of course here to help people resolve any problems consumers may have in regard to parking fines.”
Notes to editors:
Citizens Advice Scotland’s Advice for Scotland website offers free and independent advice on topics ranging from benefits and debt to consumer and work issues.
In the past 12 months (20 Oct 2018 to 19 Oct 2019) the following pages have received:
- Parking tickets on private land – 118,857 page views
- When your car can be clamped or towed away – 55,253 page views
- Letter to challenge a parking ticket: parking on private land – you think the ticket is unfair – 33,621 page views
CAS has consistently campaigned against the unfair practices of private parking firms, including publishing its ‘It’s Not Fine’ report in 2014 which can be found here. Many of the report’s recommendations were taken on board in the Parking (Code of Practice) Act, including the creation of an independent appeals process.
Although a devolved issue, the Scottish Parliament passed a legislative consent motion on 5 June 2018 agreeing that the provisions in the Parking (Code of Practice) Bill would extend to Scotland once passed.