Monday Musing: Driving standards, fairness and a better parking profession? You bet!

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Following a relatively quiet period of activity which has seen UK politics gradually get back to some sort of normality and the UK media focusing their attentions on other areas of interest (hello FIFA), the parking profession once again took centre stage on our TV screens with not one but two BBC shows casting a gaze in our general direction.

First up was Watchdog, who for the first time went undercover with secret filming to show how companies are apparently bullying and frightening motorists into paying their parking tickets. The film showed one of those companies, a member of the Independent Parking Committee, who had belonged to the ‘previous trade association’, one that incidentally last time we checked still exists and services close to 700 members, 140 of those who belong to our AOS and manage parking on private land.

According to the programme, motorists won’t get a fair deal if they appeal to one of the independent appeals services available. That’s despite POPLA having heard over 65,000 appeals equating to around 1% of tickets issued.  Of those appeals, 49% are won by the motorist and 51% by the operator. POPLA as we know offers motorists a simple, free appeals service for parking tickets issued on private land. This is something the BPA and Operators have been seeking for years and it has forever changed the way in which people see and perceive the management of parking on private land.

Although the BPA were approached to appear on Watchdog, the three cases of mitigating factors featured did not indicate anything fundamentally wrong with how parking operators deal with individual cases. The BPA did appear on Don’t Get Done Get Dom, aired just a couple of days later. Dom wanted to get to the bottom of who was responsible for private parking companies and how they, and POPLA, were funded. The programme did a reasonable job of educating the viewer but questioned POPLA’s independence, something that has been achieved with the establishment of an independent scrutiny board, ISPA, who oversee the service and hold it to account.

Overall the feature showed the BPA to be an open and transparent organisation that is willing to engage. Dom said he would send us an email – well Dom, we’re still waiting – and said we could do better. Since the programme was filmed of course, we’ve launched our lobbying strategy asking government for better regulation of the private parking sector to drive up standards even further. Better regulation is something we raised many years ago with the Transport Minister in the Labour government and it has been raised with each Transport Minister since. Our position has been consistent – we believe government should regulate the sector but in consultation with operators, landowners and consumers.

It certainly isn’t fair for consumers if different appeals services operating under different standards are allowed to develop. That’s why we believe that government should establish a single service, free to motorists and based on principles underpinning existing parking appeals services, which are well understood by motorists. This would increase consumer confidence and address any perceived unfair practice. A single standards setting body would be accountable to government but self-funding. It will ensure that standards continue to rise for the management of private parking, maintaining a code of practice for the whole sector and ensuring that an independent appeals service is established and maintained.

We’ve recently responded to DCLG’s consultation on private parking and we have stated that we are more than happy to work with them to create the real reform that we, and others, so desire. So watch this space Anne, Dom and anyone else who thinks the BPA can do better. You might just get what you’re asking for.

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