New measures to protect drivers from unscrupulous private parking firms have come into force after a bill to increase regulation of the sector became law.

The Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2019 gained royal assent this week, bringing in systems designed to make the sector more transparent. A new independent appeals service has been introduced for those who feel they have received unfair fines, while private parking operators will have to adopt an industry-backed code of practice.

If an operator breaks the rules, they could be barred from requesting motorists’ information from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). This would, in effect, prevent them from enforcing any parking tickets.

UK parking ticket on windscreen

Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak MP said the new law would help to shield drivers from “rogue operators”.

“Millions of us use private car parks every day, but for far too many drivers slapped with unjust fines this largely unregulated industry feels like the Wild West,” he said. “Too often, I hear of awful treatment at the hands of dodgy parking firms, from problems paying for parking to intimidating demands for payment and baffling appeals processes.

“Now, we’re able to cut out the rogue operators by creating a single Code of Practice and giving drivers greater protection through a new appeals service.”

Suprised man discovers parking ticket under windscreen wiper

The RAC welcomed the announcement, saying the worst private parking companies had dramatically reduced drivers’ trust in the sector.

“Motorists will warmly welcome this new Act,” said the RAC’s head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes. “For too long, some unscrupulous private parking operators have made drivers’ lives a misery with some questionable practices which sent levels of trust in the sector plummeting. The code will create more consistent standards across the board which should eliminate dubious practices and create a single, independent appeals process. The RAC has long called for changes to the way the private parking sector is regulated and this new code will undoubtedly make the lives of drivers easier.”

Officer giving a ticket fine for parking violation

And the British Parking Association also expressed its pleasure at the arrival of the new law, claiming it would improve consumer confidence in private car parks.

“We are delighted that Sir Greg Knight’s Parking (Code of Practice) Bill has achieved Royal Assent, which will deliver our call for a single standard setting body, single code of practice and a single independent appeals service,” said the organisation’s CEO, Andrew Pester.

“This framework will enable greater consistency and consumer confidence. As a not-for-profit association we will continue to work closely with government and others, including consumer groups, to help develop a single Code of Practice that provides a fair outcome for motorists, landowners and parking operators alike.”