A new code of practice for private parking companies will see the majority of parking charge notices limited to a maximum of £50. The move has been announced as part of changes to the law that mean parking companies will be more heavily regulated with a new industry-wide code of practice.

The Private Parking Code of Practice is designed to set minimum standards expected of private parking operators, and is expected to weed out some less savoury practices in the sector. Among the measures introduced in the code is a maximum parking charge notice of £50 in most cases outside London, with a 50-percent discount for paying within 14 days.

The upper limit of £100 for more serious breaches will be retained, but parking debt collectors will be banned from charging additional fees when parking charge notices are not paid. Also included in the code is a compulsory 10-minute grace period before firms can issue a late fine, and a compulsory five-minute cooling-off period in which a motorist can consider the terms and conditions and decide not to use the car park.

Man looking for car in airport parking

That is joined by a crackdown on parking firms using aggressive or pseudo-legal language to intimidate motorists into paying fines, as well as clearer signage for drivers. And there will also be a new national appeals system to make it easier for drivers to fight the charges they believe are unfair.

“Some car park providers are honest and fair but a number of unscrupulous rogues have undermined the sector with bad practice,” said Sir Greg Knight, the MP who took the Parking (Code of Practice) Act through Parliament as a private members bill. “I warmly welcome the government’s action which will prevent motorists being unjustly treated in future and will make parking a vehicle a fairer experience for all. Action is needed because many dodgy operators are still engaging in unacceptable practices whilst using a threatening and intimidating process to fleece motorists.”

Crowded car park

Meanwhile RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said the rules would make parking less stressful for drivers worried about unscrupulous operators.

“The RAC has campaigned for years to end the sharp practices in the private parking sector, so we welcome the new national code that will usher in higher standards,” he said. “Alongside this, drivers can expect a lower cap on penalty charge notices, an independent appeals system and an end to rip-off debt collection fees.

“This will undoubtedly improve the experiences for drivers and create a much more level playing field, reducing hassle and stress while at the same time forcing rogue operators to clean up their acts. Since clamping was banned on private land, there has been a shift to ticketing instead, with the number of parking charge notices being issued rising year-on-year at alarming levels.

“While some of these are justified, others are not and sadly in many cases drivers simply pay up in fear of the consequences, particularly given that follow-up letters can use threatening and intimidating language. RAC research found that nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of drivers wanted the sector to be brought under some form of regulation. This package of measures is not about stopping parking operators doing their jobs, it’s about creating a system that is fair and transparent for all.”