Drivers could be hit with an additional £70 late-payment charge for parking tickets under government proposals.
The “debt recovery charge” is expected to be included as part of a code of conduct for parking operators, according to The Times.
The code has been under discussion in various forms since 2018 and is intended to protect motorists from unscrupulous private parking companies who ministers have accused of handing out unjust fines and using aggressive tactics to harass drivers.
However, drivers’ groups have warned that any extra late payment charge risks undermining the reforms and encouraging firms to aggressively pursue payment.
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The charge is being proposed in a consultation by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and would apply to anyone who fails to pay a parking ticket within 28 days.
David Carrod, chairman of the British Motorists Protection Association, said: “By allowing parking companies to levy this spurious charge, it will open the door for dubious unlicensed debt collectors and low-rent solicitors to pursue thousands more cases to court — the exact opposite of what is intended.”
The proposed code of conduct also includes new limits on the penalties private firms can impose on motorists. Outside of London, the maximum charge could be set at £50 under the code, reduced to £25 if paid within two weeks. In London it could be cut from the current £100 to £80.
Observers fear that allowing a late-payment charge could be seen as a way for parking firms to recoup a loss in revenue caused by these caps.
Nicholas Lyes, the RAC’s head of roads policy, said: “We are hugely concerned about proposals to allow a £70 debt recovery charge to be levied at drivers. There does not seem to be any justification and rationale for this figure, and we’d urge [the Government] to scrap it or go back to the drawing board.
“Drivers will want to know that this is not another attempt to extract revenue which could end up back in the pockets of parking operators that in many cases work closely with their own debt recovery agencies.”
The code of conduct is intended to protect motorists parking on private land such as supermarkets, retail parks, pubs, restaurants and private housing developments. The proposals related primarily to England but the Scottish and Welsh governments are expected to introduce similar measures.
Among the other measures being considered are a compulsory 10-minute grace period before a ticket is issued, a single, centrally administered appeals process to contest charges, and protection against genuine mistakes such as keying in a registration number wrong.