Clamping victims welcome appeal body
MOTORISTS who feel they have been unfairly treated by private parking companies now have access to an independent appeals procedure.
The British Parking Association has been asked by the Government to introduce the safeguard – a move the Echo campaigned for over several months following a huge number of cases of drivers claiming they have not been given the right to a fair appeal.
The legislation came into force on Monday alongside a ban on clamping on most private land.
Many claim they were given penalty charge notices despite having a valid ticket displayed, and upon appealing were met with instant rejection.
The Echo's Fair Fines campaign highlighted the scale of the problem in Exeter, leading to MP Ben Bradshaw proposing an amendment to the Protection of Freedoms Bill.
As part of our campaign hundreds of readers contacted us in support. The majority of complaints were regarding the activities of Premier Parking Solutions, based in Newton Abbot, with car parks in Dean Clarke House and outside Exeter Central Station particular trouble spots.
Although the appeals body was not constituted in legislation, the bill says provisions for private parking firms would not be established until the sector cooperates and financially supports an independent body.
This has now been established and motorists can turn to Popla (Parking on Private Land Appeals) if they have no success appealing to the parking firm.
An independent adjudicator will review evidence submitted by both the motorist and the operator, and determine whether or not the parking charge should stand.
The steps have been welcomed by victims of the parking firms in Exeter. Michelle Cameron (right) was eight months pregnant when she was threatened with being left stranded if she failed to pay a £100 clamping fine.
She had left an evening ante-natal class to find her car clamped at Exeter Central station.
Mrs Cameron said: "I am delighted this new legislation has come in. I can still remember that terrible night. The law needed changing to protect people, and I am glad it has finally come about."
Roger Bishop, 65, a retired Royal Navy captain who lives in Topsham, fell victim to the clampers at Central Station.
He said: "This new legislation is most welcome and not only to stop clamping. The idea of parking restrictions is to discourage people from parking in the wrong place, not to generate income for clamping firms with totally disproportionate fines which leave people with a deep sense of injustice."
However, you can only complain to Popla about the 162 parking firms in the British Parking Association's Approved Operator Scheme – which PPS is a member of.
BPA chief executive Patrick Troy says: "The Protection of Freedoms Act ushers in perhaps the most significant shake-up of the private parking industry ever seen in this country. However, the regulations do not yet go far enough. An independent appeals service which is not binding on all operators is likely to be a recipe for confusion among motorists, and a ban on clamping is no substitute for proper regulation.
"That being said, the new appeals service will provide a long overdue layer of protection."
Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw cautiously welcomed the move.
He said: "I hope this policy works, but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. I still think a statutory right to appeal is the only sensible way of tackling the cowboy operators."
It is not known how many non-AOS members are operating private car parks, yet legal advisors have said a ticket issued by one of these companies was "effectively worthless".
Under changes to the BPA's code of practice, AOS members in England and Wales also have to reduce the maximum parking charge from £150 to £100, although operators will be able to charge more than £100 if they can justify the amount.