One company, Parking Eye, spent almost £900,000 on buying up driver info. Can you protect yourself from the practice?
The short answer is no, though many might want to given the reputation of some companies. For example, Parking Eye was taken to task by BBC's Watchdog program for fining drivers unfairly. Other companies have attempted to charge for releasing information made against drivers.
Watchdog's advice to dealing with alarming rise of Penalty Charge Notices (PCN) meted out by private parking companies to the public at the time was straightforward: fold the PCN up, carefully creasing all edges. Then direct your new paper plane across the room, preferably to a bin.
But since October 2012 the registered keeper of a vehicle is now responsible for how a vehicle is used, regardless of who was driving. If unpaid within the 28-day notice period, a registered keeper can be liable for the charge - unless he forwards the actual driver's details to the company.
Grey areaThe AA's Paul Watters told AOL Money that enforcement though remains a grey area. The law has only changed for those who are approved operators of The British Parking Association.
"If unpaid, the keeper becomes liable. But the issue of the contact to park remains. If there were no signs and you could not reasonably have accepted the contract [to park], then only a court can enforce the PCN."
AOL Money contacted DVLA about whether British motorists could opt out of having their information handed onto these private car companies. "Vehicle keeper information," said DVLA, "is held on a separate database to driver licence records. Information cannot be released from a driving licence record without the drivers permission."
Reasonable cause?"However, information to help contact the registered keepers of vehicles can be released to companies provided they demonstrate reasonable cause for requiring the information."
That "reasonable cause" before any information is released is not defined by the DVLA. On current evidence it appears any operator who has signed up to the British Parking Association's Approved Operator Scheme for managed parking on private land - and is willing to write a cheque, payable to the DVLA.
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