Private parking fines are to be capped at £50 in England and Wales under a new law aimed at protecting drivers from unfair fees and aggressive debt collection.
Under the Parking Code of Practice introduced by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communitie, private firms will be more tightly regulated and the rules around grace periods and appeals simplified.
Minister for Levelling Up, Neil O’Brien, said the new measures aimed to protect motorists from “aggressive debt collection and unreasonable fees”.
The new cap will apply across all parts of England and Wales except London, and halves the maximum fine from the previous £100 limit. Only the most serious breaches will attract a higher charge - limited to £70.
The new Code also sets out a statutory 10-minute grace period before a late return charge can be applied and a five-minute “cooling off” period after entering a car park when a driver can decide not to park.
New rules around clear signage are also included in the Code and debt collection agencies will be stopped from charging additional fees on unpaid tickets.
A new simpler and fairer nationwide appeals process is also being introduced for drivers who want to contest a parking ticket.
Any private operator breaking the new rules could be banned from accessing DVLA vehicle keeper data, effectively stopping them from issuing fines.
Neil O’Brien said: “Private firms issue roughly 22,000 parking tickets every day, often adopting a system of misleading and confusing signage, aggressive debt collection and unreasonable fees designed to extort money from motorists.
“The new Code Of Practice will set out a clear vision with the interests of safe motorists at its heart, while cracking down on the worst offenders who put other people in danger and hinder our emergency services from carrying out their duties.”
The move has been welcomed by motoring organisations the RAC and AA.
RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “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.
“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.”
AA president Edmund King, added: “These much-needed upgrades to private parking rules will give better protection to drivers.
“For too long, those caught by private parking firms simply pay the charge to get rid of it. Thankfully these days are numbered.
“Drivers should feel confident that having a single Code of Practice and a new Appeals Charter will give them confidence to appeal and be properly heard.
“We are also pleased that honest mistakes, like mistyping the car registration into the machine, will now be automatically cancelled.”