The government published its rather grandiosely named Protection of Freedom Bill last week. It covers a whole tranche of proposals including, among other things, cutting back the CRB system, destruction of DNA samples retained by the police and reducing the maximum time someone can be detained without trial. But it also contains a section on parking enforcement, which will affect the way that MSA operators do it.
The section on parking covers two main things. Firstly, it bans wheelclamping and impounding, which aren’t really relevant here as MSAs don’t use them. But the other major change is that in future, parking operators will be able to recover unpaid parking costs (including penalty charges) from the registered keeper of a vehicle, not just the driver. That gets rid of the commonly-used loophole whereby a notice is sent to the keeper, who then declines either to pay or to name the driver, leaving the parking operator at a dead end. Once the new law is in place, if the operator can’t get their money from the driver, then they will be able to get it from the keeper even if the keeper wasn’t driving at the time.
On the face of it, that’s good news for parking operators (including those at MSAs), and potentially bad news for people who have, in the past been able to exploit that loophole. But this new ability comes with some conditions, and one of the conditions is that it can only be used where a notice has first been given to the driver. And the law stipulates that
A notice to the driver must be given before the vehicle is removed from the land in question (and while it is stationary) by affixing it to the vehicle or by handing it to a person appearing to be in charge of the vehicle.
What that means in practice is that the ability to pursue the registered keeper can’t be used where enforcement is solely by means of ANPR cameras with automated notices sent by post afterwards. To be able to recover charges from the keeper, the car (or the driver) has to be ticketed while on the premises.
So, MSA operators are going to have to make a decision here. If they want to be able to recover parking charges from the registered keepers, then they will need to change their practices. Instead of using ANPR technology, they will need to have parking attendants on site and actually handing out tickets. Alternatively, they can stick with their current system and accept that parking charges are effectively unenforceable, since they have no legal means by which to obtain the identity of the driver.
It will be interesting to see which they choose.