Citizens Advice is reporting a dramatic rise in people seeking help about penalties for parking on private land.
The number of people using online advice from the consumer champion has nearly tripled from 16,300 to 50,000.
Local Citizens Advice services have also recorded an increase of 26 per cent in the number of their cases involving parking tickets given on private land.
It comes as the Supreme Court prepares to hear a major legal challenge to private parking charges. A motorist has complained their £85 penalty was too high, leading to the redress body putting all similar appeals on hold until a decision is reached.
In the last year, private parking operators requested the details of drivers over 3 million times, up from 2.4 million the year before, the DVLA has said. Private parking firms are allowed to request the details of drivers they believe have broken their rules about parking on their land.
Citizens Advice is concerned the rising number of problems could mean in some cases private parking firms are handing out unreasonable penalties.
New analysis of over 900 calls received by the charity between January and March this year which revealed that the average private parking charge is £83 but some people have been hit by fees as much of £300.
Recent Citizens Advice research shows that some drivers have been hit with penalties when signs were hidden, ticket machines were broken and even when they were not parked there in the first place.
The knock-on effect of an unexpected parking charge can push people into debt. Local Citizens Advice have helped with a 39 per cent increase in consumer debt cases to do with unpaid parking penalty and congestion charges in the last year.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said, “Drivers are paying the penalty for a lack of clarity on parking.
“More and more people are turning to Citizens Advice for help with parking tickets.
“While drivers have to obey the rules on parking, firms need to make sure parking restrictions are clear, and people are treated fairly where, for example, ticket machines aren’t working.”
The charity is calling for clarity around parking tickets, including a clear definition of the minimum length of the ‘reasonable’ grace period parking firms must give drivers between stopping and parking and at the end of the permitted parking period.
Citizens Advice’s analysis of calls to the Consumer Service revealed that in cases where the location of the private car park was known, the top location was pay and display car parks, followed by supermarkets. Other private parking problem hotspots include hospitals and airports.
- Citizens Advice Consumer Service helped with 5,285 car parking and clamping issues: a 13 per cent increase on 2013/14
- Online advice about parking tickets on private land was viewed 180,000 times, up 73 per cent on 2013/14
- Online advice about what to do if you have received a ticket for parking on private land was viewed 50,000 hits, up 194% on 2013/14
- Local Citizens Advice helped with: 16,490 parking and congestion issues, up 31 per cent on 2013/14 and 3,498 parking on private land issues, up 26 per cent on 2013/14 with 17,016 unpaid parking penalty & congestion charges, up 39 per cent on 2013/14.