Parking, clamping and removal of vehicles on privately owned land
|Publisher:||Department for Transport|
|Published date:||13 June 2007|
The Department for Transport has no power to regulate parking enforcement, including the immobilisation and removal of vehicles on land that is in private ownership. The Department's legislation covers parking on the street, in car parks that are owned by local authorities and in car parks owned by the private sector that are regulated by an order made under Section 35 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.
Legislation introduced by the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI), the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and the Security Industry Authority (SIA) does provide general guidance on the running of businesses on privately owned land.
The Consumer Protection Act 1987 provides certain legal safeguards under which consumers can seek redress against unscrupulous businesses. Part III of the Act makes it a criminal offence to give consumers a misleading price indication about goods, services, accommodation or facilities. This applies to all price indications, however they are given to consumers - whether in a television or press advertisement, catalogue or leaflet, on notices/notice boards, price tickets or shelf-edge marking in stores, or if it is given verbally (for example on the telephone).
These price indications include those displayed at privately operated car parks. The legislation also applies to price indications that become misleading after they have been given and to any indications you are given about the way in which a price will be calculated.
The Act requires businesses to display prices to consumers in an unambiguous, easily identifiable and (except in certain circumstances where it is impractical to do so) clearly legible way, to enable them to compare prices in different shops/outlets or parking facilities, and so obtain the best value for money. The DTI does not, itself, enforce this legislation.
Enforcement of the Consumer Protection Act in Great Britain is by local authority trading standards services. Trading standards officers can intervene on behalf of the consumer to resolve individual disputes where they believe a business has contravened the Act.
There are also some legal safeguards for consumers in relation to unfair contract terms. In general, companies are free to use whatever contractual terms and conditions they consider reasonable and if prospective customers are unhappy with these they can attempt to re-negotiate the terms in question or go elsewhere. Nevertheless, the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations (UTCCRs) 1999 provide protection for consumers when entering into contracts (a consumer is effectively agreeing to the terms and conditions set down by a car park operator when they purchase a ticket to park.)
Companies who deal with consumers and use standard form contracts must ensure they do not use unfair terms. Under the UTCCRs, an 'unfair term' is defined as one which, contrary to the requirements of good faith, causes a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations under the contract to the detriment of the consumer. If a court decides a term is unfair, it will not bind the consumer.
The Office of Fair Trading has a duty under the Regulations to consider complaints made to it about unfair terms. Although the OFT cannot intervene to resolve individual disputes, it can act to stop the terms it considers unfair, if necessary by seeking an injunction through the courts.
For the individual consumer the regulations mean that if a business refuses to accept that a term is unfair, they can seek the help of the court. If the court agrees with the consumer, the business will not be allowed to rely on that term.
Under the Private Security Industry Act 2001, the Security Industry Authority is responsible for regulating the private security industry, though a process of licensing individual operatives involved in designated licensable activities. These activities include the immobilisation (mainly by wheel clamping) and removal of vehicles on private land and the taking of fees for the subsequent release of vehicles. Personnel are required to wear the licence where it can be seen at all times when engaging in designated licensable activity.
Release of keeper data by the Driver Vehicle and Licensing Agency (DVLA)
From October 2007, the DVLA will release vehicle registration information (via their electronic request process) only to those companies that are members of an Accredited Trade Association. Full details on the release of information, the complaints procedure and the new process for making enquires are available at:
These measures will address cases of "unreasonable behaviour" by private car parking enforcement companies. General complaints about signage or the issue of Penalty Charge Notices will be logged and companies closely monitored. Companies that request access to DVLA data must provide the Agency with a full resume of their business including why the information is required, how it will be used and how they meet "reasonable cause". Information is released on the condition that it relates to and will be used in connection with a trespass on private land. No other use of the data is permitted. The Agency has the right to carry out ad-hoc audits on companies to ensure that all releases are appropriate. Any evidence of abuse will be fully investigated by the Agency and, where appropriate, referred to the Information Commissioner for prosecution.
The Department for Transport cannot intervene in any individual cases relating to the parking, clamping or removal of vehicles on privately owned land. Any enquiries regarding the parking, clamping or removal of vehicles on privately owned land should be referred to the landowner, the Department for Trade and Industry, the Office of Fair Trading or the Security Industry Authority.