We are currently working on an interesting aspect of data protection concerning parking. DVLA discloses personal data of the registered keeper of vehicles who may have overstayed and incurred a penalty charge - often £120 or £60 if the charge is paid within 28 days - to members of the British Parking Association. We have good reason to believe that it is unlawful for someone who does not have an interest in the land to make a charge and that huge excess charges are unlawful in any case. We think that any excess charge for staying longer than you have paid for must be of a similar amount to the standard rate per hour charge at best. It is certain that parking companies cannot offer what amounts to a discount for early payment because this amounts to a penalty and parking companies are not allowed to charge a penalty. In any case, the registered keeper may or not be the driver.

If parking companies do not have the right to make excess charges or even charges at all then DVLA has no right to disclose the personal data of registered keepers. DVLA claim that they can disclose personal data to anyone who has a reasonable cause but we say that it cannot be reasonable for a parking company to demand the personal data of the registered keeper if they have no legal right to pursue the registered keeper in court. If the registered keeper refuses to pay an excess charge and the parking company can do nothing, then disclosure of personal data cannot be reasonable.

Once we have tied up a few loose ends, we hope to put together a D-I-Y guide to recovering any money drivers may have paid which they didn’t have to. Incidentally, the Protection of Freedoms Act makes no difference to this position even though it makes the registered keeper liable for the parking charges of a driver (who may not be the registered keeper of course). Under this Act, the registered keeper may escape the charge if he tells the parking company who the driver was or if the car was reported stolen. We think that it is morally wrong to make someone pay for the actions of others over whom they may have no control, no matter what.

We have written to Norman Baker, the Minister for Transport, and Mike Penning who used to look after DVLA and the DfT though he has subsequently been moved to Northern Ireland. We have also written to the DfT so none of them can say they weren’t warned about what is likely to befall them.

The Protection of Freedoms Act required parking companies which are members of the British Parking Association to set up an independent appeals organisation (POPLA) in exchange for having the legal right to obtain the name and address of the registered keeper. They also had to give up clamping which is now illegal. It appears that the adjudicators who hear appeals are mindful of the Law. As we say above, the parking companies must show that they have an interest in the land which means that they must disclose their contract with the landowner. So far, no motorist who has used this defence has lost an appeal because no parking company has disclosed their contract with the landowner. We suspect that they have no interest in the land and cannot ask for damages which are effectively to someone else’s property. How could you claim compensation from a vandal who damaged your neighbour’s car? It’s the same principle.