The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force on 25 May 2018. The legislation gives individuals more control over how their data is used. One potential consequence of this could be an end to the way that private firms issue parking fines. Currently, the DVLA makes money from selling people’s data to private companies, which then issue fines. The problem with the current system is that we, the owners of that data, haven’t permitted the DVLA to do this.

The data protection debate

Currently, we provide the DVLA with information in order to receive our driving licences and tax our vehicles. Both of these are legal requirements. The DVLA then takes the information it has gathered, such as our address details, and sells it to private parking firms. This practice makes a staggering £1 million per day.

These firms then use this information to track down where we live and send the fines to our home addresses. They also use the information if they go on to pursue the matter through the courts.

Under the GDPR, one of the main justifications for gathering data is that the data subject has provided ‘informed consent’ regarding how that data will be used. It also says that the data will not be used for other purposes without permission. Furthermore, individuals can request that their information be deleted.

GDPR: DVLA and private parking companies

(Credit – Maigheach Gheal)

Parking fine increase

Providing this information to private parking fine companies is a lucrative side income for the DVLA. In the second quarter of this financial year alone, it sold some 1.4 million records. Private parking firms used these to pursue drivers for penalties up to £100.

The RAC has warned that it expects the level of parking fines issued to increase significantly over the Christmas period. In fact, according to the RAC’s research, by April 2018 the total number of records sold by the DVLA will be at least 5.6 million. This could easily run to over six million if there is a boom in parking ticket numbers over Christmas. That’s a 21.5% increase on the 2016-17 period, which saw 4.71 million records sold. It’s also a staggering 12-fold increase in the number of tickets issued from 2007-08, when less than half a million details were sold.

Eagle-eyed companies

Because parking fines are such a profitable business, those involved in it are keen to spot drivers who have overstayed their ticket by even a few minutes. They can then use data they source from the DVLA to track down and fine the vehicle’s owner. Parking companies allow no grace period at the end of your parking period, even at the chaotic Christmas time when checkouts are busier and shopping trips take longer. With the cost of Christmas rising every year, a £100 parking fine is something that few families can afford to weather.

Of those companies cashing in on using DVLA data, Parking Eye was the main culprit during the second quarter of 2017-18. The company requested a total of 466,668 vehicle keeper records, which accounts for one in every three requests made.

Councils cashing in

It’s not just private parking companies that are making money from drivers overstaying their welcome. English councils made a record income from parking fines and charges last financial year, at a staggering £819 million. Figures from the RAC Foundation showed that to be a 10% increase on the previous year’s £744 million.

The 2016-17 financial year total was nearly £37 million more than expected. London boroughs led the way, with Westminster City Council making a profit of over £73 million, a 31% increase on the previous year. Outside London, Brighton and Hove City Council topped the list of earners, with a profit of £21.2 million.

The only positive to this situation is that the extra income does benefit drivers and residents, as it is ploughed back into infrastructure and services for the area – unlike the fines paid to private companies.

Debating the point

According to the DVLA, consent is one of six legal justifications for the valid use of personal data. It remains to be seen how this will be interpreted under the GDPR. Meanwhile, Sir Greg Knight is not letting the issue of parking fines drop. His private member’s bill aimed at dealing with the excesses of parking fines will be debated in the House of Commons in the New Year, as he pushes for a fairer balance between landowners’ and drivers’ rights.

Do you think the GDPR will mean an end to the DVLA selling drivers’ data to private parking firms? Or will the organisation simply find a way to circumvent the new regulations? Leave a comment below to air your views. 

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