Important Revisions to the AOS Code
The BPA has issued an update to the current AOS code of compliance, which will have a direct impact on the way in which parking operators deliver their services. Detailing additional clauses and changes now in effect (from 6th January 2020) – this is a precursor to a new parking code to be introduced later this year. Since our working practices will be changing to accommodate these new rules, it’s important to recognise the implications for us all.
We have highlighted the more relevant changes to the code that are now operational – those most likely to affect how your car park is run.
New clauses cover sanctionable offences like soft-ticketing (which is now expressly forbidden), tighter deadlines for correspondence with motorists, and the introduction of a new AOS operator census to collect data.
Increasing use of technology within the car park management system and the popularity of mobile phone apps to pay for parking can make the parking process much quicker and more efficient. However, these methods usually require the motorist to input their registration number – and mistakes do happen. So, certain changes have been introduced as a fail-safe against motorists being penalised for genuine errors on their part. The BPA has addressed this issue within the most recent AOS code of compliance update. One clause ensures that parking fines are not issued to motorists who make the occasional mistake when inputting their registration data. To this end, the code splits infringements into 2 categories – minor and major – depending on the severity of the human error.
As outlined in the recent code update (item 17.4), a minor error is where up to one character has been entered incorrectly, or where the registration has been entered in the wrong order. Other minimal errors (such as typing 0 instead of o, I instead of L, 1 instead of I, or just one incorrect letter) are all cases where the PCN should be waived, on appeal.
Occasionally, a motorist might make a ‘major’ error which must be thoroughly investigated before a PCN is issued. If an appeal is made, the operator is to cancel the PCN if the motorist provides evidence that they have, indeed, paid for the parking – or if they have a receipt to prove they were genuinely using the car park for a specific purpose, for example, as a hospital patient. Other major errors could be if the “motorist entered their spouse’s car registration” by mistake, or if they “entered something completely unrelated to their registration”. The code advises that “multiple keying errors” and the motorist “only entering a small part of their VRM, for example the first three digits” are major errors. The code says that a small fee should be charged for the administration of processing the fine and conducting an investigation, however. It is suggested that the fee should not exceed £20 “for a 14-day period from when the keying error was identified”.
Another change regards self-ticketing. There is now a strict requirement for all operators who provide self-ticketing to register any clients/companies that administer PCNs themselves with the BPA. The code explains: “All operators offering self-ticketing will be required to register the organisations that they look after with the BPA and supply photographs of the locations that they manage showing the signage in place within their registration documentation”. In the past, the procedure has been more informal and commission or kickbacks were often given to operators, based on the number of parking fines issued. This is now prohibited within the new code.
Another key change impacting on operators is the consideration and grace periods that operators must give to drivers on entering the car park. Motorists have to be given the opportunity to “consider the terms and conditions before entering into the parking contract with you” (section 13.1). Therefore, a minimum grace period of 5 minutes should be offered to the motorist to make the decision – and if they choose to vacate the car park during this time, they can do so without charge. (This will not apply to motorists who have parked in a space intended for other users, such as blue badge holders, or those blocking an emergency exit). A slightly longer grace period of 10 minutes before a PCN can be issued is to be offered in different circumstances – for example, if the motorist had paid for parking in advance.
There are more clauses and changes to consider, which will impact on our operations in this industry. Overall, operators and employees should familiarise themselves with the full AOS code document, which is available here. Please consider the implications for operators, clients and motorists. Adherence to the new and revised regulations will only ensure our continued success and fulfill our ambitions for Gemini as a compassionate, world-leading parking management company.
Visit The British Parking Association website to find out more.