UNFAIR: ACFO hit out at current fine system
Contract hire and leasing companies should not automatically pay and recharge parking fines incurred by fleets amid growing numbers of PCNs, ACFO have insisted.
The car fleet operators’ organisation claim the availability of technology including SMS and email should enable leasing firms to immediately notify customers when a fine has been imposed.
ACFO’s plea follows the organisation’s ‘Another Fine Mess?’ seminar, where delegates heard that the number of fines relating to traffic offences could be set to escalate.
A survey in advance of the seminar, held in Loughborough last week, discovered 48% of leasing companies automatically pay the fine then recharge the cost.
An incredible 86% add an administration fee.
However, once a PCN has been paid it cannot be appealed, and the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) estimate that their largest member companies handle around 13,000 fines every month.
Amanda Brandon, Legal and Policy Executive at the BVRLA, said the administration process for the majority of leasing companies was ‘completely manual’ with all correspondence by post.
However, newly-elected Chairman of ACFO, John Pryor, questioned why leasing companies, who receive the fine as the registered keeper of a vehicle, could not use technology to notify clients that a charge had been incurred.
“Leasing companies should improve their fine administration process,” he said.
“We know from our survey that some leasing companies give clients the option to pay or appeal, but it is clear that many don’t.
“A straight-forward text or email should be sent to the fleet manager informing them that a parking fine has been incurred, where and when.
“That would enable the fleet manager to identify the driver and respond within 24 or 48hours as to whether the fine will be paid or appealed.
“It would be a more efficient process and a fairer service.”
Ms Brandon told the seminar that the BVRLA were working with their members on the best way to make sure that PCNs were communicated to fleets as quickly as possible.
She added that future best practice could see the recommendation of email notification requiring a response from fleet managers within 48hours or fleets being notified of a fine by post and asked to respond within 14days.
It also emerged in the ACFO survey that 86% of fleet manager respondents said their vehicle leasing supplier issued a fine administration fee – but 14% of fleet operators said their supplier levied no handling charge.
Among leasing companies charging an administration fee, 50% charge between £20 and £30 per fine, 11% charge under £10 and the remainder charge £10 to £20.
Asked if it was possible for the BVRLA to encourage leasing companies to adopt a standard charge, Ms Brandon said that under competition law that would be unlawful.
ACFO’s worry comes at a time when PCNs are predicted to rise, thanks in part to the Highway Agency’s decision to replace payment at the Dartford Crossing with a new remote charging system from October.
Ms Brandon also warned fleet managers that more bus lanes and the London Congestion Charge increase could also see PCN figures bumped up.