Government motoring agencies - the user perspective - Transport Committee Contents

4  Managing and sharing data

Sharing vehicle keeper data with parking enforcement companies

34. Parking charge notices are issued to motorists who have been deemed to be parked illegally on private land. Parking enforcement on private land is unregulated and relies on the laws of contract and trespass. Since this Committee's predecessors looked at private parking enforcement in the 2005 Parliament the situation has improved but remains a concern to many people. Then many of the concerns were about enforcement targets and incentives, and clamping on private land. Our predecessors supported the release of data from the DVLA's register of vehicle keepers provided "… the public are properly protected from abuse of this information, and that any loopholes allowing unscrupulous parking enforcement activity will be closed."[87] We found that the situation had improved markedly by 2013-14; clamping on private land had been made illegal and there were fewer reports of aggressive enforcement.[88] Some concerns do remain, however, with NoToMob, a campaign and direct action group, suggesting that "rogue clampers [had been] reincarnated as rogue ticketers", and reporting that a story of a private parking company "pursuing a completely uncaring and relentless approach with a view to maximising its profits" occurred on an almost daily basis.[89]

35. Private parking enforcement companies can obtain information from the DVLA about registered vehicle keepers upon payment of a £2.50 charge. This enables the companies to pursue vehicle keepers for the enforcement of parking restrictions on private land. The release of vehicle keeper data is specifically permitted by the Road Vehicles (Registration and Licensing) Regulations 2002 for those showing 'reasonable cause' to receive it and who are members of an Approved Operator Scheme (AOS) run by an Accredited Trade Association (ATA)—in this case the British Parking Association (BPA).[90] 'Reasonable cause' takes precedence over the Data Protection Act 1998. The DVLA defines 'reasonable cause' in this way:

    …reasonable cause for the release of data from the DVLA vehicle register relates to motoring incidents with driver or keeper liability. These can include matters of road safety, events occurring as a consequence of vehicle use, the enforcement of road traffic legislation and the collection of taxes.[91]

36. The DVLA told us that vehicle keepers were often unaware of the legitimacy of the release of data from the DVLA vehicle register. It said:

    It is probably one of the biggest areas of complaints in terms of people not entirely understanding why we are providing the data […] and ensuring that the right controls are in place so that that data are used properly.[92]

37. Stephen Hammond explained the framework thus:

    There is a licensing and framework arrangement for data to be provided to car parking companies, but those car parking companies must be licensed either by their trade association or the local authority. The Government have therefore set up a framework such that this is properly monitored. Where there are breaches of that, the company is suspended from receiving that data, or local authorities are suspended from licensing those companies.[93]

38. The DVLA said its approach balanced the need to treat motorists fairly with a landowners' desire to protect their legal rights and ensure that parking facilities remain available for legitimate users.[94] It audits its data customers on a three-year rolling programme, supplemented by a programme of 'site visit' audits that see every company visited at least once every two years. Targeted audits are used where intelligence suggests an audit outside the rolling programme is warranted. In 2013 22 private parking companies and one local authority were suspended from requesting DVLA data due to anomalies in their parking related enforcement.[95]

39. Our survey found the release of keeper details to private parking enforcement companies remain a concern to motorists because:

·  they do not trust private parking companies;

·  parking companies are perceived as failing to act fairly or responsibly; and

·  parking companies are suspected of actions that would breach the British Parking Association (BPA) code of practice that prevents companies from passing vehicle keeper information on to third parties.

40. Both the British Parking Association (BPA) and NoToMob expressed concern about the release of vehicle keeper details.[96] NoToMob argued that a sensible and proportionate approach would be to target persistent offenders and for the decision on whether to proceed with any type of enforcement to rest with landowners and leaseholders rather than with private parking companies.[97] Ranger Services told us that there were better ways for private parking companies to target persistent and repeat offenders but the DVLA's insistence on repeat searches for each offence meant that cost of an alternative approach made it impractical for their customers.[98] They said charges for repeat disclosure could be avoided through access to another DVLA databases (used by HPI and major insurance companies, and which provides information on make, model and colour of vehicle and the date of the last registered keeper change/update). This would enable private parking companies to check whether there has been a change of ownership since the first violation for which they held registered keeper details. With no change of ownership the first search could form the basis for starting or continuing enforcement action, including the issuing of penalty charge notices without incurring the cost of a second search of the vehicle keeper database.[99]

41. The AA recognised that the DVLA has a duty to give this information but noted the current system depended on the confidence the DVLA placed on trade associations to ensure compliance with codes of practice.[100] It thought more needed to be done to reassure the public that private parking penalties were not a scam and that the release of vehicle keeper details was justified.[101] The AA argued for an alternative system where the DVLA informed a vehicle keeper when an inquiry was made by a private parking enforcement company. This would be more costly but the additional costs could be recovered by raising the fee charged to parking companies. This would allow the DVLA to tell the vehicle keeper that it is legally obliged to give their details to the named parking enforcement company, and inform them of their legal rights.[102]

42. We acknowledge that the Government has made progress on private parking companies but while the system is better there is still much to done to explain this to the public. Protecting personal data is an issue that people feel strongly about and the DVLA needs do more to explain to the public the legal basis for its sharing of personal data and the steps that are being taken to deal with private parking companies and local authorities caught misusing parking data; the Government needs to ensure there is more transparency and better accountability on this issue. We recommend that the DVLA and Department for Transport consider whether each vehicle keeper should be told when their data is released and what more can be done to help target persistent repeat offenders. The Government needs to be mindful of the costs of any changes and we would expect it to consult widely on any proposals it brings forward, including how the costs of any such scheme could be met.

43. There are widely-held concerns that the DVLA profits from the sale of the data it holds on drivers.[103] The Government's motoring agencies set their fees at a level that will cover their costs (the VCA is required to make a small operating surplus).[104] The DVLA told us it is currently making a loss from charging for the provision of information to parking companies. It charges £2.50 for each enquiry. It costs the DVLA £2.84 to process each request.[105] The difference between income and cost for this service last year was a shortfall of around £700,000, which represents 0.1% of the DVLA's total costs. The DVLA should not subsidise private parking companies by providing data at a loss, if anything it should err on the side of making a small surplus. As it reviews its fees and income, the DVLA should consider whether efficiencies can be made to reduce the cost of processing these requests. If not, the DVLA should adjust the fee for the provision of personal data to ensure costs are covered. The DVLA should make clear on its website how the costs are calculated. It should also consider whether the enhanced provision of information to drivers, as recommended above, could be financed through the fee.

Sharing data more widely

44. The motoring agencies already share data with a number of different companies and enforcement bodies. As new services are made available online and new applications and datasets are developed the potential for sharing data and the number of potential consumers of the data will grow. It is important that the Government and the motoring agencies recognise opportunities to share data and design systems with interoperability in mind but this may not be happening. For example, the Freight Transport Association told us it was concerned that the DVLA systems should not be designed in a way that prevents them at a later stage sharing data with DVSA systems, systems in the Office of the Transport Commissioner or indeed any other systems.[106]


45. The Government plans to abolish the tax disc and has proposed scrapping the counterpart driving licence (the paper document containing information which supplements the plastic licence). These kinds of policy change will increase reliance on the timely, accurate and effective sharing of data.

46. The AA said a poll in December 2013 found that 47% of those surveyed said that not having a tax disc visible in the windscreen may lead to them forgetting to renew it, placing a considerable number of drivers at risk of the DVLA's late tax penalty of £80.[107] Unless data is shared effectively it may also make it harder to identify untaxed vehicles.

47. John Lepine told us that without the counterpart licence it would be difficult to know if a person attending a speed awareness or red traffic light course was legally allowed to drive without phoning a premium rate DVLA phone number to make sure they did not have a short period disqualification.[108] In the vehicle rental and leasing sector, before handing over the key to a motor vehicle, a business needs to be satisfied that the individual it is leasing or renting to has a valid driving licence. Without the counterpart there needs to be a way to check such information online at any time.[109] TfL told us many employers were not adequately managing driver risk ratings, as they carry out unreliable manual driving licence checks, which are not regularly verified by the DVLA.[110] TfL argued for a cost effective and direct service for employers to validate and check the driving licences of their employees, recommending that the DVLA would provide a similar service for driving licences to that that the police have to use vehicles registration numbers to access vehicle ownership and insurance databases. This would also enable the use of in-car scanners to read driving licences for comparison to the vehicle (and type) being driven.[111] Other businesses need to check what courses, like the driver CPC, someone has taken before employing them as a driver.[112]

48. Interoperability of systems and the ability to share data with other agencies needs to be given a high priority by all the motoring agencies. The motoring agencies should think carefully about what data their users need, how this can be shared effectively and what safeguards need to be in place. They should assess policy changes to understand what impact they may have on data sharing. The need to share and exchange data needs to be balanced with the protection of personal data.


49. Various enforcement agencies use the motoring agencies databases, and effective enforcement of a number of regulations requires timely access to accurate information in these databases. Leon Daniels, Managing Director, Surface Transport, TfL, told us that "the gathering of intelligence and sharing of data between the agencies is not perfect".[113]

50. The DVSA works with the police, traffic commissioners and highway authorities to enforce the standards it sets for vehicles and drivers. Our Report into the work of VOSA (now part of the DVSA) called on VOSA to take steps to improve its relationships with the police and Traffic Commissioners.[114] We recognised the value of VOSA's intelligence-led system for targeting operators for checks, based around its Operator Compliance Risk Score (OCRS), but were concerned that undue reliance on it could have a distorting effect, risking that larger operators would not be monitored effectively.[115] We were keen to hear what changes there had been since our 2013 inquiry. Beverley Bell, Senior Traffic Commissioner, remained sceptical about the value of the OCRS as a tool for the DVSA.[116] She suggested that intelligence about poorly-managed lorry, bus and coach operators was already available to local agencies and that providing resources for "boots on the ground" inspections of individual operators was essential.[117] TfL highlighted the success of collaborative intelligence-led enforcement exercises but expressed concern that pressure on DVSA's budgets could have a negative effect on such enforcement operations.[118] Leon Daniels said that without timely and accurate sharing of information OCRS scores might not reflect the correct number of clear checks.[119] TfL said this was unfair on compliant operators, as clear stops by the police (when a vehicle passes an inspection without any problems) are generally not communicated to the DVSA and do not therefore result in a positive revision of the Operator Compliance Risk Score (OCRS).[120] Accurate and timely sharing of data could change an operator's likelihood of being stopped in future and DVLA and police resources could then be targeted on operators with a poorer record.[121]

51. Several witnesses voiced a number of concerns about the DVSA's approach to foreign hauliers. Adrian Jones reported concerns from members of Unite the Union that foreign vehicles were not maintained to as high a standard as UK vehicles.[122] The Freight Transport Association argued that the DVSA failed to target poor compliance among operators of foreign vehicles; meaning that only a random selection faced roadside checks.[123] When a foreign vehicle did face a roadside check and failed, we heard anecdotal evidence that the DVSA failed to pursue the foreign hauliers to receive the fixed penalties due.[124] The then Minister was confident that the DVSA's budget was sufficient for it to enforce driver and vehicle standards over both domestic and foreign operators in the UK and stated that the Agency "absolutely enforce against foreign drivers".[125]

52. The AA recommended the DVSA and the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) should work together to link computer systems and develop shared databases.[126] TfL wanted better controls over the quality and accuracy of data provided by the DVLA as it would reduce their costs incurred and avoid the situation where people received penalty charge notices in relation to vehicles that they no longer owned.[127]

53. Timely access to accurate data is important for effective enforcement. Offenders need to be caught and dangerous vehicles must be removed from the road network. An intelligence-led approach to enforcement that targets the most serious non-compliance and the repeat offenders depends on access to and the effective sharing of data. We view this as essential to reduce the likelihood of traffic accidents and save lives. The Department should drive forward a culture change in the approach to sharing data between the motoring agencies and their enforcement partners and should identify the steps that need to be taken to ensure data is accurate and can be shared in a timely way to support the work of the agencies and enforcement bodies.

87   Transport Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2005-06, Parking Policy and Enforcement, HC748, paragraph 301 Back

88   Transport Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2013-14, Local Authority parking enforcement, HC118 Back

89   NoToMob (GMA0023) Back

90   Road Vehicles (Registration and Licensing) Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/2742) Back

91   DVLA, Release of information from DVLA's registers, October 2010, p.3 Back

92   Q126 Back

93   Q177 Back

94   Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (GMA0026) Back

95   Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (GMA0026) Back

96   British Parking Association (GMA0022) and NoToMob (GMA0023) Back

97   NoToMob (GMA0023) Back

98   Ranger Services (GMA0001) Back

99   Ranger Services (GMA0001) Back

100   Automobile Association (GMA0006), para 3.9 Back

101   Automobile Association (GMA0006) Back

102   Automobile Association (GMA0006) Back

103   "DVLA made £10m by selling on millions of drivers' names and addresses to parking and clamping firms", Daily Mail, 15 April 2013 Back

104   Department for Transport (GMA0010) Back

105   Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (GMA0026) Back

106   Q13 [Karen Dee] Back

107   Automobile Association (GMA0006) Back

108   Q40 Back

109   Q51 Back

110   Transport for London (GMA0017) Back

111   Transport for London (GMA0017) Back

112   Q76 Back

113   Q90 Back

114   Transport Committee, Third Report of Session 2013-14, The work of the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), HC 583, para 36 Back

115   Transport Committee, Third Report of Session 2013-14, The work of the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), HC 583, paras 29-31 Back

116   Q93 Back

117   Q93 Back

118   Q87 Back

119   Q90 Back

120   Transport for London (GMA0017) Back

121   Q90 Back

122   Q16 Back

123   Q19 Back

124   Q16, Q17 and Q19 Back

125   Q184 Back

126   Automobile Association (GMA0006) Back

127   Transport for London (GMA0017) Back

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Prepared 7 October 2014