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Fleets call for fairer fines handling service from leasing firms

According to ACFO members at its recent “Another Fine Mess?” seminar, the availability of technology – text and email – should enable contract hire and leasing companies to immediately notify customers when a Penalty Charge Notice or Parking Charge Notice (in respect of vehicles parked on private land) has been imposed on a driver, enabling the firm to appeal the charge. 

A survey by ACFO discovered that 48% of leasing companies automatically paid the fine and then recharged the cost to fleet customers, with 86% adding an administration fee. However, once a Penalty Charge Notice or Parking Charge Notice has been paid it cannot be appealed, the seminar was told. 

The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) has estimated that its largest member companies handle around 13,000 fines a month. 

Amanda Brandon, the BVRLA’s legal and policy executive, said that the administration process for the majority of leasing companies was "completely manual" with all correspondence by post meaning the clock was ticking in terms of the 28 days for drivers to pay or challenge the fine. 

However, newly elected ACFO chairman 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, making for a ‘more efficient process and a fairer service’. 

Brandon told the seminar that the BVRLA was working with its members on the best way to make sure that Penalty Charge Notices and Parking Charge Notices were communicated to fleets as quickly as possible. 

Seminar attendees were also told that the number of fines relating to traffic offences incurred by company car and van drivers could escalate in the near future. 

The Highways Agency’s decision to replace payment at the Dartford Crossing with a new remote charging system from October 2014 is expected to result in a spate of penalty charge notices, Brandon said. 

Brandon also warned fleet managers that the number of Penalty Charge Notices being issued could rise for a number of other reasons including:

  • More bus lanes being introducing, particularly in towns and cities outside of London
  • The planned 16th June increase in the London Congestion Charge from £10 to £11.50 with a £1 reduction for fleet scheme members
  • The planned 2020 introduction by Transport for London of the London Ultra Emission Zone, which will almost certainly be based on the existing congestion charging zone. The key entry requirement is expected to be linked to Euro6 vehicle compliance standards for NOx. 

Brandon said: ‘All could be reasons for future increases in the number of Penalty Charge Notices incurred by fleet drivers.’

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.