Drivers have been hit by a 50% increase in the number of parking tickets issued by private companies.
A record 2.7 million tickets were handed out between April and June, analysis of Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) data by the PA news agency found.
That is an average of nearly 30,000 every day and is up from a total of 1.8 million during the same period last year.
If the rate continues, the number of tickets issued annually would reach 10.8 million.
Motoring research charity the RAC Foundation claimed it is “inconceivable” that so many drivers are intentionally breaking parking rules.
In July, the Government withdrew a long-awaited code of practice aimed at eradicating some of the sector’s worst actions following a legal challenge by parking companies.
The DVLA figures show the number of records obtained from the agency by companies chasing car owners for alleged infringements in private car parks such as at shopping centres, leisure facilities and motorway service areas.
Tickets can cost drivers up to £100.
Private parking businesses have been accused of using misleading and confusing signage, aggressive debt collection and unreasonable fees.
RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said the private car park management sector is “booming”.
“Over the past decade the number of tickets being issued to drivers on private land has jumped from less than two million annually to probably near 11 million this year,” he said.
“This is big business which is seeing more entrants all the time.
“The attraction can only be one thing – the chance to make significant profits before the Government brings in changes – which now appear delayed – to level the playing field.
“It remains inconceivable that, annually, millions of motorists are setting out to run up these tickets of up to £100 each, especially when household budgets are so tight.
“This latest data is a sign of a system that is broken.
Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, accused private parking companies of “lashing out” and issuing “as many notices as possible” before the code is implemented.
He added: “Most drivers panic when they get a letter and pay up for fear of being charged more.
“The reality is that many were innocent and shouldn’t have been charged at all.”
The code of practice, which was due to come into force across Britain by the end of next year, stated that the cap on tickets for some parking offences should be halved to £50.
The withdrawal pending a review of charges could lead to a further delay in its implementation.
Lisa Webb, consumer rights expert at Which?, suggested that motorists receiving tickets from companies not accredited by a trade body “may want to ignore them”.
This is because those businesses are not permitted to access the DVLA’s database so are “usually unable to pursue you for payment”, she explained.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “We recognise there have been unacceptable practices by a small number of cowboy companies.
“We will introduce our Private Parking Code of Practice as soon as possible to help tackle this issue and protect motorists.”
Some 176 parking management businesses requested vehicle owner records between April and June, up from 151 during the previous 12 months.
ParkingEye was the most active, buying 521,000 records.
The DVLA charges private companies £2.50 per record.
The agency says its fees are set to recover the cost of providing the information, and it does not make any money from the process.
– Here are the number of vehicle keeper records obtained from the DVLA by parking management companies between April and June in every year since 2017:
2017: 1.3 million
2018: 1.5 million
2019: 2.1 million
2020: 0.5 million (affected by coronavirus lockdowns)
2021: 1.8 million
2022: 2.7 million