FAQ

If you’ve got a question we’ve got the answer, below you’ll find answers to questions we get asked the most.

Communication and signage

Many local authorities aim to ensure that the in-app price matches the posted tariff for a location, and historically have absorbed the costs of a service provider’s convenience fee in order to ensure parity.  

Competition law prevents direct setting of the price in a multi-vendor system. However the NPP can adjust the commission so local authorities can be confident that users can secure parking for the posted tariff or less.  

In order to achieve this: 

  • The local authority sets a commission rate that aims to cover all likely costs of cashless parking – both the traditional ‘commission’ costs associated with costs of transactions, and the more-visible convenience fee. It may choose to use the general advice provided by the NPP to help achieve this. 
  • Service providers choose whether or not to match the posted tariff. 
  • The NPP records which service providers do match the posted tariff, and makes this information available to the relevant local authorities, as well as to others such as price comparison sites  

Based on the current range of pricing policies among service providers, it is likely that some users in this situation will secure parking for less than the posted tariff. In this case, the saving goes directly to the user.  

  • Updating Signage 

Signs will be updated once with a national logo, eliminating the need for provider-specific signs. 

  • Communication and Transition 

Existing apps continue to work during the transition, minimising disruption to users. 

Costs and user fees

Parking operators can set commissions at whatever level they choose. However, service providers will independently decide how costs are passed on to users. Where parking providers depart substantially from preexisting practice, this is likely to result in increased costs for users.  

In practice, some authorities already charge a different price in apps compared to on the road. This is a matter for local authority discretion, and the NPP will continue to make this possible 

The UK is a world-leader in terms of price- and service-comparison websites. We are building the NPP to take advantage of this.  

We are already talking with organisations like Which? and Transport Focus about how we can help them to bring their skills on product comparison to this new marketplace.  

We are also aware that by creating an open market we are making it easy for people to offer live price comparison services between different app providers. Indeed, we recognise that some service providers will actively wish to make such comparisons available to show how their apps are cheaper than the competition.  

Parking operators set their parking fees and publish them to Service providers through the NPP’s main portal, which we expect to be fully self-service. This should be as simple as filling in the existing spreadsheets that form the bedrock of cashless parking systems. 

Once a parking provider hits ‘send’, the new rates will be uploaded, and brought into effect from the live date you set.  

Joining fee – £0 if registered interest before 31/3/24, otherwise £10,000 

Membership fee – £0/yr  

Transaction fee – approx. 2p/transaction which is expected to be offset against wider market efficiencies. 

Historically, service providers have collected two fees for cashless parking – This will remain as before. 

For Users : A convenience fee – normally set as a fixed amount per transaction, and explicitly shown to users as an additional part of their bill.  

  • For Local Authorities: ‘Commission’ – normally charged by service providers to local authorities, and deducted from the posted tariff. This is normally held to cover procedural costs of transactions – for example fees to organisations such as VISA or WorldPay, payment processing or certification costs. 

Commission means that local authorities do not receive 100% of the posted tariff (as is the case with all other types of revenue collection). The NPP pilot has made a standard 2.5% allowance for commission costs, which broadly matches market practice.  

This will work by a standardisation of payment structures, with the service provider becoming the merchant of record consistently across the NPP.  

Under the full NPP, parking operators will set a standard commission rate, which will apply to all service providers. This is at the parking provider’s discretion, but the NPP will periodically make available advice via an independent panel of experts on prevailing transaction costs to help make an informed judgment and give a recommended commission rate. 

The NPP has been operating for nearly two years in its pilots. In these areas, it has not been accompanied by a rise in prices.  

All member parking operators are expected to offer their parking to all member service providers, other than in exceptional circumstances (mainly where service providers cannot handle payment/tariff options). 

The NPP acts as gatekeeper to the whole system, and can pick up any issues on behalf of parking operators or service providers. Failure to play by the rules of the system can lead to suspension or termination of membership.  

The primary control on service providers and their fees is that they operate in a competitive market. Charging users excessive amounts will put their market share at risk; while cutting costs may give them an edge over their competitors. In the Netherlands, where a similar system has operated for over a decade, service fees are significantly lower than the UK.  

In order to ensure transparent pricing, the NPP will also set procedural requirements for service providers: 

  • They must maintain a transparent pricing policy, available online. 
  • They must inform users when relevant service fees are changing.  
  • They cannot price discriminate based on e.g. what car a person is driving. 

One of the key lessons we have learned from looking at existing multi-vendor parking payment systems around the world is that there is a real benefit to standardising how transactions work. In the Netherlands, this has led to service provider fees that are about a quarter to a third lower than typical UK practice. It also gives those same service providers much more scope to innovate their product, meaning that users get ways of paying that are better-tailored to their needs (e.g. monthly subscriptions). 

The NPP’s cashless parking service is designed to run on a cost-recovery basis. Based on our early calculations, we think that the transaction fee will be around 2p, worth 0.6% of a typical transaction.  

The costs that the NPP recovers have been worked out in consultation with local authority experts. It includes core operational costs, such as software maintenance and back-office staff. It also provides for the ongoing development of the platform to ensure new services become available.  

Transaction fees are never paid directly by the local authority/parking provider but are taken from the money paid by users before final reconciliation. 

Few local authorities act as merchant of record at present. Were they to continue to do so in the NPP, they would need to manage and update Merchant IDs for every service provider – potentially much more work than is necessary at present.  

Where local authorities are actively trying to match in-app prices to the posted tariff and making reasonable allowances for relevant costs to achieve this, we expect the NPP to monitor whether service providers have made the match. Elsewhere, we expect to focus on more general data to help people make price comparisons. 

Data

Yes, APIs are available for reporting and integration into other services 

The NPP integrates with various back-office systems, with ongoing testing and interfacing efforts. 

Yes, The NPP provides live data about parking sites that can be used by providers of journey information and others. By doing so on a consistent basis, we expect to make this useful and attractive to satnav providers, major technology companies and more.  

The NPP expects to provide live information on: 

  • The size and capacity of parking sites 
  • Live occupancy (where equipment allows) 
  • Exceptional closures and other key information 

Transaction searches and refunds are handled via web apps and automated processes through the NPP. 

The NPP automatically records the split of payments between different service providers and different parking operators. Parking operators will be able to access reports on the breakdown of parking sessions and revenues by service provider. Service providers will be able to access reports on the breakdown of parking sessions and revenues by parking provider.  

Service Providers control customer data: Operators handle parking session data; the NPP is a data processor. 

General

No – the NPP isn’t an app. It’s a system that sits behind the apps, linking all of them up to a larger range of parking sites.  

The NPP: 

  • Brokers parking transactions between service providers (working on behalf of users) and parking providers. 
  • Delivers the legal and technical arrangements needed to allow these transactions to take place. 
  • Reconciles financial payments between members – particularly from service providers to parking providers. 
  • Provides data on parking sessions to enable back-office functionality. 
  • Manages and organises data relating to parking. 
  • Develops new services related to parking and road access. 

The National Parking Platform is a hub, connecting parking providers (organisations that allow people to park on their land in return for payment or subject to other conditions) with service providers (people who help users to arrange parking – such as parking apps).  

Under the old market model, parking providers would sign contracts with individual service providers, most of which tied the parking provider to a single service provider for a fixed period. This meant that users trying to park would often be required to use a range of different apps to pay, depending on area or provider.  

The NPP creates a system that sits between parking providers and service providers, so they can all connect to one another.  

Membership

  • Each LA makes its own choices about how it handles decision-making. However, experience to date suggests that a typical decision-making process involves: 
  • Internal discussions at a working level to confirm that the service provided by the NPP is desirable on policy grounds and is financially acceptable. 
  • A governanced decision within the organisation confirming readiness to be a member 

Yes, associate membership allows joining without immediate usage. It is suitable for those alongside existing contracts 

Once the NPP is established, it remains set up. There are no expected local authority membership fees, and usage of the platform is optional. Exiting the membership agreement is anticipated to be straightforward, providing flexibility for a trial-like experience 

The first step is to complete the Expression of interest form 

Go to LA Parking operator join page for more details.  

By completing the contact form

  • The NPP transforms the relationship between parking and service providers. Each parking provider links to all participating service providers, and vice versa. Members sign a Membership Agreement (MA) detailing responsibilities, including due diligence and data handling. 
  • Join by signing a Registration Form, agreeing to the terms of the MA and specifying preferences. The MA is a rolling 12-month contract that renews automatically, allowing members to leave at any time with a short notice period. 
  • Joining fee – £0 if registered interest before 31/3/24, otherwise £10,000 
  • Membership fee – £0/yr  
  • Transaction fee – approx. 2p/transaction which is expected to be offset against wider market efficiencies 

The MA outlines general responsibilities and specific operational details for NPP services, such as cashless parking. It is designed to apply universally across NPP services, simplifying the onboarding process for organisations, particularly those operating on a smaller scale 

In broad terms, the key membership obligations are: 

  • To agree to arrange parking between users and parking providers on an agreed minimum set of terms, open to all service provider members (this does not preclude separate bilateral arrangements). 
  • To provide and share data consistently and appoint the NPP as the data processor for GDPR purposes. 
  • To handle financial flows and communicate pricing information consistently, including holding funds in dedicated accounts and taking fees as transactions are processed, with defined processing times for financial transactions. 
  • To provide the NPP with information necessary for effective system operation. 
  • To handle back-office tasks such as managing complaints and refunds following a standard approach. 
  • To inform users that the NPP operates using a common approach, with specific branding, notices, and signage. 
  • To meet all technical requirements and avoid introducing vulnerabilities into the platform. 

In addition: 

  • Service providers must demonstrate their financial viability 
  • Private parking providers must confirm their right to charge for a given site 

Other forms of payments

Yes. Some local authorities offer a free parking session, or a free hour of parking to local residents. Early technical assessments suggest the NPP can accommodate arrangements like this, as the existing enforcement infrastructure already handles the necessary information.  

Successful implementation will require the relevant local authority to maintain and share a list of eligible people/vehicles. 

Some local authorities already accept payments from companies such as PayPoint. We expect this to naturally integrate with the NPP and provide a reliable second route to cash-based payments. 

The way the NPP reorganises the market also creates opportunities for people to create new methods of payment (e.g. vouchers to display in a window). We look forward to exploring these options further with service providers.  

The NPP does not seek to remove existing payment machines, such as pay-and-display machines. Makers of this equipment can integrate their systems into the NPP, and there are significant benefits in doing so in terms of joining up occupancy and availability data.  

Currently, local cashless parking procurements frequently bundle in a telephone service. This is no longer possible under a competitive market. The limitations of signage also means that it is not possible to point users towards multiple phone payment providers.  

To ensure that telephone services remain in place, the NPP expects to set up a national telephone payment line for NPP-compatible parking, with a single number, and with the management of the service subcontracted to an existing service provider or a third party. 

Payments and reconciliation

Service Providers transfer payments to the NPP, which aggregates payments and provides a single payment to Operators.

One consequence of setting up the NPP is that it consolidates financial payments between different members. We expect that service providers will only need to make one payment to the NPP to resolve all accounts; and that parking providers will only deal with one payment from the NPP per period.

The timescales around reconciliation are based on the desire for some larger parking operators to arrange frequent payments. It also recognises that for other parking operators this may be an unhelpful and expensive way to handle transactions.

Parking operators will identify a preferred timescale for reconciliation:

  • Daily
  • Weekly
  • Monthly

The default assumption is monthly resolution, and the NPP may pass costs of more frequent transactions (e.g. banking transaction fees) on to the parking provider.

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