Drivers have been handed a record 8.6 million parking tickets across Britain by private firms in just 12 months.
An average of 23,000 tickets were issued between April 2021 and March 2022, according to data from the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).
This is up by 50% compared with four years earlier.
It comes a month after 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.
Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said the “eye-watering” number of tickets being issued shows the need for ministers to “stick to their guns”.
The figures represent the number of times companies obtained records from the DVLA to chase car owners for alleged infringements in private car parks such as at shopping centres, leisure facilities and motorway service areas.
Tickets can set drivers back up to £100.
Private parking businesses have been accused of using unclear and misleading signage, as well as aggressive debt collection and unreasonable fees.
Due to come into force before 2024, the code of practice stated that the cap on tickets for some parking offences should be halved to £50.
But the withdrawal pending a review of charges could result in a further delay in its implementation.
A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesman said: “We’re determined to end rip-off parking practices, and it’s very disappointing that some in the parking industry are resisting this.
“We will continue to work with industry and consumer groups to introduce our new Parking Code of Practice as quickly as possible.”
Around 177 parking management businesses requested car owner records in the year to the end of March – a rise of 151 during the previous 12 months.
In the past year, ParkingEye was the biggest buyer with 1.8 million records.
Mr Gooding highlighted that more companies are entering the market to “demand more penalty payments from motorists”, and at the same time the sector is “pressing the government to water down its long-awaited reforms”.
He continued: “A cynic might suspect the industry continues to expand, confident it can water down the final changes so much that there is little impact on its activities.
“We would hope that these eye-watering numbers will stiffen ministers’ resolve to stick to their guns and get their much-needed code of practice and caps on charges in place pronto.”
The DVLA charges private companies £2.50 per record, and claims its fees are set to recover the cost of providing the information, and it does not make any money from the process.