The province is allowing Imperial Parking to again access the personal information of drivers through its vehicle registry, 18 months after revoking it amid numerous consumer complaints.
In February 2004, the province received hundreds of complaints after a collection agency hired by Impark made late-night phone calls to people who hadn't paid parking tickets.
The province blocked Impark's access to the vehicle registry system, which the company used to find out people's names and phone numbers through their licence plate. Impark purchases the right to the information from the government.
Kim Hunt, spokeswoman for Alberta Government Services, says Impark will have access to the same details as before, but that new regulations are in place governing what the information can be used for and how long it can be kept.
And the government has placed tighter controls over which collection agencies can be used. The agencies are not supposed to call between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. When the calls were made in the middle of the night, Impark said the problem was caused by a computer glitch, which was caused by a power surge.
Impark is also required to post signs on its lots that explain the fees charged and that drivers' personal information will be accessed if they fail to pay for parking.
"What we're trying to do is balance the protection of personal information with the viable operation of a viable business," Hunt said.
Todd Croll, an Impark vice-president, says they're in favour of the new regulations.
"What we're looking for is a level playing field in relation to cities and other public bodies, such as universities and hospitals, who provide the identical parking service to members of the public," Croll said.
When the government took away Impark's ability to access driver information, the company said it would have to raise rates and possibly tow more cars to make up lost revenue.
The province said at the time it had received more than 800 complaints about Impark in the 18 months leading up to the collection agency situation, including 325 from people who received the calls.
Holli McVean, who received a middle-of-the-night call, questions the province's decision to allow any private company to access information collected by the government.
"To simply open the books and let private enterprise look in is ridiculous to me," she said. "I'm concerned about the lines being blurred between private enterprise and government and regulatory bodies that collect the information, and what they're using it for."