The Driving Vehicle and Licensing Agency made more than £10 million in the last year, selling details about drivers to parking firms and vehicle clamping agencies. The Government department sells the details of around 50,000 drivers every week – totalling 2.4 million in the last year.
The details have been used to pursue registered keepers of vehicles alleged to have contravened parking regulations. Often drivers are unaware they have been caught until a fine drops through their letterbox, having been caught on CCTV or through automatic numberplate recognition (ANPR) cameras.
Some companies have been criticised for using bullying and heavy-handed tactics to extract money from unwitting motorists.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Graham Stringer, a Labour MP on the Commons Transport Select Committee, said: "I do think some of the firms buying the DVLA's information are crooks, and certainly in the past they have used violent and threatening behaviour, and I don't think that is the right thing for the DVLA to be doing.
"Even when firms are approved there is no proper way of examining them. This is wrong and improper use of people's private information."
This year the DVLA made £10.4 million from selling driver details – a huge jump from 2010 profits of £2.4 million. The organisation charges £2.50 every time it is requested to run a check on its system, mostly by approved firms such as insurance companies and finance providers.
The DVLA has been cracking down on rogue companies, with 20 banned from accessing the database for three months in 2012, over breaches in how fines were issued.
The biggest single user of the DVLA database is parking enforcement firm Parking Eye, which spent £899,000 last year. Another of the DVLA’s customers, Excel Parking Services, was exposed last year by the BBC’s Watchdog program for unfairly fining drivers.
A DVLA spokesman said: "Information is only provided under strict controls. If it is brought to our attention that a company does not meet necessary standards, we will investigate.
"If allegations are proven we will stop the release of keeper information to them. We do not make a profit on this service – the fee merely covers the cost of processing applications."