The Government will introduce a new law in October the Protection of Freedoms Act 2010-2012 that will make clamping on private land illegal. Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone said “for too long motorists have fallen victim to extortion and abuse from rogue clamping companies. By criminalising clamping and towing on private land, this Government is committing rogue clampers to history and putting an end to intimidation and excessive charges once and for all.”
However reports reveal the new law won’t banish clamping from the thousands of railway station and council-owned car parks subject to bylaws. If the car park has a barrier, it will still be perfectly legal for a landowner to clamp vehicles parked in them. Barrie Segal, founder of the parking website Appealnow.com said “it’s a loophole covering car parks with barriers. It needs to be changed because I guarantee if you enter a car park in the dark and the barrier is up, you won’t see it and you could still end up being clamped.”
It appears that even if they can’t or don’t clamp you, private car parks will be able to issue drivers penalty charge notices. Paul Watters of the AA says “the British Parking Association’s (BPA) code of practice recommends its members reduce ticket prices from £150 to £100, discounted by half if you pay within two weeks. But £50 is still a lot of money for a relatively minor infringement. And clampers that aren’t BPA members won’t abide by it anyway.” Many landowners outsource ticketing and frequently the payment itself is dealt with by yet another company, collecting unpaid fines by another still. Some car parks will even be enforced by automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras. Mr Watters believes it’s a recipe for chaos he added “the public won’t know which company to deal with if they have a problem and there will be problems.”
Wheel clamping is big business and in an attempt to rule out malpractice, clampers have had to be licensed by the Government’s Security Industry Authority since 2001. There are currently 1,550 licensed clampers in the UK. Between them, the Home Office says, they clamp about 500,000 cars each year which is approximately one car every day per clamper. However, what they can charge to unclamp vehicles is not regulated which means the industry raises about £55& #8201 million, with an average £110 release fee.
By Geraldine Ashton Green
Wed, 29 Aug 2012