Private parking firms are pushing to bring back laws that would allow them to clamp and tow vehicles, a new report has revealed.
Submissions to a consultation on a code of conduct for private parking enforcement saw scores of companies calling for the return of clamping, with many demanding it as a top priority because fines were not enough of a deterrent for motorists.
Edmund King, AA president, said the practice of vehicle clamping ‘cannot return under any circumstances’ and the government should ‘stop rogue firms in their tracks, quickly and forcefully’.
Could cowboy clampers be making a return? An AA investigation has found that parking enforcement firms are trying to push the government to reintroduce laws that would allow them to clamp and tow cars in car parks on private land
The Government outlawed clamping, towing, blocking-in or immobilising vehicles without lawful authority on private land under the Protection of Freedoms Act in 2012.
The measures introduced by MPs to end abuses by rogue clamping firms who prey on motorists by charging excessive release fees.
If clampers break the law, they are currently liable to an unlimited fine in the Crown Court or up to £5,000 in a Magistrates Court.
However, private parking companies are joining forces to have these rules overturned, according to an investigation by the AA’s Motoring Policy Unit.
The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has launched a consultation on certain aspects of a draft code of practice designed to regulate the industry.
However, the British Standards Institution (BSI) has held a separate consultation on the contents of this draft code.
Responses to the latter have now been removed from public view, following the end of the submissions’ period, but the intent from some of the private parking industry had become very clear.
Within the feedback on the BSI documents, private parking firms called for clamping and towing of vehicles to return on the basis that the charges were not enough to deter offenders.
Some made these comments as their initial response to the consultation, adding their recommendations to the commentary for both the foreword and introduction sections of the draft document.
Other recommendations by private parking firms also called for the appeals process to be removed from drivers who had not updated their address details with the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency.
This would mean that drivers making an honest mistake or moving to a new house at the time of the incident, would not be eligible to use the new appeals process.
Following long-running campaigns against vehicle clamping firms, the practice on private land was outlawed in October 2012.
However, clamping can still take place in some locations such as train station or airport car parks due to long standing byelaws.
Laws were introduced in October 2012 by MPs to end abuses by rogue clamping firms who prey on motorists by charging excessive release fees
Outraged by the findings, the AA has highlighted the comments to MHCLG and asked for assurances that clamping will not return under any circumstances and that the pre-existing byelaws be removed to completely ban the practice.
Edmund King, AA president said: ‘Clamping is an abhorrent practice that we thought was long gone, but clearly the intent from some parking firms has never gone away.
Edmund King, AA president, said the practice of vehicle clamping ‘cannot return under any circumstances’
‘Cowboy clampers want to corral the wagons again.
‘Horror stories of days gone by of enforcers requesting gold teeth in lieu of payment, clamping a hearse with the corpse in the back, holding a young child hostage until extortionate payments are made and other disgraceful acts, could be just around the corner.
‘This now brings us to a duel at High Noon.
‘Clamping cannot return under any circumstances. The Government has the chance to stop rogue firms in their tracks. We hope they do so quickly and forcefully.
‘We also need a simplified and transparent private parking system with a totally independent appeals service so that there is no chance of cowboy parking companies acting as judge and jury.’
The AA investigation has come to light in the shadow of reports that car park operators are ramping up installations of Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras to enforce their restrictions.
In just two years, the number of planning applications to install ANPR cameras in car parks increased by 61 per cent, according to research from Churchill Car Insurance published earlier this month.
They are now frequently found at supermarkets, retail estates, fast food restaurants, hospitals and transport hubs such as train stations.
ANPR cameras have caused much debate as, in some cases, drivers have been automatically issued tickets when they say they did not overstay the car park’s time limit, penalised when using the same car park more than once in a single day or when drivers didn’t know there was a time limit on free parking.