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“LEGAL robbery” is how many people left facing huge bills from car clamping companies have described the industry.
This is usually because they have found out the hard way that it is perfectly legal in this country for clampers to charge whatever they like to remove a clamp from a vehicle parked incorrectly on private land.
So long as companies have displayed a sign listing their self-regulated tariff and the restrictions in place at the site, their operatives are free to enforce them, more or less as they please.
This includes clamping a car and immediately calling for a tow truck to remove it, usually to a secure compound until the owner comes up with the cash. They can tow the vehicle away within minutes of a clamp being fitted - and legitimately levy an extra charge for this.
In practice this means most drivers end up paying charges for parking without authorisation, tow truck call-out, vehicle storage and clamp removal.
But rather than charge rates comparable to local councils, clampers often demand hundreds of pounds just for removing the clamp.
Most motorists who fall victim to the clampers accept they are in the wrong and that they should not have parked where they did.
But the majority are appalled to discover that, where parking illegally on a public road might attract a fine of £50, parking on private land, just yards from the highway, could result in a bill of £830.
In response, the Ealing Times, along with its sister papers the Harrow Times and the Hillingdon Times, has launched a campaign for greater Government regulation of the industry.
We accept there is a need for clampers to control parking on private land.
But enough is enough.
We believe relaxed laws and a lack of regulation in the industry has created a culture of excessive charges, intimidation and abuse.
Clampers routinely demand cash on the spot and refuse all other methods of payment. At the moment clampers must be licensed by the Security Industry Authority, but rules published on its website only require operatives to give receipts for cash received and not to clamp disabled badge holders or emergency service vehicles.
Regulation is clearly needed in this area and we want you to help us take this campaign to Westminster.
What we want to see:
Fair charges for the removal of clamps, towing and storage of towed vehicles.
- A 24-hour cooling off period before the car is towed, unless it is blocking access in and out of the site it is parked in.
- An end to the practice of demanding cash on the spot, and an acceptance of alternative payment methods.
- Clear signs visible at the entrance to private land warning clamping restrictions apply.
What do we want you to do?