NEW laws could mean rogue clamping companies will have to smarten up their act or face legal action from the council.

Changes in Trading Standards laws which come into effect on Sunday, April 6, will replace a raft of existing laws with a more general offence of trading unfairly.

According to Doug Love, the head of Trading Standards in Ealing, the new legislation will hit car clamping firms particularly hard, and may lead to people successfully suing companies who do not have clear signs but tow their cars away.

He said: "The new legislation will see quite a major change in the way Trading Standards departments enforce things, and problems we were previously unable to do something about we will have powers over.

"For private parking companies it means they will have to have clear and prominent signs and look at the wording they have on their invoices."

One company which has consulted with Trading Standards to comply with the new laws is Park Direct, who were inundated with complaints over their ticketing operation outside Ealing Broadway station.

Many people complained to the Ealing Times' clamping campaign that they had pulled into the forecourt at the station and into a parking bay where signs were placed.

By the time many had read the signs and started to reverse out of the bays they a Park Direct employee had photographed their vehicle, and weeks later they were issued with notices requesting £160 for the infringement.

Mr Love continued: "Park Direct should be congratulated in the work they have done to come into line with the new laws.

"We wrote them a letter after we had a number of complaints about their activities at the station, and they have responded and worked positively with us to address the situation.

"They have put up new signs at the entrance and have changed the wording on the notices they send to drivers, as before they said the registered keeper was liable, whereas it is the driver who should pay."

Albie Saliba, the owner of Park Direct, said his company has worked hard to conform to the laws early.

He said: "Following the complaints I talked to Trading Standards and suspended the operation in front of the station.

"I have changed the way my practice of my whole company in order to conform to the new laws.

"We will now be giving people a grace period when they pull into the bays to allow them to pull out again, and we will be taking two photos to demonstrate this.

"We have put up new signs witht he exact wording given to us by Trading Standards, and hve even consulted them about our bills.

"Unfortunately with the nature of the business you will always get people complaining no matter what you do."

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