Cowboy Clampers Ride Again

New regulations aimed at curbing the worst excesses of cowboy clampers and introduced only twelve weeks ago are already being flouted according the RAC Foundation today (5th August).

The RAC Foundation warned Government prior to the introduction of the new legislation it would not work without a strict and enforceable code of practice.

Those suggestions were not heeded. Following a recent undercover operation by Sky News which exposed abuses of the rules by employees of a clamping company - some of whom were licensed by new regulatory body the SIA - the RAC Foundation has written to the Home Secretary demanding that he tightens up the rules urgently.

The Foundation is also asking motorists whether it is now time to ban clamping on private land completely as it has been in Scotland since 1992.

Scenes in the footage shot by an undercover Sky News reporter who had infiltrated the clamping company and worked for four weeks filming with a secret camera showed:

  • A clamper telling a motorist to move his car and park in a specific area, waiting until he went into the bank and then clamping him.
  • The company using an unlicensed clamper with a serious criminal record (including cutting off someone's fingers with a machete) to carry out clamping activity (contrary to the licence agreement).
  • Clampers accepting bribes from the public and not giving receipts (contrary to the licence agreement).

Other abuses which featured in the ten hours of footage that was shot, but which were not broadcast, included clamping cars when there were no warning signs and then putting up signs after the event.

The Foundation has now sent a video of the documentary to Charles Clarke, Home Secretary. In the letter accompanying it, Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation says:

"The video is a clear indication that the licensing system is not working effectively.

"We believe that as a minimum the SIA should be given new powers to adopt and enforce an obligatory code of practice for wheel clampers perhaps based on the British Parking Association's draft code of practice. It would be a great shame if all the hard work and genuine commitment to regulate wheel clamping were to be wasted because there is a loophole in the regulations."

Over the last eleven years, the RAC Foundation has campaigned for the introduction of statutory regulations to limit the excesses of private clamping companies and run an annual "Dick Turpin Award" for the UK's worst clamper in 2006.

Excesses have included:

  • Clampers demanding a lady’s gold tooth or sexual favours in lieu of payment.
  • Clampers who regularly charge £523 for clamping/towing.
  • Clampers clamping a hearse with a body in the back.
  • Clampers in Doncaster threatening to hold a mothers' three-year-old daughter hostage until she collected £60 from a bank.
  • In London, a motorist moved his car under direction from the police who were investigating a murder at the original site where his car was parked. He was then promptly clamped.
  • In Portsmouth a man was clamped when he stopped because the clampers lorry had run into the back of him.
  • A clamper in Essex forced a heavily pregnant lady to walk two miles to a cash machine and back to pay him the clamp release fee of £75.
  • A clamper in Devon preyed on an elderly disabled lady and her husband, after they parked their car for 5 minutes, displaying a disabled badge whilst going to the post office to collect the lady’s pension. On their return the clamper bullied the lady into handing over her pension to remove the clamp.

"Maybe it’s time that England and Wales followed the example of Scotland where clamping on private land was ruled to be "extortion and theft" in 1992, and banned overnight. Society does not seem to have crumbled north of the Border since then and parking mayhem hasn’t broken out - even in busy city areas. The only ones to suffer when the ruling was made were the clamping companies."

Motorists are being invited to log onto the new look RAC Foundation web-site and vote for or against the suggestion of outlawing clamping completely. This vote will then be presented to Government.

5 August 2005 Staff

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