Cowboy Clampers To Hang Up Their Boots?

Cowboy clampers may have to hang up their boots and spurs, if a new Code of Practice being launched today [26th April] is backed by the Government.

The RAC Foundation is backing the British Parking Association’s Code of Practice for Parking Enforcement on Private Land and Unregulated Public Car Parks to drive the cowboys out of the clamping business.

While anyone attaching a clamp to a vehicle parked on private land has to be licensed by the Security Industry Authority, there are huge loopholes in the legislation.

The license is not backed by any mandatory code of practice so many clampers charge as much as they like.

A license is required to attach a wheel clamp to a vehicle. But demanding the release fee does not require a license, so cowboy firms are still able to employ people with criminal record to intimidate motorists into paying.

Other abuses reported to the RAC Foundation by distressed motorists include:-

  • A motorcycle was clamped on a petrol station forecourt while the rider was in the petrol station getting directions. The cost of release was £265. The police were called after the clampers threatened the rider but could take no action.
  • A disabled motorist had to pay £314 to prevent her car being towed away from outside her daughter’s flat despite having her disabled badge on full display.
  • Two clampers forced a woman to walk home, fetch her cash point card, walk to the bank and return with the release fee of £125 despite having a mobile phone with them which she could have borrowed to call a friend for a lift. She took the money out in 50 pences and made them count it. The clampers then checked her tyres and tax disc to intimidate her further.
  • A motorist clamped off the public highway rang and asked to be declamped - which according to the sign, would cost £85. Within minutes the clamper arrived to remove the a tow truck. He duly charged her £335: £85 for the clamp and £250 for the tow truck.

Other favourite cowboy tricks include: putting up misleading signs - or not putting up signs at all; parking dummy vehicles to fool motorists into thinking that parking is allowed; lying in wait until a motorist leaves the car and then immediately attaching a clamp; and calling a tow truck as soon as the vehicle is clamped to allow the higher towing fee to be charged.

The Code of Practice provides a model of best practice for individuals or organisations which undertake vehicle immobilisation (clamping) on private land, and will help by:

  • Setting recommended tariffs for clamping and towing
  • Creating an authoritative standard against which Small Claims Courts and Trading Standards can measure unacceptable clamping behaviour
  • Setting out clear guidelines on what signs are necessary so that motorists are not mislead into believing that parking is allowed

Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation, said "We want this Code of Practice to be given the force of law as a mandatory part of the licensing procedure.

Until this happens, we are calling on the Government and all public bodies to pledge that they will only employ vehicle clamping companies who adhere to this code of practice.

We still need more action to get these modern day highwaymen under control."

The RAC Foundation has been campaigning for over ten years for better regulation of wheel-clamping on private land, and created the annual "Dick Turpin Awards" to expose the worst abusers.

28 April 2006 Staff

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