/ Motoring

Is the clamping ban a good or bad thing?

Red car clamped

The recently announced ban on clamping and towing on private land sparked a heated debate. We’ve read your comments and thought it best to let you cast your votes. The clamping ban – good or bad?

A ban on the clamping and towing of cars on private land sounds like a great idea, especially since the industry is totally unregulated and generates thousands of complaints every year.

Which? Legal Service has dealt with many cases where consumers have been wronged – including two separate incidents where members were marched to a conveniently close cashpoint after stopping to answer a phone call in a lay-by. They were clamped with their engines still running.

Concerns about a ban on clamping

I posted about the government’s clamping ban when it was announced. Rather than regulating the practice, the government decided to ban the practice on private land out right. But comments on the piece have centred on concerns that it’ll create a free-for-all for rogue parkers parking on private property.

Graham Forecast thinks that the ban will give a “green light to motorists parking – deliberately – on private property.” And Brian Rogers suggests that instead of an outright ban, there should be “strict licensing and regulation of clampers”.

Following the announcement, the government advised using barriers and tickets instead of clamping, but some of you think this isn’t practical in all circumstances. For example, Judith Bailey said that if tickets were issued there’d be “no way of enforcing payment, except through the courts, and that would be a ridiculous waste of court time.”

So we thought we’d put this to a vote and accurately gauge your opinion on the clamping ban.

Read the original article and all comments on the clamping debate here.

What should have been done about clamping and towing?

I'm glad it's going to be banned outright (58%, 160 Votes)

It should have been properly regulated instead (42%, 115 Votes)

Nothing needed to be done (1%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 277

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Comments
Profile photo of light
Member

I think clamping ban is good as company is charges exhorbant amount. I think company directors should be jailed for life. It is possible to modest fine but I would strongly suggest that no parking or private land should be displayed very promentatly, not hidden. There are possibilites that motorist parked unknowingly.

My another suggestion that it shoud be corden off with fence or any kind of restricitions which prevents motorist to park. I am strongly in favour of ban on clamping.

Member

Your voting system is so at odds with what reasonable people are calling for. They want to see fair legislation that protects the clamping company and motorists.

Well done Watchdog, that’s why it’s so important that the Government tackles the rogue clampers but a Salem Witch Hunt is not the answer.

That clamper should be dealt with severely; the Sia and Trading Standards need to be looking to see if the Clamping Company even owns a tow truck and carry the correct motor trade insurance to undertake the task to which it is noteworthy that there are only about five companies out there that are insured to remove clamped vehicles to the best of my knowledge.

The Police need to investigate if the Clamper endeavored to obtain a pecuniary advantage by deception and take appropriate action against the individual and/or his company.

Don’t tarnish all people by the actions of others. See the person not the wheelchair.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

Litrw – although the poll may not offer exactly what you want it to, there are three clear options – an ‘outright ban’, ‘proper regulation’ or ‘no change’. If you don’t think your vote accurately reflects what you think, then you can add your thoughts in a comment as you have done. We’ll take them into consideration if/when we report on the poll’s results. Thanks.

Member

Clamping when used properly is a useful deterreant for selfish and inconsiderate parkers.

I live in a central London block of flats and we have gates to our car park but still have problems with drivers who force open or tailgate in. they park in our car park in spaces which are owned by residents during they day as its cheaper than usuing a proper car park.

Clamping is the only deterrent we have – issuing tickets will be a ridiculous waste of our time and the legal syastem’s too.

Properly regulated clamping needs to remain.

Member
g r young says:
10 September 2010

yes – clampimg by regulated clampers. Some drivers are very mean and selfish. Non disabled drivers parking in disabled spaces should also be clamped. They have the same stupid mindset as those mentioned above going into areas where they should not.

Member
robin carver says:
10 September 2010

clamping is a deterrent for inconsiderate parkers there will always be the odd case where someone has been wronged but regulating would have cured this.
i live on what used to be mod property but the houses are now sold and the purchasers become owners of the roads and grounds with a rule saying no parking on the roads.
the very people who ignore this are teachers who teach pupils with behaviour problems, the school exists on the grounds for free and the residents pay but the teachers just will not behave they regularly park on the road opposite drives and refuse all requests to not do so.
what do you do? my wife and i have one car each which is required as this is quite rural the school has around 30 to 35 cars coming and going all day along with delivery lorries and they pay not one penny but refuse to fit in with the residents who pay, arrogance beyond belief but what can you do withought seeming petty.

Profile photo of chris
Member

Of course, they will now issue thousands of tickets instead.

That industry is NOT regulated and it involves no heavy equipment – so will flourish.
Allegedly – 30% of motorists pay their fine without a quibble.

Member
Terence Edwards says:
11 September 2010

I cannot see how a clamped car is freeing up a space. In fact it will occupy it for much longer. I have heard that clampers use threats and intimidation and there is no limit on how much they can charge to free a car. I cannot see that this is a civilised solution to a problem. There must be a better way.

Member

I have a door on my house to stop uninvited visitors.In the same way owners of land who do not want people to use their land as a carpark should fence it off.
On the other hand if they want to use the land as a carpark they should set up a proper payment system charging a fair price.In no circumstance should they be allowed to trap motorists and then charge extortionate fees for release.Definately no clamping!

Member
john bolland says:
13 September 2010

Inconsiderate motorists on private land can be a massive niusance and some redress like regulated clamping is needed.
Now we shall have anarchy and trespass condoned by the law as it is now an open season for the parking villians.
Presumably one can still block them in if they have stolen your parking space. This may deter them in future but is not satisfactory.
Again a few unreasonable people have caused a problem for the majority well behaved owners of land suitable for parking.

Profile photo of richard
Member

Totally agree – I suffer from inconsiderate drivers using my forecourt as a parking free zone – often blocking my access to my home – There are large signs banning parking – but still they come. Then I have to pay to park outside my home The police and local council are not interested..

Clamping and towing should be regulated – not banned

Member
Peter Long says:
17 September 2010

It is right that the free licence to charge ridiculous/exorbitant fines has been stopped.95% of wheel clamping was enforced by intimidating practices by people not particularly interested in maintaining private land parking restrictions but rather were more interested in bullying and making easy money. I think a private land owner should be allowed to to have a fast track route through the legal system to pursue costs owing as a result of illegal *************** which would continue to preserve the rights of the landowner but also protect the offender form the despicable scenarios many have had to encounter. Well done this government.

Member

Clamping was a useful deterrent to people parking on private property and was cheap for the landowner. The problem is that some clamping companies *wanted* unauthorised people to park so that they could collect money so put up small notices, caught the smallest violation etc.

Now a small buisness owner with a few parking spaces on private land outside their business, which they want to be used by their employees, will have to pay to install and maintain a barrier with swipe cards to open it etc. etc. Large organisations have always done this but the smaller ones just employed a clamping company with the intention that the threat of clamping would deter.

It is of course sad that people cannot simply respect other people’s land and only park in public lcoations or a private location for which they have been granted permission.

Profile photo of Richard Dilks
Member

I completely agree that clamping is a very perverse action if the detriment comes from that space being taken up – how has clamping the car helped? Towing’s different there of course.

But what I’ve learned from this post and poll and the original post is that lots of people see clamping and towing signs as a very effective deterrent.

Unless the government changes tack we’ll have to wait and see what the effect of the ban on clamping and towing on private land is – whether there’s a net gain for us all in being free of the outrageous behaviour many Which? members have suffered from clampers and towers, or England and Wales are swamped with rogue ticketers and flatowners unable to park outside their own flat.

I still think the ban’s a good thing overall, but I’m prepared to be proved wrong.

Profile photo of pete
Member

Several years ago the Court of Session in Scotland ruled that clampling and demanding money for the clamp to be removed constituted extortion, hence clamping is illegal. That hasn’t created a problem and it eliminated one type of scam.

Member
Simon says:
31 January 2011

To ban wheel clamping and towing on private land is absolutely ludicrous “when drivers are caught for no insurance or drink driving and many other offences they are banned from driving” so would it be reasonable to suggest a complete ban on driving instead because of this minority of abusers. I think not! So why then should we accept a complete ban on wheel clamping and towing from private land, based on a minority group of clampers who have been allowed to abuse their position. And lets face it the cowboys of the industry are the minority. Many of the stories of big bully clampers marching people to cash points or charging exorbitant fees are years old. “As for the current ones” of coarse they make the papers, who wants to read about the polite 5ft female and friendly 57 year old operatives collecting the BPA recommended clamp release fee from some driver who thought they could park on private land and get away with it. My business partner and myself are directors of controlled parking services Ltd. Although We don’t appear to be, we are a relatively small company, We have unavoidably received some good and bad press but mostly good due to the comments from the public having their say on the articles. We have achieved ISO 9001 status, become members of the British parking association approved operator scheme, have been accepted by DVLA and have access to their database, have firmly established ourselves in hertfordshire and surrounding counties, with our SIA licensed staff trained in conflict management and vehicle immobilisation we supply essential parking enforcement to businesses and private owners alike. “Yes” we do offer an alternative enforcement method by means of parking charge notices but this is not as effective as wheel clamping due to the public becoming more informed of the fact we can only invite them to disclose who was the driver at the time of the contravention not force them. Therefor wheel clamping is the preferred method by the majority of our clients. We have invested heavily in this sector and will suffer enormously if this ban is implemented and we are forced to use ticketing as our only means of parking enforcement. The other people who will suffer are all you land owners out there, if this bill is passed it leaves the door open for motorists to park on your land whenever they like and you will have no recourse, And believe me they will. I would be able to park on your driveway and when you return home to find me in your space you wouldn’t be able to do a thing about it. Cant clamp me cant tow me just ticket me, will this force me to move it, NO. Will this force me to pay the ticket, NO. And what can you do about it, NOTHING. They say the clamping ban in Scotland was successful and they have all turned to tickets, but what they failed to say is locking or blocking in and towing away wasn’t banned is still legal and this is what they turned to, Because tickets don’t work. What will we turn to if this bill is passed and people can park anywhere on private land without consent. I find it unbelievable that this proposed ban has got this far when the cowboy clamper problem could so easily be fixed. Currently all they need is a sia licence. And what rules are they required to stick to, almost none. They set their own fees, tow away when they like, often only accept cash. And why, Because they can. They don’t issue tickets they only clamp or tow, they have no need to contact DVLA for registered keeper details. For those of us who do, the only way to access dvla is to be a member of the bpa and to do this must stick to their strict code of conduct. We and many others used the bpa code of conduct even before it became compulsory for dvla access. The simple answer is for anyone to be able to immobilise or tow a vehicle on private land they must not only hold an sia licence but also be a member of the bpa, therefor having to abide by the code. Not only is becoming a member costly it also means that with the information we must supply about ourselves, aggrieved motorists are able to challenge our actions in the small claims courts. they currently would struggle to get the cowboys to court as its so hard to track them down.

Member
Bob Smytherman says:
13 February 2011

Protection of Freedoms Bill ignores flat residents’ concerns over car clamping ban.

The Federation of Private Residents’ Associations (FPRA), which represents flat owners in England and Wales, is currently lobbying Home Office Minister Lynne Featherstone MP to think again about her proposed ban on clamping cars on private property, as it will cause major problems for ordinary residents living in blocks of flats.

The Home Office has so far ignored all the issues we have raised. The car clamping ban is to be included in the Coalition’s The Protection of Freedoms Bill, published this week.

Lynne Featherstone’s knee-jerk proposal to ban wheel clamping may not be the populist measure she anticipated. She has failed to appreciate that thousands of ordinary residents living in blocks of flats with car parking spaces are victims of illegal car parking. And as anyone involved in the management of parking knows, the only serious deterrent to illegal parking is the threat of clamping. The issuing of penalty tickets is not an effective deterrent because they are very difficult to enforce, as highlighted by BBC Watchdog.

Lynne Featherstone says that landowners can erect barriers around their property to control illegal parking. This might be fine for well-heeled companies, the landed gentry and government departments, but it displays a dismal ignorance of how this can be achieved in blocks of flats.

The FPRA have pointed out to the Home Office that

1. Residents and leaseholders of blocks of flats may not be able to install barriers because the terms of the lease will not allow them;

2. If the lease does allow or if it is amended to allow (a very complicated and costly process) the installation of barriers, the cost of installing and maintaining them will fall on the ordinary leaseholder, which includes pensioners and the not-so-well-off. Will the government contribute to this cost?

3. Barriers are restrictive and inconvenient to residents, visitors and trade vehicles interfering with the free movement in and out of where they live, work or visit.

Federation Chairman Bob Smytherman said:

‘Lynne Featherstone’s understanding of car clamping is depressingly naive. She seems to just think that it’s a black and white issue of drivers as victims, when in fact victims are also residents whose lives are plagued by illegally parked cars. She naively thinks ‘landowners’ can just erect barriers, having no understanding that ‘landowners’ also includes ordinary people – leaseholders – in blocks of flats who could be forced to pay for the installation and management of barriers, if the lease allows it. And most likely the lease will not allow it, in which case there is little that those residents can do to effectively keep out unwanted cars. This will bring misery to a lot of people’

The FPRA argues that the real problem is rogue car clampers, and the solution is to regulate the system, not ban the practice. Therefore the FPRA is calling on the Home Office to work with us to come up with proposals to provide robust regulation of the wheel clamping industry, and avoid this rash and ill-conceived piece of legislation.

Profile photo of suzyd
Member

Earlier this week I had the unfortunate experience of being faced with a clamp on my legally parked vehicle in my allocated parking bay at the apartment block where I live. My permit had slipped off of the dashboard into the footwell and if the supposedly qualified clamper had bothered to look into the car he would have seen it. I can tell you that no one deserves the experience I had when I contacted the clamping company, contracted by the facilities management team on behalf of the residents association of my block. The company rep’ was aggressive, threatening, contradictory and demanded double the fee stated on the grammatically incorrect and questionable signage placed within the car park to release my vehicle and by using the threat that refusal to pay would result in my car being towed and the follow-up statement that he would not be liable for the damage that would result to my car, I was forced to pay or risk further costs.

His aggressive stance and rehearsed diatribe is no doubt sanctioned by the company that he is employed by. Imagine that grainy film you have seen on any number of consumer shows such as BBC Watchdog or Cowboy builders; yes these people do exist and no I would wish association with them on my worst enemy.

I agree that the logic behind a socially and community accepted deterrent to erroneous parking makes sense but allowing companies with zero business integrity the power to threaten people under the guise of official and legal authority is untenable in a country with a sophisticated legislature and strong sense of justice and consumer rights. This business is all about cashing in on inconvenience and lax legal standing on this issue. Why this mafia like activity has been permitted to go on for long is appalling and I applaud Lynne Featherstone for taking a stand against bad practice.

This is an industry which pays lip service to self regulation and best practice and has cleverly developed a third tier of regulatory bodies funded by them for them and with little or no desire to displease the hand that feeds it.

It is utopian to think that regulation of this industry will work; to date these companies have continued to threaten the vulnerable for what is in reality and in the majority of instances a short term social inconvenience. They have ultimately been given free reign to charge excessive rates under dubious authority which is unjustifiable, unfair and against common decency and I repeat business integrity.

We have allowed our officialdom to create the problem where the car is the enemy and the motorist an easy target.

I have less of a problem with capped rate ticketing even if it has to be conducted by a contracted third party but we as a society must not sanction threats of criminal damage so we avoid the rip off culture trap that laissez faire capitalism engenders.

Trust me on this if you or your loved one’s had been faced with the threatening experience I have been through this week you would think again about private company managed clamping companies being permitted in the UK without severe sanction.

I am now in the process of attempting to obtain a refund of £255 for parking in my own bay. I doubt that it will be an easy task.

Profile photo of JohnWest
Member

This has been the case in Scotland for at least 20 years. Why has England taken so long to wake up? It is interesting how DVLA still provides our name and addresses in respect of car registration numbers to those who have not been fully vetted such as crook & criminals providing they just set up a company and only have a old garden shed from which to work from. The DVLA is the real boggyman inside government it seems as they once utilized phone numbers which clocked up really large phone bills, and kept one hanging on to ensure the bills went as high as possible. It may have changed now but let us not forget their past including selling off our driving license information for £8 million and just saying “sorry”. One really has to ask what racket they will try next in a constant mindset to view the motorist as a Cash Cow with udders that stretch to an infinity of easy pillage. It is no good voting for a change of government and hope something will change in resepct of this awful money grabbing organization because they are the government – any government.

Member
kerry says:
8 March 2011

If anybody has a problem with people parking on their private land please contact me i have some very useful information.

Member
Just Me says:
19 January 2012

Clamping is necessary, but not by charlatans and criminals!

However, if you are inconsiderate and park wherever you like, inconveniencing someone else through no fault of their own, then you should be inconvenienced by loosing your beloved money. Then again, if an emergency occurs and your car is thoughtlessly parked in the way, attributing to someone’s death who might have otherwise received hospital treatment in time, would you then be liable as an accessory to that death? Think about that for a moment.

Member
Trevor Whitehouse says:
6 April 2012

Aren’t we Clamping down on the rogues after they’ve bolted

Why should the activities of a ‘tow-truck operator’ force reputable clamping companies out of business and threaten the interests – and rights – of landowners, specifically when tickets and barriers won’t work?

“Why is it that successive governments have failed to see that it’s the tow-truck operators who have utilised their vehicles to extort additional fees and nothing more?” proclaims Trevor Whitehouse, chairman of National Clamps.(An extract from Total Politics) “In my 22 years at the helm,” he adds, “we have been responsible for the immobilisation of well over 150,000 vehicles. However, we have been forced to tow no more than 150 vehicles away. This figure came to a dramatic halt with the government’s scraping scheme.

“True, there was a real problem with ‘rogue’ operators, which has been raised by successive governments, besides the unclear signage, excessive fees and menacing behaviour by the minority. The introduction of the tow truck has tarred the whole industry, when the most law-abiding companies try to provide the proprietor and the public with a service.”

There has been overwhelming support for some years for the introduction of regulations on wheel clamping on private land. When the Security Industry Association (SIA) was created to administer private security licensing, wheel clampers were included. Unfortunately,” continues Whitehouse, “the five months it took to obtain a licence, the £400 training cost, plus the £250 the licence fee, forced reputable companies to look the other way, and kid-glove unreasonable employees, leading to even the best companies having to lower standards.”

This didn’t go far enough, so in 2009 a consultation was published and industry views were sought on a range of options, including: a voluntary code of practice; compulsory membership of a business licensing scheme for all clamping companies, and a compulsory Approved Operator Scheme (AOS). These provisions were included in the Crime and Security Act 2010, Sections 42, 43 and 44. Unfortunately, the election happened before they could be activated.

The coalition could well have introduced them: the consultation was thorough; a wide cross-section of industry views had been sought, the measures balanced the interests of landowners and car parkers alike, and adequately dealt with the issue of ‘rogue’ clampers. Job done, surely?

But then – and probably in response to some tabloid horror story – out of the blue a proposal to introduce a ban on clamping was bolted onto the Freedoms Bill, which had already been agreed by the coalition. It may seem a popular move. A minority of drivers who hate being clamped, also hate the speed cameras and the breathalyser. Someone in government probably thought this would go down well with constituents.

But – and it’s a big ‘but’ – this ban isn’t about clampers, and has nothing to do with freedom. It’s an attack on landowners’ rights and interests, on their freedoms and the principles that have governed the laws of this land since the Magna Carta. It’s not even about the freedom of car owners; this panders to the most ignorant of drivers and wrongs the proprietor.

This is the essential issue:– Clamping protects the interests of landowners. There probably isn’t a private car park in the UK that doesn’t use it, or, more importantly, the threat of it, as a parking control method. Do you know an open car park that doesn’t use clamping to deter?

What’s more, the law already recognises this. As far back as 1995, in Arthur and Another v Anker, the Law Lords ruled in favour of the landowner’s right to clamp, based on the ruling Volenti non fit injuria: ‘No wrong is done to one who consents’. If the signs are clear, the driver has been warned and is responsible. In fact, in 99% of clamping cases, the motorist has been in the wrong.

As one Police spokesman from Gwent said: “The concept of legislation which removes the disincentive to behave irresponsibly is somewhat incongruous.” However, in a speech in June 2010, Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone said: “We should adopt an approach that is proportionate, and which balances the rights of the motorist to have access to their vehicle with the rights of landowners to use and control access to their property. Clamping should not simply be used as a means of generating revenue from motorists… We have been clear about our commitment to tackle rogue clampers.” There was no mention of towing away or making the distinction.

But the principal purpose of clamping is to deter illegal parking and protect private property, not generate revenue; with a 95% deterrent rate, it wouldn’t be much of a revenue generator anyway. And it’s not rogue clampers who need to be tackled, but the rogue tow-truck operators. As anecdotal evidence suggests, most of these now operate in the ticketing side of the industry precisely because they neither need SIA licences nor to join accredited trade associations. Recent prosecutions and jail sentences have surely curbed their antics.

Physical barriers are costly, often impractical or financially un-viable. Often, highways agencies and the Police won’t even permit barriers, particularly where it leads to queuing or causes a traffic hazard on exits to public roads. And they are un-feasible for residents’ parking spaces outside homes or flats.

The alternative, ticketing, is ineffective. Only 40 to 60% of tickets are ever paid and, for many drivers, this results in bailiffs at the door and lengthy court proceedings, where the costs to motorists can be far greater, with fines of up to £400. That aside, seeking keepers’ details through the DVLA is not accurate enough. An estimated 15% of vehicles are unregistered and 6% are foreign and therefore beyond pursuit. Without the recourse to clamping, landowners and the public will be at the mercy of the selfish parker.

So if the government wants to cite complaints about clamping, just wait until constituents discover that they can’t find a space to do their shopping,can’t park at school, work or the station and, in some cases, their own homes; there will be a tidal wave of complaints. The problem is that clamping is so effective that the public doesn’t know how beneficial it is. Introduce a ban, however, and they soon will.

A ban may play well for now in the popular media but not for long. If Ms Featherstone had sought consultation she might have realised this. The Police have and they’re concerned. A spokesman for South Yorkshire Police said: “From a policing point of view, my initial impression is that this change of policy is a case of being ‘as bad burned as scalded’.”

The government’s solution is to extend Police powers to remove vehicles in certain exceptional circumstances. The Police are not convinced. Currently they have the power to remove vehicles on public roads that are dangerously or obstructively parked, have been stolen or involved in a collision. Should these powers be extended to private land, they could find themselves inundated with requests from landowners, creating additional workloads, an unfulfilled public expectation – or use of the very tow-truck companies which induced the clamping ban.

As a spokesman from South Yorkshire Police said: “There appears to be a blurring of the fine line between criminal and civil law, which will inevitably lead to a public expectation that the Police will enforce civil trespass law.” This legislation would be difficult to enforce, create greater conflict between landowners and ‘selfish parkers’ and confuse the public about the Police’s role. After all, define ‘exceptional circumstances’…

Today, most wheel clamping operators respectfully go about their business. The only bad publicity is when former rogues get their comeuppance which is considered good publicity.
Unfortunately, most of this took place two and three years ago and has taken far too long in the Crown Courts for sentencing. The good news is that the Police, CPS and magistrates are now armed with precedence, and have made several arrests, with many more prosecutions pending.

And the rogues have taken wing and flown… ironically, cleaning up the industry. Those who have flown may well land in ticketing in order to make another fast buck: this (it’s proposed) is with the coalition’s blessing. Some cry: “Will a parking offence or an outstanding ticket warrant a bailiff and the seizure of goods?” I don’t think so, but how else can anyone enforce a parking charge notice? Letting sleeping dogs lie in this case may be the best policy.

The proposed ban has simply not been thought through. Only regulation through licensing and enforceable punishment will drive out the cowboy operators. It’s ‘fag-pack’ politics: the proposed ban is ill-considered, off-the-cuff, and designed to win popular approval in response to knee-jerk reactions to media horror stories. Unfortunately, for landowners and residents alike, this kind of politics will prove fatal. Let’s only hope wiser heads will prevail!