Parking firms make bid to bring back clamping

Private parking operators are campaigning to bring back clamping and towing as punishments for drivers.

The AA has uncovered scores of submissions to a consultation on parking practices which demand that private firms be allowed to clamp vehicles which breach car park regulations.

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Operators also want to be given powers to tow improperly parked cars and to deny the right of appeal to any driver whose DVLA data is not up to date.

Clamping on private land has been illegal in almost all circumstances since 2012. Only operators of railway station and airport car parks are still allowed to use clamps, along with vehicle tax enforcement officers.

Private parking operators say fines aren't enough of a deterrent (Photo: Shutterstock)

Edmund King, president of the AA, said that the demands could open the way to “cowboy clampers” making unreasonable demands to release cars and said they must not be allowed “under any circumstances”.

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The demands to give private operators more power were made in submissions to the British Standards Institute (BSI) consultation on a draft parking code of practice. This proposed code would give drivers more protection against rogue parking operators, including allowing a 10-minute grace period for overstaying, creating a single appeals process and a three-tier approach to charges.

Parking firms claimed in their submissions that fines were not enough of a deterrent to drivers breaching car park rules and that they needed to be able to take tougher enforcement action.

Edmund King said: “Clamping is an abhorrent practice that we thought was long gone, but clearly the intent from some parking firms has never gone away.

“Cowboy clampers want to corral the wagons again. Horror stories of days gone by of enforcers requesting gold teeth in lieu of payment, clamping a hearse with the corpse in the back, holding a young child hostage until extortionate payments are made and other disgraceful acts, could be just around the corner.

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“Clamping cannot return under any circumstances. The Government has the chance to stop rogue firms in their tracks. We hope they do so quickly and forcefully.

“We also need a simplified and transparent private parking system with a totally independent appeals service so that there is no chance of cowboy parking companies acting as judge and jury.”

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The measures being considered under the draft code include banning the use of aggressive legal language to intimidate drivers into paying fines and making it a requirement for firms to clearly display their charges and how to appeal against a fine.

Announcing the consultation last year, Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “For too long rogue parking firms have operated in an unregulated industry, handing out unjust fines, putting drivers through baffling appeals processes and issuing tickets to motorists who were only seconds late back to their cars.

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“That’s why we’ve appointed the British Standards Institution to work with consumer groups and industry to write the first ever compulsory code of practice for private parking firms.

“The new code will restore common sense to the way parking fines are handed out, encourage people back onto our high-streets and crack down on dodgy operators who use aggressive tactics to harass drivers.”