Having blogged several times in favor of stronger controls on private car park operators in the UK, I can’t believe I am taking the opposing side today, but I must agree with the British Parking Association that the UK government has gone too far with the announcement on August 17 that they are completely banning clamping on private land.
It is ironic that the ban announcement follows so quickly after BPA’s July publication of its Master Plan for Parking which called for a “regulated environment which is fair to both operator and motorist and meets the needs of landowners who have a right to protect their land.”
The ban will be included in the Freedom Bill in November, and is expected to be in place early next year. Once the ban is in effect, anyone clamping or towing a vehicle on private land will face stiff fines or possible jail time.
“The government is committed to ending the menace of rogue private sector wheel-clampers once and for all,” says Home Office Minister Lynne Featherstone. “For too long motorists have fallen victim to unscrupulous tactics by many clamping firms. Reports of motorists being marched to cash points or left stranded after their car has been towed are simply unacceptable. A ban on clamping and towing on private land will end this abuse and companies who decide to flout new laws will face severe penalties.”
“The rules governing parking on private land should be proportionate and should not result in motorists being intimidated or forced to pay excessive fines,” adds Regional and Local Transport Minister Norman Baker. “Cowboy clampers have had ample opportunity to mend their ways but the cases of bullying and extortion persist. That is why we are putting an end to these outrageous practices once and for all to ensure that drivers no longer have to fear intimidation from rogue traders, allowing the parking industry to begin to restore its reputation with the motoring public.”
On the one side, many UK drivers will be very happy with this turn of events.
“This announcement will be cheered by motorists throughout the country – and particularly by those in the Royal Borough who have found themselves charged hundreds of pounds to get their car back, often for something as simple as parking slightly over a parking space line or being a few minutes late,” says Councillor Phillip Bicknell of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.
But rather than make the situation more equitable, the move seems to simply shift all advantage to the motorist and leave the private parking operator with little recourse.
“We have long lobbied for better regulation of the private parking sector, including clamping,” states Patrick Troy – Chief Executive of BPA. “We want to see higher operator standards and a fairer deal for motorists when they fall foul of the rules. We are concerned however that banning clamping removes any incentive to follow the rules.”
“Clamping provides a last resort to landowners, who are faced with persistent offenders and ticket evaders,” he continues. “The Government must be accountable for protecting landowners’ interests if ticketing is ineffective and drivers continue to park unlawfully.”
“The Government’s plans are a charter for the selfish parker,” he adds. “We urge the Home Office to tightly regulate the private parking sector, instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”