Clamping on Private Land

AA urges Government not to unclamp the cowboys

Four clampers boxed the patrol's vehicle in by placing a van behind and in front of his vehicle

9 December 2010

The Government must not backtrack on their promise to ban wheel clamping and towing on private land, according to the AA president.

The AA is concerned that the ban which was due to be included in the Freedom Bill this autumn has already been delayed whilst evidence shows that cowboy clampers are cashing in whilst 'drinking in their last chance saloon'.

The AA is seeking assurances from Government that they are still fully committed to this ban and has written to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Lynne Featherstone MP) on this issue. .

Targeted?

The AA believes that it may have been targeted by clampers as a result of the organisation's high profile campaign to outlaw cowboy clampers.

I was only away from the van five or 10 minutes and they clamped it Recently an AA patrol was clamped and charged over £1000 in a case which highlights all that is wrong with the current situation and why it is essential that clamping on private land is outlawed as soon as possible.

The AA patrol was attending a breakdown and pulled up on the corner of Chadwell Heath Lane junction with South Road near Romford, Essex. He parked outside a shop at first as there were three parking bays empty. The shop owner emerged and told him he couldn't park there as it was for customers only.

The patrol had nowhere safe to park on Chadwell Heath Lane as there were no parking spaces, double yellow lines, railings and a school. So he pulled into South Road and went to help the female member a short distance away. He soon realised that he would need his battery boost pack so returned to his vehicle where he saw his vehicle had been clamped.

He approached the clampers and explained he was working on a breakdown in the next road and that there was no where to park. They said he could not park where he had as it was a private road but did not give him the option of moving. The clampers then put a sticker on the window and explained that every half hour the vehicle was there without payment an extra £80 would be put on the bill. They refused to take a credit card over the phone.

Boxed in

Four clampers then boxed the patrol's vehicle in by placing a van behind and in front of his vehicle. One of the clamp vehicles even touched the patrol van. After approximately 20 to 30 minutes a spectacle-lift truck turned up which meant there were now six clampers at the scene. They moved the clamp from one front wheel to another but gave no reason or explanation for this action.

A sticker was put on the patrol's front windscreen bearing the name LBS Enforcement Ltd. It was marked 12:40 on 24-11-2010. Every half hour a clamper came up and added these times on the ticket 13:10, 13:40, 14:10 and 14:40. This added another £320 to the bill.

After calling the police and a three-hour stand-off, the AA paid the clampers a total of £1,080.75 — including a bizarre £50 penalty for 'swearing'. The 'fine' was paid under duress as the AA needed the patrol and vehicle due to the increase in calls as a result of the cold weather.

Five minutes

Andrew Cornhill, the AA patrol, said: "I was only away from the van five or 10 minutes and they clamped it. I explained I was working on a breakdown but they couldn't care less. I felt very intimidated by them."

The clampers boxed the patrol's vehicle in by placing a van behind and in front of his vehicle As the charges spiralled, AA bosses called the police who were not able to attend before the bill was paid and vehicle released at 3.45pm.

According to the Evening Standard, bizarrely the clamping company has claimed that the patrol had breached his workers' human rights by swearing. The clamper also allegedly said he would be willing to negotiate a "goodwill gesture" if the AA "cut us some slack" in its campaign against private clampers.

Comment

Edmund King, AA president, said: "Charging over £1,000 to remove a clamp is highway robbery. We are talking to our lawyers and the police to see how we can get our money back. We cannot allow such clampers to, in effect, hold drivers hostage and demand ever increasing extortionate sums of money. It appears that this company just make up charges to suit them. Their swearing fee is a complete joke. We will not "cut them any slack" until clamping is outlawed.

"Our patrol was assisting a female driver at risk, however the heavy-handed clampers were just after one thing – money.

"We are urging the Government to stick to their promise and end this rather unsavoury war on the motorist. There is no place for such barbarian tactics in a modern, civilised world."

Extract from Hansard on clamping

Wheel-clamping (6 September 2010)

Diana R. Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): When she plans to bring into force existing powers to curb the activities of private sector wheel-clampers. [13085]

Lynne Featherstone (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department): I announced on 17 August the Government's intention to ban wheel-clamping and towing on private land. The ban will be included in the freedom Bill, which is due to be introduced this autumn. Sections 42 and 44 of the Crime and Security Act 2010, which provide for the regulation of the vehicle immobilisation industry by way of business licensing, will be repealed.

Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): When the Minister made her announcement, had she consulted the industry? Bearing in mind that there are some genuine, law-abiding firms that provide an enforcement service where parking abuse takes place, would it not have been better to deal with the cowboy wheel-clampers rather than legitimate businesses? What compensation will legitimate businesses get?

Lynne Featherstone: I thank my hon. Friend for that question. Yes, the industry was consulted, and of course there are probably a number of people in the industry who are not cowboys, but unfortunately, given the vast number that were cowboys, the industry brought the change upon itself. That is why we have had to take this action rather than bring in more and more regulations that would not be enforced. Such regulations would put burdens on the police to enforce something that was never truly enforceable, and abuses would continue.

We will not pay any compensation, but the vast majority of clamping companies are already using ticketing. When the ban comes in, the others will be able to transfer to ticketing if they are any good, and private landowners will be able to protect their property anyway.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): This very week, private wheel-clampers are in operation in my constituency, extorting vast sums of money from my constituents. May I urge the Minister to go further and abolish private wheel-clamping altogether, and hand it over only to local authorities and police forces so that it can be publicly accountable?

Lynne Featherstone: I am pleased to be able to inform the hon. Gentleman that wheel-clamping is being abolished altogether on private land. Local authorities will still carry out wheel-clamping on public land.

 

9 December 2010