Wheel Clamping on Private Land

Is it now time to outlaw the cowboys clampers?

18 August 2008

a clamped car

The outrageous antics of cowboy wheel clampers on private land has made a mockery of 2005 legislation intended to protect landowners from selfish parking while preventing drivers becoming victims of thuggish wheel clampers.

Too many wheel clampers have failed to reform and the AA believes that they may have blown their chance.

Recent high profile cases reported to the AA (to be highlighted on ITV Tonight, 8pm Monday 18 August) indicate a growing trend among clampers to extort money from victims whilst hiding behind the 'legitimacy' afforded by their Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence.

The licence simply allows a vehicle clamper to operate but, apart from requiring the licensee to produce the licence and issue a receipt for the cash, that is as far as it goes. These modern day cowboys can therefore dish out their punishment without remorse, often picking on those less able to challenge what they are doing.

The latest tactics involve:

  • Victims given the OK to park by the clampers who, five minutes later, clamp the car and then order its removal with eye-watering 'release' fees of £300 or more – even though the tow truck rarely shows up
  • Clampers charging an additional £45 to call a tow truck to remove the car, and another £45 to call to cancel it
  • Clampers in Bath charging an additional £100 'swear box fee', on top of the £125 clamp release fee – they are reported to have been relieved of the contract since

In one of the most serious cases ever reported to the AA, a young women was left alone all night on the streets of Birmingham after paying to park in a pay and display car park but was 9 minutes late back. The £390 release fee to get the car back was eventually paid the next day – this had to be handed over to a clamper who took the money through the bars of a padlocked gate.

AA comment

Paul Watters, Head of Public Affairs for the AA, said, "Enough is enough. The clampers and removers seem to be using the SIA licence to increase their profits at the expense of decency and fairness. The licence is not one to print money but to prevent criminals operating in private parking enforcement. However, it seems the border between the two is clouded, with ghost tow trucks and phone calls that cost the victim a fortune, which is quite simply a scam.

"It is time for the Security Industry Authority (SIA) to revoke the licences of clampers who operate outside of the law, such as those firms that use a number of unlicensed clampers and then produce one licence when the fee is collected. If the SIA and police cannot stop these people from extorting money from people, many of whom have made a simple mistake, then it may be time for the Government to look at whether it is time for clamping and removal of vehicles to be outlawed or brought under a much tougher licensing regime".


Control of parking on private land is a massive and growing industry. It is a civil matter and unregulated – except for the clamping and removal of vehicles.

Landowners have a right to protect their land from unwelcome parking but they should firstly guard or fence the land before employing vehicle clampers or removers.

If parking enforcement action is to be taken on private land, the AA believes that the local authority should first licence the land for this activity to be allowed to take place – this will require new legislation.

In Scotland, wheel clamping and removal is outlawed.

What to do if you are clamped »

AA Public Affairs