Wheel clamping on private land

Cowboy clampers should be outlawed or more tightly regulated

24 March 2009

Wheel clamping on private land should either be outlawed or more tightly regulated

86% of MPs think that wheel clamping on private land in England and Wales should either be outlawed or more tightly regulated, according to a Populus poll of 100 MPs for the AA

The AA has been campaigning for tighter regulation or abolition of clamping on private land as the current regulations have not stemmed the many cases of extortion and abuse. The AA believes that Home Office ministers will publish proposals for tighter regulations later this week.

The poll showed that almost a quarter of Conservative MPs wanted clamping to be made illegal and almost two thirds of Labour MPs wanted it more tightly regulated.

Full results

Clamping on private land to be made illegal:
Total = 17%
Labour = 17%
Conservative = 23%
Liberal Democrats = 19%

Clamping to be more tightly regulated:
Total = 69%
Labour = 63%
Conservative = 78%
Liberal Democrats = 75%

No change to the rules:
Total = 12%
Labour = 14%
Conservative = 13%
Liberal Democrats = 0%

Rules to change to allow anyone to clamp:
Total = 2%
Labour = 0%
Conservative = 3%
Liberal Democrats = 6%

AA comment

AA president Edmund King said "The results show there is cross-party support to either further regulate the cowboy clampers or to outlaw them.

"A court case in Scotland in 1992 ruled that wheel clamping on private land was 'extortion and theft' yet many clampers in England and Wales appear to extort and steal on a regular basis. If the regulations cannot be toughened we will look to find an MP to introduce a Private Members Bill to outlaw clamping.

"People should park according to the rules but when they get it wrong they should not be robbed by clampers who make up their own charges. We are also concerned at the growing practice of parking enforcers, often unable to acquire a clamping licence, who take registration numbers, obtain home address details from DVLA and then send out 'penalty notices' and threatening letters to the drivers. The Government also needs to stop this dangerous tactic."

The AA is looking to expand its dossier of clamping cases to take to government and encourages drivers to relate their experiences at www.theaa.com/zone.

Recent clamping horror stories

  1. One of the most serious cases ever reported to the AA – an 18 year old women who 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. She had no means to pay the release fee. The £390 charge 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.
  2. A Doncaster lad popped out for an evening pizza and found a parking space that appeared to have no restrictions. He returned at 10.15pm and discovered that his car was missing. After panicking, he came across an A4-size notice warning that cars would be clamped.

    Although he rang all three numbers on the sign, he couldn't get a response except for a voicemail telling him to call during work hours the following day. He continued to call during the night and, even after 9am, couldn't get a reply. His mother phoned the police to make sure that the car hadn't been stolen and 10 minutes later the clamper phoned back.

    The firm demanded £280 in cash (£100.00 clamping fee, £120 towing charge and £60 for two days storage). The clamping operator told the family the car was secured in a lock-up garage but couldn't be released immediately because he had to drive a 60-mile round trip to Chesterfield to release another. An hour later, the family rang the clamper who arranged for someone else to turn up and release the vehicle. None of the details on the receipt showing when and where the car clamped were filled in. To pay the clamping fee, they had to pool all the money they had received as Christmas gifts and use up all the housekeeping cash.
  3. Three Bradford students met to play football, all parked in an empty car park; unfortunately all three cars were clamped. The clamper demanded 3 x £155. They went to a cash machine but by the time they got back a tow truck had allegedly been called so the charges went up to 3 x £195. It turned out to be an expensive game.
  4. Man clamped at Heathrow outside a hotel (looked like a public road). He was charged £150 release fee and £150 tow truck cancellation. The twist is he was actually sat in the car with the engine still running when they sneaked alongside and attached the clamp! Then they knocked on the window and demanded the payment to release him – chip and PIN machine in hand.

Cowboy clamping tactics

  • Parking decoy cars to 'encourage' people to park
  • Hiding signs by parking the clamp van in front of them
  • Making up and adding extra charges such as 'tow truck called' fee, swear box fee, 'police called nuisance fee'
  • Clamping drivers still in the vehicle, i.e. who have pulled over to check a map or make a phone call
  • Deliberately targeting 'vulnerable' motorists


Populus interviewed 100 MPs online, by telephone and by postal questionnaire between 26 Jan and 27 Feb.

Read AA advice about what to do if you are clamped »

Join the discussion in the AA zone


23 March 2009