Thread: End of the road for clampers?
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#1 End of the road for clampers?
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17-08-2010, 10:10 PM
End of the road for clampers: Cowboys who prey on millions parking on private land to be outlawed in victory for the Mail
By James Slack
Last updated at 12:29 PM on 17th August 2010
In a sensational victory for the Daily Mail, wheel clamping is to be banned on all private land.
The Coalition has decided that enough is enough after 1.5million motorists were snared by ruthless clamping companies last year.
They have torn up the last Government's plans to regulate the industry in favour of an outright ban. Towing away will also be outlawed.
Immobile: The sight of a car clamped on private land should be just an unpleasant memory by next year when cowboy clampers are banned
The 2,150 existing clamping licences will be revoked and anyone who continues to use an immobiliser on private land will face a massive fine or even jail.
Only police or councils will be allowed to clamp or tow away a car in exceptional circumstances, if it is obstructing a road or if the driver is a known repeat offender.
Home Office Minister Lynne Featherstone said it was time to 'end the menace of rogue private sector wheel clampers once and for all'.
She added: 'For too long motorists have fallen victim to unscrupulous tactics by many clamping firms.'
- The moment clampers targeted nurse in uniform and demand hundreds of pounds as she tends to sick elderly woman
- DAILY MAIL COMMENT: Good riddance to the cowboy clampers
- Motorist's epic 30-hour sit-in to beat the clampers hailed as a victory for 'the little man'
- HARRY PHIBBS: Cowboy clampers defeated by a proper sense of fair play
The move follows this paper's Curb the Cowboy Clampers campaign.
The Mail demanded action after revealing that clamping on private land had turned into a £1billion industry dubbed 'legalised mugging' by motoring groups. Clamps were being fixed at the rate of more than 4,100 every day.
AA president Edmund King said: 'This campaign has been a bit of a personal crusade for me over the last decade.
'An outright ban on wheelclamping on private land is a victory for justice and common sense.'
Despite wielding enormous power, those working on private land have been completely unregulated and their victims have no right of independent appeal.
There are no limits on penalties, with drivers being charged up to £500. In some cases, motorists have been marched to cash points by clampers demanding immediate payment.
Ending the menace of rogue clampers: Lynne Featherstone
The Labour Government supported the Mail's campaign, and passed laws to bring clamping on private land more closely in line with public roads.
Ministers said clampers would be subject to a mandatory licensing regime, backed by five-year jail terms for those who refused to comply.
However the law, which was passed only days before the end of the last Parliament, has yet to be implemented.
On taking office, the Coalition reviewed the new rules and decided they were too bureaucratic. Instead, ministers decided an outright ban was the best way of protecting the public.
The ban will now be included in the new Government's Freedom Bill in November and is likely to come into force next year. It means the rules in England and Wales will be the same as Scotland, where clamping is already banned.
Private clampers will immediately have their licences revoked, effectively putting them out of business. Continuing to operate could lead to fines of up to £5,000 or a possible five-year jail term.
The ban will apply to private land only. It is already closely controlled on public roads
and car parks. Landowners such as small businesses and church halls who want drivers to keep out will be expected to fit gates or barriers.
Where cars are abandoned or left in a dangerous place, the landowner will be able to call on the police, who will be given new powers to tow cars from private land.
Currently, they can do this only on public land.
Private car parks will still be allowed to charge motorists a fee, using ticket machines.
But they will have to sign up to a strict code of conduct agreed by the British Parking Association (BPA).
All signs about charges must be clear, and any fees for over-staying must be 'reasonable'.
Crucially, there will be a right of appeal to an independent tribunal with the power to quash unfair charges.
Any motorist who refuses to pay will face the same sanction that applies to public roads or council car parks, which is a visit from the bailiff or a trip to the small claims court.
Private firms will also be barred from towing away vehicles. This power will be exclusive to the police and DVLA.
The scandal of the DVLA selling drivers' names and addresses to rogue firms will be ended. Only businesses registered with the BPA and signed up to its code of conduct will be entitled to ask for information.
Transport minister Norman Baker, who campaigned against 'cowboy clampers' in opposition, said: 'The rules governing parking on private land should be proportionate and should not result in motorists being intimidated or forced to pay excessive fines.
'Cowboy clampers have had ample opportunity to mend their ways but cases of bullying and extortion persist.
'We are putting an end to these outrageous practices to ensure that drivers no longer have to fear intimidation from rogue traders, allowing the parking industry to begin to restore its reputation.'
DRIVER IN 30-HOUR STAND-OFF WINS A VICTORY FOR 'THE LITTLE MAN AGAINST THE BIG BAD CLAMPERS'
A driver who decided to beat the car clampers with a marathon 30-hour sit-in has hailed his success as a victory for 'the little man'.
As the Government announces plans to outlaw clamping on private land, Haroon Zafaryab has told of his epic battle against 'rip-off' merchants.
Mr Zafaryab, 27, said he returned from prayers at his local mosque last Monday afternoon to find that clampers had swooped in and immobilised his Toyota Prius.
He shall not be moved: Haroon Zafaryab sits in his car while it is clamped in a stand off with a clamping company in Wembley, north west London
While admitting that he had failed to see a small notice saying that he had parked on private property, Mr Zafaryab also said he knew the clampers were trying to rip him off.
He was met by an official who demanded £100 for the clamping fine and an extra £265 for a tow truck which had been called to haul his Prius away - even though the car was clearly still there.
Mr Zafaryab was furious at the cost and - knowing that car cannot be towed with a passenger inside - decided to stage his driver's seat protest.
What followed was a tense and often farcical stand-off as Mr Zafaryab refused to budge and the clampers kept slapping fine after fine onto his windscreen.
'I was prepared to stick it out for weeks. I knew they were trying to rip me off with the tow truck'
Residents in the local area cheered Mr Zafaryab on and provided him with refreshments and treats to keep his energy up. Some of his friends also arrived to show their support
As the protest dragged on into the evening - and then continued the following day - Mr Zafaryab refused to give up.
In the time that he sat in his car three additional clamps were fitted to the remaining wheels, and around 40 fines were plastered all over the windshield in front of him.
In the end the bill would have racked up to almost £4,000 - but Mr Zafaryab was adamant that he or his car were not going anywhere.
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Clamping firm Citywatch regularly sent tow trucks in the hope that Mr Zafaryab would cave in - and the whole show was watched by bemused police.
Finally, 30 hours after the ordeal began, Mr Zafaryab decided to strike a deal, and the clampers had had enough.
Mr Zafaryab would pay the the initial £100 fine, and not a penny more.
Frustrated, one of the enforcement team accepted. A fuming colleague, who originally clamped the £11,000 hybrid car, exclaimed: 'All that for $100?'
Mr Zafaryab said: 'After loads of to-ing and fro-ing and me refusing to back down, they eventually agreed to £100 and as the clamps came off and I handed over the money, the crowd went bananas.
'There was about 70 people there and all the residents in the flats and shops started cheering as well. It was brilliant. My friends were even almost crying.
'The amount they wanted me to pay is half my monthly wages, it was ridiculous. So it became a stand-off.'
'I'm so pleased I stuck it out and got justice. My stand-off sends out the message that local people, the elderly, people who don't know the law, cannot be bullied and scared into parting with their hard-earned cash for these people.
'What I did shows that you can stand up for yourself without using violence to get what's right.'