At least 1.2 million British drivers have already had their cars clamped on private land and this weekend the toll is set to rise as unscrupulous operators take advantage of unwary motorists heading for tourist hotspots.
Research for the RAC Foundation suggests motorists in more than one in twenty households that own a car have had their vehicles immobilised on private property.*
And with the public taking to the roads for the bank holiday, many more are set to have their breaks ruined by draconian parking restrictions.
Even if all clamping companies had stuck by the voluntary guidelines set out by the trade body the British Parking Association – which currently recommends a maximum release fee of £125 – clampers would have raked in around £150m. And the evidence indicates a large number of firms don’t abide by these rules and charge significantly more.
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation said, “Whilst most private parking companies are reputable, some are not. The RAC Foundation regularly hears from people who are at their wits’ end after they have had their cars clamped and removed, and then been charged an extortionate fee to get them back. Our research just proves the scale of the problem.”
“Thankfully the Home Office is finally consulting on ways to better regulate the industry, but for those rogue clampers who know their time could soon be up there must be a temptation to squeeze every last penny from unsuspecting drivers – not least those who are this weekend travelling to unfamiliar tourist destinations and might be unaware of whether they are parking on public or private land, and what penalties could be levied if they even slightly overstay their welcome.”**
“We fully recognise the right of private landowners to protect their interests, but motorists also have the right to expect honest and fair treatment in return.”
“At the moment there is no independent appeals system for those who have been clamped on private land. And the only industry code of conduct, which is voluntary, is drawn up by the British Parking Association whose members include private clampers. Both these things need to change urgently. And penalties need to be brought into line with those levied on the public highway.”
The RAC Foundation is urging motorists to check carefully for car park signage and to make sure they know the penalties they face if they stop in the wrong place at the wrong time.
* In a GfK NOP survey of 1000 motorists across the UK commissioned by the RAC Foundation over the weekends of 8th-10th May and 15th-17th May 2009, 6% of respondents who were asked “Have you or anyone in your household ever been clamped on private property?” answered yes.
The RAC Foundation report The Car in British Society (2009) found 82% of the 25,081,000 households in Great Britain owned a car (source: the Office of National Statistics), which equals 20,566,420 households. 6% of this is 1,233,985 households.
This is a regional breakdown of those respondents who answered yes:
Region - % said yes
Tyne Tees - 7
Granada - 4
Yorkshire - 5
Central - 7
Wales - 9
Anglia - 5
London - 9
Meridian - 6
West country - 3
Ulster - 6
Scotland (Non-applicable because clamping on private land has been outlawed since 1992.)
** A Home Office consultation entitled: Licensing of Vehicle Immobilisation Businesses was launched on 30th April 2009.