The Royal Automobile Club Foundation has today welcomed the news that the Government at last looks set to tighten the regulations on 'cowboy clampers'.
Responding to the Home Secretary's move to consult on toughening regulations on wheel clamping firms, the director of the RAC Foundation Professor Stephen Glaister said:
"After more than a decade of campaigning on behalf of hard done by car owners, the RAC Foundation is heartened to see that at last the Government is taking seriously the huge problem of 'cowboy clampers', a problem we hear about on an almost daily basis from distressed motorists who contact us for advice."
"We are pleased to see the Government is looking at almost every area of concern we have about private clamping. We would also urge the Home Secretary to make it illegal for clamping firms to charge motorists on private property any more than they would pay in penalties on the public highway for similar infringements."
"The Government must not fudge this, as they did when the SIA was first introduced in 2001 without the necessary powers to limit the activities of 'cowboy clampers'. Drivers have waited a long time for justice and this is their opportunity to see it done."
The RAC Foundation is an independent charity dedicated to researching all aspects of motoring - from safety to mobility, economics to the environment.
The Security Industry Authority (SIA), which currently licences the clamping industry, was established in 2001.
Today the Home Secretary announced her department would launch a formal consultation at the end of April on how best to regulate the wheel clamping industry. Announcement details follow:
Rogue wheel clamping firms could soon find themselves subject to tough new regulations, the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced today.
The Home Office will look at proposals for introducing compulsory licensing to tackle the limited number of wheel clamping companies whose dodgy practices include:
? excessive penalties for releasing clamped cars;
? towing cars unreasonably quickly after being clamped;
? hidden, missing or confusing signs warning drivers that clamping takes place; and
? a lack of any appeals process for drivers.
Currently, any individual undertaking wheel clamping must hold a frontline licence from the Security Industry Authority (SIA), with supervisors or directors holding a non-frontline licence. The new proposals would make it mandatory for the company itself to be licensed to help ensure it upholds standards of conduct, which will be enforced if they are not met.
The Home Office will launch a formal consultation at the end of April considering how best to regulate the industry.
The Home Secretary, said:
"The licensing of individual wheel clampers has gone a long way to reducing criminality and improving standards in the industry, but it has become clear that the existing licensing scheme does not address all the concerns the public have.
"There are clearly a minority of clamping companies indulging in unacceptable behaviour including unclear signage and excessive fees.
"That is why we intend to look carefully at how we can introduce a scheme for compulsory licensing of clamping companies and will publish proposals shortly."
The SIA was asked to undertake a feasibility study of the various options for the regulation of wheel clamping companies in the private sector, including a company registration scheme.
SIA Chief Executive Bernard Herdan, said:
"Vehicle immobilisation is a sector that faces criticism due to the nature of the work it does and the behaviour of some operatives in the industry. In response to concerns over practices in the sector we have set out how wheel clampers could be more tightly regulated through a new company licensing scheme.
"Industry and stakeholder participation in the forthcoming formal consultation will be essential. We expect all legitimate firms will welcome this new approach and will be ready to work with us to make this a success."