Fighting back against the callous clampers

New legislation may soon put an end to dodgy private clampers
New legislation may soon put an end to dodgy private clampers

From broken bones to new beginnings

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Nothing makes the blood boil more than returning to your car only to find it clamped or ticketed.

For almost 20 years parking firms have exploited arcane laws of trespass, or bent the law of contract, to milk motorists via extortionate release fines and fees.

The trespass muddle may finally end when our parliamentary windbags stop playing politics with the Protection of Freedoms Bill and get around to banning rogue clamping on private land.

Until the law is changed, Streetwise explains the limited number of ways to call time on the clampers and how to fight back against the private parking predators.

CLAMPING

The law

Frankly it’s a mess. Laws of trespass and access to property going back hundreds of years are being manipulated by clampers to engage in questionable practices.

Mounting a challenge for repayment of unscrupulous clamping and tow away fees is limited, but much easier if you know where you stand.

There are six possible options to consider:

· Clamping firms must be registered – check online with the Security Industry Authority at sia.homeoffice.gov.uk/Pages/home.aspx

. It’s illegal to clamp without a licence. Offenders should be reported to the police.

· The ‘offence’ didn’t happen and the clamp amounted to a trespass to your car – be prepared to provide witnesses, photographic or evidence from other motorists.

· The signage wasn’t clear, readily visible from all parking positions, or not sufficiently illuminated after dark. Rogue clampers usually come a cropper in court over inadequate signage. Take photographs to prove your point.

· You weren’t on private land. Take pictures of where you parked the car.

· There were special circumstances – you stopped to help someone in an emergency, or a passenger was ill and you parked up to make an urgent phone call.

· The penalty release fee was excessive – no legal definition, but anything more than £150 is open to challenge.

Claiming a refund of the charges

Write to the clamper’s registered address – check with the Companies House website companieshouse.gov.uk

If you receive no reply to your demand, start a court action by issuing an online money claim at moneyclaim.gov.uk/web/mcol/welcome.

PRIVATE PARKING TICKETS

The law

Private parking firms are not regulated by law. Most private parking tickets are part of a legally unenforceable demand for payment. Unlike tickets issued by local councils and the police, they can be routinely ignored.

A typical private parking predator will be found preying on motorists at supermarkets, retail parks, hospitals and housing estates.

A parking firm, acting as an agent for the landowner, prominently signposts the terms of a contract which sets out the landowner’s permission to park on their land.

By parking on the land the law agrees you have accepted the parking contract, otherwise you would have turned around and driven away.

Don’t fall for tricks of the trade. Some private tickets are deliberately misleading. Don’t be fooled. Their phrasing and design is often carefully contrived to give it the sense it’s a police or council parking ticket.

Landowners’ rights

Landowners have every right to charge a fair, modest fee to control and police parking. But don’t ever think of private parking tickets as ‘fines’ – they’re not.

Parking companies have no powers to fine you, although they will try hard to make you think they have. When they issue a ticket, all they are doing is sending you notice for what they claim is your breach of contract.

Don’t just pay up

If you’re hit with a parking ticket by a private company for an extortionate ‘unfair’ demand for overstaying your time, don’t pay it.

They can’t clap you in irons or send you to jail.

If they do finally decide to take you to court for non-payment, they’ll have to prove the fee is not a punishment, but reasonable and fair.

In that unlikely event, should they try to persuade the court to enforce the charge, that’ll be the time to write to the court with your side of the story, and only pay up in full if ordered to do so.