It’s time the government got a grip on clamping

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There are those who will say that the motorists who found themselves clamped in a Cosham car park should have realised they needed a ticket.

But let’s look at the facts. Pay meters were only introduced last month to discourage commuters taking up spaces intended for shoppers, so many were not familiar with this change.

Then there are the meters themselves. Yesterday morning one of two pay-and-display machines in the car park behind High Street was out of order. Soon after the other machine stopped working too.

Those who parked while both machines were broken were allowed to park for free.

But those who parked with no ticket while unaware that one machine was still operational (no signs were displayed to that effect) ended up with clamps on their cars and a demand for £205 to release them.

Of course, people who blithely park on private land without permission deserve to be caught. But the people affected in Cosham were not deliberately flouting the rules.

Instead they claim they tried to pay but found they couldn’t use the ticket machine. And then they made an understandable assumption that the other machine was not working either.

Then there’s huge amount they were charged by clamping firm Citywatch. If they had parked on a double yellow line, they would have faced a fine of £60, reduced to £30 if they paid promptly. Plus they wouldn’t have had their car immobilised. And if they didn’t agree with the penalty, then they would have the right of appeal.

Yet for a parking misunderstanding on a private site, the penalty is way, way higher - and there is no comeback on the clampers, no way of getting justice.

You can write to their head office and see where it gets you, but only after you’ve paid up.

It really is time the government got to grips with the clamping industy. For that is what it has become, a very lucrative industry allowed to continue unchecked.

It must be properly regulated, with astronomical charges made a thing of the past.