Page last updated at 03:32 GMT, Friday, 29 January 2010

Wheel clamping dispute tribunals to be set up

Car with wheel clamp
Fines will be limited under the proposals

Motorists who claim to have been unfairly clamped on private land are to be given the right to appeal to independent tribunals for compensation.

Ministers also want to limit the fines which clamping firms can charge in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The measures are to be added to proposals in the new Crime and Security Bill for a compulsory licensing scheme coming into operation in 2011.

The move is a response to growing pressure to tighten the rules.

Under the latest proposals, rogue clampers could be forced to pay back excessive fees and award drivers compensation.

Those who currently charge extortionate fees to release cars may soon be restricted to the sort of fines levied by local authorities - about £40 outside London and £70 in the capital.

'Preventing abuses'

The licensing plans will see clamping companies sign up to a code of conduct to ensure they put up clear signs to indicate where they operate.

Businesses which fail to comply would face prosecution or have their licence, administered and controlled by the Security Industry Authority, taken away.

The changes will not apply in Scotland where clamping on private land is already illegal.

The licence to print money which many cowboy clampers believe they have seems about to be revoked.
Prof Stephen Glaister, RAC foundation

Home Office Minister Alan Campbell said: "The government is committed to preventing abuses by unscrupulous wheel clamping firms and their employees.

"The introduction of an independent appeals process will for the first time provide independent recourse for motorists who feel aggrieved by unfair practices of rogue clamping businesses."

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said an independent appeal system was "fundamental" to reform of the industry.

"Finally ministers have acted, and the licence to print money which many cowboy clampers believe they have seems about to be revoked."

In December, the RAC foundation blamed "lax" laws for an increase in the number of people with wheel clamping licences.

It said more than 2,000 people held licences, up from 1,200 in March 2008, and 200 more than when the government began consulting on the industry in April 2009.

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