A new law comes into force today, which will effectively outlaw the practice of clamping vehicles parked on private land.
The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 contains in its schedule four new regulations designed to protect vehicle owners from exorbitant fees to release privately applied clamps.
The new law will come into effect today in England and in Wales. Clamping and towing away on private land has been outlawed in Scotland for 20 years. Northern Ireland will see no legal change.
The new law protects private landowners by extending the power of police to remove vehicles parked dangerously or those causing an obstruction.
Under the existing law private landowners could use a licensed wheel-clamping firm regulated by the Security Industry Authority to clamp any vehicle parked on private land. The clamping firm could then tow the vehicle away if parked dangerously, causing an obstruction or blocking access for an emergency. Fees for releasing a clamped vehicle in the UK were typically between £100 and £250 for a single incident.
As of today it is illegal for anyone bar the police or local authority to clamp, tow away or immobilize a vehicle. The penalties for breaking the new law include criminal charges and fine if convicted.
Home Office minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach brought in the new law.
"This common-sense ban will give motorists the protection they deserve against rogue wheel-clamping and towing companies," he told The Press Association.
"It will save motorists £55 million each year in clamping charges and finally penalise the real criminals: the corrupt firms themselves," he added.
The Government has agreed that an independent service offered by the British Parking Association (BPA) should be set up to allow motorists to appeal parking charges issued on private land.
The BPA have warned that the new law does not go far enough and warn that clampers may still operate in some specific situations including at railway stations, airports and port authorities. There is also nothing in the new law to stop rogue companies charging exorbitant fees for parking on private land.
Patrick Troy is the BPA chief executive.
"The Protection of Freedoms Act ushers in perhaps the most significant shake-up of the private parking industry ever seen in this country and there is much that we and the Government can be proud of," he said.
The RAC Foundation's Professor Stephen Glaister has his reservations as well, warning that the new law could simply force rogue firms into illegally charging parking fees.
"Industry figures suggest almost half of drivers who get a ticket will pay up without questioning its legitimacy. So ticketing could turn into a nice little earner for unscrupulous companies who've been forced to hang up the clamps," he said.
The public has welcomed the new law, with many offering horror stories of being clamped by rogue agencies.
"I had to pay just over £200 when I got my car clamped. I didn't even see any signs; it was a Sunday so I thought it was OK," Anwar Miah told the BBC's Radio 1.
"I think these changes are excellent," he added.
Private land wheel clamping banned (The Independent)
Private land wheel clamping banned (Google News / Press Association)
Private wheel clamping to be banned (Directgov)