THEY’RE back. Just when the public believed the curse of car clampers was over, the nightmare is set to get worse than ever.
A Daily Echo investigation has found former clampers are back in business – this time handing out tickets demanding as much as £90 a day.
Clampers have made life a misery for motorists and preyed on the elderly and vulnerable who have paid out hundreds of pounds in release fees.
A year after our Give Clampers the Boot campaign, the Protection of Freedoms Act made it a criminal offence to clamp on private land in a bid to draw a line under the scourge.
But that appears to have been wishful thinking.
Today we can reveal that firms are back threatening motorists with cash demands instead of car clamps – just days after the new law slammed the brakes on their money spinning venture. They are issuing steep charges and now have the right to track drivers down through the DVLA to force them to pay up.
One of them is Premier Park Ltd, based in Exeter. The firm has now moved in on the territory once occupied by the city’s best known clamper Jason White who disappeared from the city after his firm Whites Car Park Solutions financially collapsed.
This includes St Mary’s Church in Southampton, throughout the city centre and Eastleigh with charges from £100 if they are not paid within two weeks.
Another firm operating in Southampton is UK Car Park Management which charges up to £90 a day. It offers its service to landowners free of charge as long as they can bag the cash they demand from drivers.
It also threatens unspecified charges resulting from action over unpaid fees.
Our investigation into the firm also found that it does not have the right to use the accreditation logos that feature on its website.
This includes a stamp from the Security Industry Authority and UKAS Quality management badge.
Neither of the organisations said they had the company listed and Trading Standards are now investigating.
The Echo also found the firm has changed its name from Parking Control Management (South) Ltd, or PCM which once clamped victims across Hampshire – charging release fees of more than £300.
The newly named firm has now applied for membership of the British Parking Association (BPA) allowing it access to DVLA data to track down motorists to their homes.
All a parking firm has to do is sign up with the BPA and agree to keep to their code of conduct.
But motoring organizations say changes to clamping laws do not provide sufficient protection from rogue parking operators.
They say while clamping was stopped the clampers can now operate as freelance ticketers.
Paul Watters, head of roads policy for the Hampshire based AA, said: “We did warn that the exclampers would find a new arm.
“The Government has failed and this is one area of the parking industry that the AA and other organisations wanted regulation.
“Without regulation every Tom, Dick and Harry will carry on. They are working on the basis that people will be scared into paying.
“We think it would have been better to have all firms licensed by the local authority.”
The Association of British Drivers said it also predicted this would happen and has joined calls for tight regulation and licensing. However, the BPA said it was aware that the cowboy clampers could switch to becoming “rogue ticketers” but felt that by becoming a member of its organisation they control their behaviour via its code of conduct.
If breached it can discipline the firm with measures including expulsion. It also has discretion not to allow members it feels would bring it into disrepute.
A spokesman said: “We say being a member of our organisation is better because it shows you are complying with our regulations.
“But there is no regulations holding them to be a member. We want regulation so that everyone can be a member with the same rules.”