We in the industry are proud of its history and are pleased to give its story and the background of vehicle control in the United Kingdom. The prospective clamping ban in England and Wales has given an impetus and an urgency to this topic.
We offer alternatives to wheel clamping. Please click the banner below, or give us a call, for more information about how we can help you when the ban kicks in.
The banning of wheel clamping on private land
The process to bring in the wheel clamping ban on private land has taken more than a year, since the Government first announced plans for it in August 2010. It was introduced into the House of Commons in February 2011, as part of The Protection of Freedoms Bill, and will come into force when it is given Royal Assent, subject to parliamentary approval.
The wheel clamping ban – which will apply in England and Wales, but not Northern Ireland or Scotland – will apply to parking offences on private land only. Clamping and other means of traffic enforcement carried out on highways and public land by local authorities or the police – or other statutory bodies, such as the DVLA – will remain in place.
Even if the clamper has no intention of charging a release fee for the clamp, it will still be against the law. People will still be able to clamp their own vehicles, however, if they are using it as a means of preventing theft, and bailiffs will still have the right to clamp cars and vehicles in lieu of outstanding debts.
Until the ban comes into force, the existing laws remain in place, allowing licensable vehicle clamping to take place on private land, providing the person carrying out the clamping has a valid SIA licence.
To see the official, Government announcement click here.
Car wheel clamping update (2 May 2012)
Note: We are pleased to state that The Protection of Freedoms Act received the Royal Assent on 1 May 2012 and that the Royal Automobile Club has confirmed that the Act provides that, barring certain situations involving the national authorities in a narrow category, the wheel clamping ban becomes actionable as from October 2012.
We regard this as a step forward in the parking control world and an achievement by Lynne Featherstone MP who personally piloted the then Bill through the Parliamentary stages until it became an Act.
To see the official, Government announcment click here.
The legal foundation
It was the year 1998 when wheel clamping of vehicles on private land started. The legal foundation is deep and rooted in the doctrine of distress damage feasant which was all about dealing with straying animals. If cattle went over to a neighbouring farmer’s land the irate latter was entitled in law to compensation for damage and/or other loss such as grazed grass. Importantly, he was entitled to hang onto the wicked bull or whatever until the other party coughed up.
The history of clamping
In the early motoring days there were but few motor vehicles on the roads and many of the drivers of private cars belonged to socially privileged classes as a result of which the law treated their parking activities with kid gloves. Then there was no question of clamping and consequently no clamping ban.
As time proceeded, however, motoring became the province of the common man and the proliferation of motorised vehicles necessitated local authority control of parking on public spaces.
The unhappy motorist, in his eternal quest for parking, sought refuge on other people’s private grounds. This brought the local authority off his back but raised the ire of angry property owners who, some of them, would have wanted their own grounds for parking their own pride and joys – their own motor cars. They wanted no clamping ban on their power to deal with persons wrongly parking on their property.
The hated advent of wheel clamping led to latter-day distress damage feasant procedures being at the service of the local authority and the private landowner too.
Money conscious property owners naturally wanted the most cost effective answer to third parties parking their vehicles on their sacred land with no clamping ban or other restrictions constraining them.
The justification for clamping
It is a fact that equipment for physically controlling motor vehicles by other means is prohibitively expensive. Electric gates cost a fortune. Barriers built to entry routes are costly too and the sharing of the burden of maintenance costs between leaseholders and other owners leads to disputes.
That is part of the reason why we say: ‘We in this country, a property owning nation, will tolerate no clamping ban!’
- Relatively inexpensive to set up
- Generally unobtrusive
The jealous landlord suffers no significant outlay and gets paid from the fine levied. Does he want a clamping ban?
In Central London parking spaces command prices up to £15,000. This asset has to be protected from the unauthorised user. Flats with parking spaces have higher sales prices than the ones without.
Be that as it may, the number of wheel clamping operators rose in the years that followed 1998 and in narrower terms before then.
The fly in the ointment
Unfortunately, most wheel clamping companies run on fast and loose lines. The legality of the clamp is founded on basic contract law where a warning notice prominently displayed constitutes an ‘offer to treat,’ the parking of the vehicle amounts to acceptance of the aforesaid offer and the hated fine for declamping amounts to the legal consideration, in this case for the release of the prized motor car, or whatever.
It is our contention that the prospective clamping ban is the direct consequence of some individuals and even firms damaging the industry’s name.
As can be expected, the visibility and obviousness of the warning notice is a top bone of contention between the property owner and the motorist.
The right of the property owner to levy a reasonable fine for unauthorised parking got court attention in Arthur vs Anchor (30 November, 1995) in which the property owner triumphed.
Regarding the fines (the considerations in contract law) there has been considerable angst because:
- Some operatives have taken payment in kind, such as jewellery
- Informal receipts such as on odd scraps of paper and cigarette packets
- Some persons wheel clamped motorists without warning notices
- Arguably over-high clamping release fees, more than local authorities
We maintain that a blanket clamping ban because of this kind of way of operating is over the top and unreasonable.
Certain motorists have used angle-grinders to remove wheel clamps. The unhappy operator loses his clamp and the release fee too. The police service has tended to support the vehicle owner. The law enforcement people act only when the parking has been illegal on public land; the Road Traffic Act 1984 upholds this.
The types of clamp
There are many different types of wheel clamp, about 20 in all. The Denver Boot is best known but slides off easily.
One recent wheel clamp gets the motorist to declamp his own vehicle provided he has paid by card via the ‘phone to the company in return for a release code. He has to then secure it to a nearby lamppost on pain of paying more on his card.
The views of the authorities
Clamping led to confrontations in which the police service has mediated between explosive parties, both aggrieved. The police regard wheel clamping as a civil matter and not a criminal one.
In Scotland there are no trespass laws and consequently it became possible to ban clamping throughout Scotland.
The media gave wheel clamping a bad press and some called for industrial unity among the operatives. The probable alternative was the clamping ban.
What we did
In 1992 The Association of Wheel Clamping Companies, with fewer than seven members, started.
The first task was to agree a voluntary code of conduct. The founder of Flashpark attended the inaugural meeting and could recognise the clampers because of marks of having recently been in fights and their rough clothing and tattoos.
The name has now changed to The Association of Parking Enforcement Companies. Unfortunately, it did not deliver on public recognition and acceptance.
Different codes of practice turned up with varying results.
The politicians intervene
The Government brought in The Security Industry Authority that required all clampers to:
- Attend a £350 course
- Buy a £200 licence
- Act by May, 2005
The procedure was difficult and was compounded by some who failed to work in the industry after the course and those who left after traumatic confrontations.
There were about 1,900 registered wheel clampers in the United Kingdom of whom about 1,200 were active.
On average, there is one licensed operator for every 600 square miles in the country.
The task was to:
Deliver a fine notice directly to the motorist without the physicality and scope for confrontation of the wheel clamp. The wheel clamp and the wheel clamp ban would both be consigned to the industry’s rough and turbulent history.
The history of our company
Vehicle Control Solutions set up in 2002 and sports it own separate brand name. Up to the year 2005 everything was to do with wheel clamping and towing. After that time new cyber-technology stepped in to change the methodology.
The background from which we come is that a poorly regulated industry had been garnering bad press.
- Some London borough councils followed the Department of Transport and banned wheel clamping on the highways
- The Royal Automobile Club in 2008 commissioned a report by Dr Criss Eliot. The outcome was made that clamping on private land was a breach of human rights, where the motorist was overcharged.
Something had to be done.
The first alternative to the clamp was for the customer to:
- Put up warning signs
- Sell parking permits
- Keep books of parking tickets
- The company then administers the fine procedure
This worked but there were high administrative costs.
The Invention of our way of doing things
The salient feature of the vehicle control solution in this scheme of things is the dramatic entry of the Internet.
The services of a web designer came on-stream and the basic operation is:
- The landowner takes a snapshot with a digital camera
- He selects the offence category
- He connects to the DVLA database in cyberspace
- He contacts the motorist with the bad news about the fine
The wins here are:
- Online payments are instantaneous (at near the speed of light)
- The only evidence required is the digital snapshot of the wrongly parked vehicle
- The landowner pays no fee and gets a £10 payback each time
- The landowner can sign up online
- The fines are ‘on the spot’ with no travelling
- Important: No confrontation!
- The landowner can revoke the ticket when he finds it inappropriate (such as when he finds it’s his brother-in-law’s car)
- The motorist can see an authorised ticket and can appeal online
- We are linked to the Police Stolen Vehicle Register
The alternatives to the above are:
- Solo and company clampers
- The ticketing method
We have already addressed the first two. With regard to ANPR, it is suited to the retail car park including shopping centre uses. One of its drawbacks is that the property owner and system administrators often cannot know who the vehicle belongs to. High setup costs are another.
An amusing point to note is that as soon as our company began competitors who had been copying the original way of operating stopped advertising.
A more serious point to note is that only approved persons and corporate bodies are allowed access to the confidential DVLA register. Flashpark is one such entity.
Who the customers can and should be
Because of low setup costs, literally anybody based in the United Kingdom who jealously guards one or more parking spaces including the ubiquitous private property owner can and should be our customer. What about you?
The value of parking spaces in money wise terms makes this a sensible precaution against the ‘nosey parker’ looking for a safe place to put his vehicle where the landowner has no recourse to anything.
A glance at the future
The management is always researching improvements and keeping up with and using developing technology.
The media possesses the oxygen of publicity. The head of the company has been involved in preparations for television publicity and the press takes an interest.
A word about the website
The website is a godsend for the customer insofar that it makes easy the procedure for reporting an incident. Furthermore, it is cheap – no postage costs as in snail mail.
The appropriate government department, the DVLA, has a software developer called Entity. The latter works with us to update and improve the procedure when using the website so that literally anybody’s dotty maiden aunt can do it.
We are useful to law enforcement because stolen vehicles get identified this way.
The company protects and upholds the civil rights of the motorist.