Car park clampers hit tsunami relief effort

Lorry picking up charitable aid asked to pay £150 fee

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The clamping firm operating in the Bookers car park off the Uxbridge Road has claimed another victim leading to further calls for the authorities to take decisive action on the matter.

This time they clamped a lorry which had come to collect aid for the tsunami relief effort. The lorry was picking up goods from Glen Carriers on Allied Way but could not park outside because of the boxed donations had been piled up next to the road. These contained vital food stuffs and medicines. The lorry was moved to the rear of Booker's car park. The driver was away from his vehicle for a matter of minutes but when he returned he was faced with a demand for £150 to have a clamp released. He showed proof that the lorry was working for the relief effort but was told that he should have read the signs.

When the owners of this part of the car park Worldwide Cargo were contacted about the fine they refused to refund the fine but said they would contact the clamping firm and ask for leniency.

The clampers at this car park have a record of being heartless. Two nuns from a local convent were reportedly forced to take the tube all the way to a pound near Heathrow and pay a huge fine after parking unsuspectingly in this location.

A local architect who was recently fined over £200 for parking in the same spot said of the incident, "Presumably as they charged considerably less than when they clamped me, the firm gives discounts to charities. This remains a form of legalised mugging and I am disappointed to see after reports being made to both the police and the Council the activity continues unabated."

The police did not respond to our request for comment on this issue.

Trading Standards Officers at Ealing Council suggested that a civil action may be successful in cases like this if the signage was not prominent enough and, even if it is, the charge made is not 'reasonable'. If money is obtained by clampers by using deception or threats then this would be a criminal offence and the Council suggest reporting it to the police.

The Security Industry Authority is due to start licensing private clamping firms imminently and only licensed firms will be able to do this work, so victims of rogue clampers should inform this organisation are aware of their complaint. After 28 February it will be illegal to operate anywhere in England and Wales without a licence, which applies to vehicle immobilisers, their supervisors, managers and directors who operate on private ground and charge a fee for the release of a vehicle.

Commenting on the changes SIA chairman Peter Hermitage said: "The licensing of vehicle immobilisers provides the opportunity to set standards and drive out bad practice. In the past there have been too many rogue operators and we now have the opportunity to address them through regulation."

It is possible that due to the advent of new regulation existing less reputable clamping firms are intensifying their efforts to levy fines on unsuspecting members of the public.

January 24, 2005