In a fix
A word of advice on wheel clamping
18 June 2012
Wheel clamping: nearly everybody knows somebody with a tale of woe. People have been clamped while dashing to nearby ATMs. A lady was clamped after missing the teensiest ‘No Parking’ sign, atop a three-metre-high pole. One baffled couple even had their wheel clamped while still in their car with the engine running. It all seems a little, well, unreasonable. So what are your rights?
Being clamped is never going to make your day. But if you park somewhere you know you shouldn’t and you’re told you may be clamped for doing so then, while annoying, it’s really fair enough. The key is, when you park your car, you should be clearly advised that you may be clamped and in what circumstances.
When you park on private land you agree to the landowner or car park operator’s rules. If you break the rules – say by overstaying or not paying in the first place, or parking where there is a No Parking sign – the landowner or operator can claim resulting expenses.
Expenses might include lost parking fees, administration costs, the cost of clamping, or towing and storage. Nevertheless, the penalty fees must be in line with the expenses incurred. Compare the two. If they seem out of whack, you may be able to contest the fine.
Paid car parks must have easy to read signs in prominent locations. Signs should clearly spell out things like: operating hours; how fees should be paid, security; how long you can stay; reserved and unreserved parking; how tickets must be displayed; and consequences of breaching conditions.
If you get clamped in a car park where the signs are unclear, the car park operator may not be able to penalise you as they may not be able to claim you accepted the risk of being clamped or fined.
If you think you've been unfairly stung by a wheel clamper or the amount charged is excessive, the first step is to make a written complaint to the company. Collect as much evidence as you can – photograph things like unclear, illegible or obscured signs, or boundary lines that have worn away.
If you don't get anywhere, you can go to the Disputes Tribunal. Consumers have successfully challenged wheel-clamping companies in the tribunal before.
Earlier this month the parking industry signed a voluntary wheel clamping code of conduct, which sets out what people can expect from the parking enforcement industry. This includes strong requirements for clear signage, a cap on fees and details the situations when clamping can and cannot occur.