Rogue wheel clamping firms could soon find themselves subject to tough new regulations, the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced today. The Home Office will look at proposals for introducing compulsory licensing to tackle the limited number of wheel clamping companies whose dodgy practices include: excessive penalties for releasing clamped cars; towing cars unreasonably quickly after being clamped; hidden, missing or confusing signs warning drivers that clamping takes place; and a lack of any appeals process for drivers.
Currently, any individual undertaking wheel clamping must hold a frontline licence from the Security Industry Authority (SIA), with supervisors or directors holding a non-frontline licence. The new proposals would make it mandatory for the company itself to be licensed to help ensure it upholds standards of conduct, which will be enforced if they are not met. The Home Office will launch a formal consultation at the end of April considering how best to regulate the industry.
The Home Secretary, said: “The licensing of individual wheel clampers has gone a long way to reducing criminality and improving standards in the industry, but it has become clear that the existing licensing scheme does not address all the concerns the public have. There are clearly a minority of clamping companies indulging in unacceptable behaviour including unclear signage and excessive fees. That is why we intend to look carefully at how we can introduce a scheme for compulsory licensing of clamping companies and will publish proposals shortly.”
The SIA was asked to undertake a feasibility study of the various options for the regulation of wheel clamping companies in the private sector, including a company registration scheme. SIA Chief Executive Bernard Herdan, said: “Vehicle immobilisation is a sector that faces criticism due to the nature of the work it does and the behaviour of some operatives in the industry. In response to concerns over practices in the sector we have set out how wheel clampers could be more tightly regulated through a new company licensing scheme. Industry and stakeholder participation in the forthcoming formal consultation will be essential. We expect all legitimate firms will welcome this new approach and will be ready to work with us to make this a success.”