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Wheel clamping, the alternative:

Comment 30th August 2010

Remove clamping from the auspices of the SIA and put it in the hands of a robust governing body who offer accreditation to VI companies:

All existing VI company can present themselves as worthy of accreditation, as we have already seen many of the stakeholder complaints concern accredited companies, any third party appointed to oversee accreditation must have the ability to carry out regular ad hoc hands on inspections of any VI company being given full unfettered access to all aspects of the business including but not exclusive to:
• Personnel files
• Appeal records
• Documented evidence of enforcement action
• Payroll documentation
• Calibration of electronic equipment
In conjunction with these ad hoc visits to offices, all premises used in conjunction with the business should be inspected. Consideration to these premises being given to;
• Health and safety
• Overall ambience
• Location and ease of access
• Transport links
The location of an impound facility should be no more than 30 minutes travelling time by public transport from the place of removal.
The appointed body should also carry out regular `Test purchases` in businesses designated areas of operation. I also believe that any appointed body should have the facility to receive telephone calls from the public to offer advice and support; many stakeholders did not want to contact the VI Company directly or felt that once they had, the experience was not a pleasant one.
Licence to clamp:
The accreditation should take the form of a corporate licence to operate, to be granted when certain criteria have been met. Any VI company in breach of any new legislation could effectively have this licence revoked; they would then no longer be allowed to carry out licensable activity.

Stakeholder complaints:
The release/removal fee:
The most common complaints are with regard to the punitive charges levied by VI companies, this `de-clamp` fee should be set at £75.00, the fee for retrieving vehicles removed following a predetermined period should be £150.00, built into these charges should be a fee for `waiting time` when the behavior of a person or persons at the time of removal refuses payment or delays removal, this should be charged at £25.00 per hour or per part of that hour. A VI company should not increase the fee to include removal unless the removal vehicle is present and in the process of removal, the Police need to find some uniformity when dealing with clamping issues whilst it remains a civil offence private parking attendants should be afforded the same protection as Transport for London and council attendants in such as Any person who intentionally obstructs any authorised officer acting in the exercise of his powers under this section shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale. Any vehicle held in storage should be charged at £15.00 per day no charge should be incurred before midday of the following day. Stakeholders must accept that vehicles can be disposed after fourteen days; It is paramount that the public understand outstanding fees for removal and/or storage must be paid even if they wish to dispute the enforcement.
Consideration must also be given to people experiencing difficult financial circumstances, I would suggest that at the point of collection any person in such circumstances must show pre determined documentation asked to sign a declaration and be given the opportunity to pay in installments. Any declaration would need to be legally binding.
Signage:
Each VI Company uses different signage, the government must standardise the signs in both size font size and content. These signs should be available from a limited number of selected suppliers.
Speed of clamping/towing:
The only way to reduce incidents of stakeholder allegations of time passed since parking is by the aforementioned test purchasing, when complaints regarding this are received any appointed body should focus on this allegation i.e. “we visited the site four times in a three week period, on three occasions you breached the allotted timescale” the offending company should then be issued with an official warning, three warnings in any six month period should result in loss of accreditation. Any appellant should be involved in this process. If as per the above example a company is found to be in breach any outstanding appeals based on the grounds of the breach should be upheld, the gravity of probability being with the appellant.
Removals:
Any landlord wishing to employ clamping and/or removal on their land must be able to demonstrate good reason why such action is necessary, i.e. a social landlord whose residents quality of life is suffering as a result of regular offending by non residents should be allowed to employ enforcement, a landlord who has a small piece of waste land should be encouraged to seek other methods of securing his land. Enforcement should always be a last resort. Any appointed body should be available to advise Landlords considering enforcement. Consideration must be given to the need for removing an immobilised vehicle again a landlord must show good reason why removal is necessary, the length of time allotted before removal should be set at one hour from time of clamping, this must be shown in any displayed signage and in the event of a dispute should be supported by time dated evidence. In some cases there may be a requirement to employ instant removal any landlord wising to employ this must show good reason as to why , the reasons must be either that a breach of parking regulations could lead to loss of life or serious injury or could contravene health and safety laws. In this case clear unambiguous `INSTANT TOW AWAY `signage must be displayed. Removal crews should have both any requisite SIA licence but also the requisite licence for operating the removal vehicle. Removals should only be carried out using the HI-AB style of crane.
Payment methods:
All VI companies should have the facilities to take payments by both cash and credit/debit card unfortunately at the moment many banks refuse chip and pin facilities to any company declaring themselves to be in the business of Wheel clamping leaving them with no choice but to take cash only payments, this is unacceptable and the banks must change their present stance.
VI companies acting correctly still face problems with `chargebacks` whereby members of the public who have made a payment using chip and pin can claim a fraudulent transaction has taken place. VI companies acting correctly need protecting from this type of fraud which is commonly touted as the solution to clamping on many social forums.
Presently VI companies use a receipt of their own design if at all, as part of any new legislation a standard approved receipt book should be introduced available from a limited number of suppliers.
Appeal and complaints:
All VI companies must have a fully accountable standardised appeals procedure with pre determined time scales in place for both receipt of appeal and response(s). Time dated photographic evidence should be made available upon request, any appointed body should act as an independent appeal source once normal avenues have been exhausted the appointed body supersedes the VI companies if this becomes necessary Failure to meet pre determined timescales will result in a refund. Repeated failures will result in a formal warning.
Complaints should be directed to the appointed body who should respond within pre determined time scales all VI companies must co- operate fully with any complaint investigation any VI company receiving 6 or more upheld complaints in any six month period should receive a formal warning again 3 warnings and a VI company will lose its accreditation.
Wheel clamping is in my opinion necessary the only way VI companies will act responsibly is with close constant monitoring of all practices and procedures by an approved third party. The public the Police and the judiciary need to support companies acting responsibly if such things as signage & receipts are made uniform the public will have a clearer understanding of how clamping works this cannot happen without a sustained period of public education with blanket media coverage. Any punishment given to a VI company or operative acting outside of the legislation must be swift and firm. The public will only gain confidence if they see this happening. There also needs to be concession made for the VI companies acting correctly and who acquiesce to the changes, the Police and the judiciary will need to adjust their thinking and practices when dealing with clamping issues The media must accept that sometimes clamping is necessary and that if done correctly and certainly with a modicum of compassion and common sense should not be subject to sensationalistic journalism.


In conclusion:
• Hands on intrusive third party monitoring designed specifically for the VI industry
• A corporate licence to operate
• Reasonable fees standardised across the industry
• Uniform receipts and signage
• A period of public education
• A third party contact centre
• Transparent uniform appeals procedures
• Vociferous punitive measures for non compliance
• Changes in police and judiciary practices and procedures
 

Why does this matter?

Should a blanket ban be imposed, there will be parking disputes which will lead to violent confrontations, some of the most socially deprived housing estates are now private land and with out the presence of the clampers, violence will ensue.

I have seen this happen on numerous occassions and  honestly believe we will see parking dispute related murder.within a year of a blanket ban.

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