Oireachtas committee report may put brakes on private clamping

Fri, Mar 30, 2012, 01:00

HOSPITALS COULD be banned from clamping cars parked in their grounds under legislation recommended by an Oireachtas transport committee.

The committee has made 38 recommendations to Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar on the regulation of public and private clamping, which would mean clamping companies subject to legal restrictions for the first time.

While the Road Traffic Acts give local authorities the power to clamp illegally parked vehicles on streets and other public property, there is no legislation covering clamping on private property.

Any property owner can engage a firm to clamp vehicles parked on their lands without permission and there are no legal restrictions on what a motorist can be charged to have their vehicle released.

The committee has recommended that all clamping companies be licensed and registered with the local authority within whose jurisdiction they operate, whether they are working for the local authority or privately.

There should be standardisation of penalties, signage, training and appeal processes. Minimum and maximum charges should be determined nationally and local authorities should be allowed to choose what point on that scale is appropriate for their area. Clampers in that area would all have to impose the same charge regardless of whether they were servicing public or private property.

A national regulator for the industry should be established under the auspices of the National Transport Authority. In order to obtain a licence, operators must be tax compliant, have a registered office and appropriate insurance cover, and be required to submit an annual report to the regulator. The regulator would also draw up a mandatory code of practice for all clamping operators.

Staff of clamping companies should be vetted by the Garda and receive appropriate training resulting in certification. They should be required to carry identification and details of their clamping licence at all times.

A two-tier appeals process should be established. This would involve an initial appeal to the clamping company or local authority, with recourse to a national independent parking appeals officer. This system currently operates in Dublin city.

Details of the appeals process should be immediately available on the issue of a fine or the fitting of a vehicle clamp.

A specific period should be provided for the release of vehicle clamps, and where that period is exceeded the release fee should be refunded. Where a clamp has not been fully fitted by the time a motorist returns to their car, the clamper should immediately cease their work and release the vehicle.

The committee also recommends that clamping be prohibited in hospital car parks so that people who have had to abandon cars in emergency situations are not penalised.

A spokesman for Mr Varadkar said he welcomed the report and “a large proportion” of the recommendations was likely to form the heads of a Bill in the coming months.