Government announces new measures to crack down on 'unscrupulous' wheel clampers

https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/106464474/government-announces-new-measures-to-crack-down-on-unscrupulous-wheel-clampers 

Government announces new measures to crack down on 'unscrupulous' wheel clampers

STUFF 

The Government is getting tough on clampers after an increasing number of complaints against "predatory" parking enforcement practices.

Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi and Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced government plans to introduce a maximum wheel clamp removal fee.

Clampers will only be allowed to charge a maximum of $100 to remove a wheel clamp under the proposed change.

However, someone who has gone toe-to-toe with clampers said $100 was still a big ask for a parking mistake.

Destiny Hair Salon manager Gloria Baines came to the aid of "nana" Regine Du Villier after she was clamped in April. 

The Government has announced tighter regulations for the wheel clamping industry.

The frail 86-year-old grandmother had her wheel clamped after she parked in a private carpark because she was too ill to drive. 

"I'm definitely happy there has been progress but $100 can be a week's groceries for many people out here," Baines said. 

An AA spokesman also said the $100 maximum fine was disproportionate for many parking offences, and greater regulation was required.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford said clampers have swooped in mere seconds after people have parked, demanding high fees.

The Government announcement was made at 20 Sel Peacock Drive on August 22, an infamous West Auckland clamping site.

This month, the owners of the shopping centre moved management of parking to Wilsons Carparking after outrage over clamping practices in the area. 

Twyford said clamping had been a curse on shoppers for too long. 

Minister for Consumer Affairs Kris Faafoi said the proposed legislation provided a balance between business owners' needs and the protection of consumers.

"Many New Zealanders have been horrified by the stories of clampers swooping in mere seconds after people have parked and then demanding excessive fees to free up their car.

"The voluntary Code of Conduct has not worked, so we're stepping in with clear rules and accountability to protect the public."

Faafoi said he had heard of people being charged as much as $700 for the removal of a wheel clamp.

Regine Du Villier, 86, was confronted by a wheel clamper demanding $200 cash after she parked her car for 15 minutes to seek medical help.

Operators currently worked under a voluntary code, but Faafoi said some clampers were deliberately preying on people. 

"Something needed to change to protect consumers from the financial loss and emotional distress caused by these unscrupulous operators."

Faafoi said the proposed legislation provided a balance between business owners' needs and the protection of consumers.

"We needed to make sure we protected the property rights of businesses to ensure there are parks there for customers and a total ban on clamping wouldn't have allowed them to do that," he said.

"But we also need to take away some of the awful behaviour that we have seen from the extremes of the industry."  

Wheel clamping has been in the spotlight this year with victims facing aggressive standover tactics from clampers demanding upwards of $200.

grieving mother was clamped in June, minutes after she went to give a statement to police about her dead son. 

Under the proposed legislation, police will be given the power to fine individual clampers up to $1000 and a company up to $5000 for breaking the rules.

These fines increased to $3000 and $15,000 respectively if the matter ended up in court.

The Automobile Association (AA) has supported a ban on wheel clamping.

AA principal advisor regulations Mark Stockdale said the new measure was a good first step, but didn't go far enough to regulate the industry.

The majority of complaints AA received related to the amount of fines issued, which were often $200 or more.

"Anything to rein in excessive penalties is good, but $100 is still a lot of money and disproportionate for a lot of parking offences."

The AA believed wheel clampers should be regulated, the same way tow truck operators are, he said.

"Having no regulations for wheel clamping has allowed anyone to set themselves up in the clamping business and charge any penalties they like, on any private property, any time."

There was no place for wheel clamping in New Zealand, he said 

"It's not effective because it doesn't remove vehicles and it raises the risk of confrontation."

Legislation to enforce the measures would be drafted with the aim of it being introduced to Parliament this year.

In April, Twyford said the Government was looking to make clamping illegal, calling the wheel clamping industry "predators and bottom feeders".

Stuff