The End of Clamping – Where will the Cowboys Go?

With the government announcing its intention to ban clamping in the Freedom bill in November, I found myself wondering what’s going to happen to the thousands of companies out there that rely on clamping income, or more to the point, have they already found a new home?

Its no real surprise to anyone in the parking business, or even members of the public, that clamping will be banned. It’s an archaic way of managing illegal parking and so fraught with issues that I’m more surprised that it has lasted so long. I agree that there is a time and a place for a clamp, but those times are so few and far between that you really can’t justify operating one.

Ive never quite understood the concept of immobilising a car that has parked illegally, because then that space cant be cleared for anyone else. Moreover, the confrontation that comes with clamping has always been a real concern for me, which is no doubt where the bullying image of clampers has come from.

So where will they go? Well I think they’ve already left and have disguised themselves in many a new form, such as penalty charge enforcement companies, and more notably as ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) enforcement agencies.

ANPR enforcement has grown immensely in popularity as enforcement agencies realise there is a quick buck to be made, with non of the confrontational issues of clamping. In fact its almost the opposite, with a lot of customers saying its a sneaky tactic, sending a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) in the post days after the event has happened.

I have a big concern about ANPR enforcement, because its too clinical, and unless the signage is excellent (don’t get me started) then it is a bit sneaky too. If a customer is 1 minute over, BAM, they get a fine. Didn’t see the cameras on the way in? BAM, fine for you! It doesn’t help that most of the equipment is usually installed for free, and the enforcement company is then desperately trying to recoup the huge capital cost in PCN’s.

It wont be long before people get frustrated and it seems the backlash has already started. McDonald’s and MET parking were on Watchdog a few weeks ago, giving customers a fine just because they came back for some more food later in the day. It wont be long before the big companies start to realise the error of their ways, and these installations will begin to diminish, or the ANPR companies will change the way they operate, because in the current climate can we really afford to penalise the wrong people?

So the ban on clamping may spell the end for cowboy clampers, but I think for now, the Wild West has a new name – ANPR.