New laws will curb aggressive clamping
STAFF at clamping companies will have to secure garda clearance before being allowed to operate.
The Government will introduce legislation to control parking enforcement companies later this year.
It will also include a standardised rate of fees which can be imposed on motorists who illegally park.
The move comes after a series of controversies in recent years over aggressive tactics pursued by private companies against motorists.
One company was accused of clamping cars despite the ticket machine being out of order, and of clamping vehicles when customers were going into shops to get change.
But now Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has promised to enact legislation which will make companies comply with legislation aimed at stamping out sharp practice.
"The law currently allows local authorities to clamp vehicles in public places, however the current system of clamping on private property is under-regulated, bad for motorists and bad for business," he told the Irish Independent.
"There is no legislation specifically covering the clamping of vehicles parked on private property, and the legal position is unclear. We want to bring in a new system which protects motorists from exploitation, and benefits legitimate operators, but which still penalises bad parking behaviour.
"Allegations have been made of clampers behaving in a less than fair manner, yet there is no appeals mechanism against these perceived abuses."
Mr Varadkar will present proposals to the Dail Transport Committee in the coming weeks. The committee will be asked to consult with the public and industry before reporting back to Mr Varadkar's department.
It is understood the proposals will include:
•A licensing system for all companies involved in clamping and parking enforcement.
•All staff will have to be of 'good repute', and undergo garda clearance.
•Operating guidelines will be issued, including an appeals mechanism.
•Details of where the new regime will apply, including apartment complexes, shopping centres and local authority areas must be shown.
Last year motorists in Dublin paid release fees of more than €4.5m after being clamped in the capital. The numbers clamped were 58,076, and the top five most clamped streets were Noel Purcell Walk, Shelbourne Road, Jervis Street, Ranelagh and Wellington Quay.
A release fee of €80 is generally charged, but this can vary. Cars clamped in train station car parks incur a €130 fee.
The Irish Parking Association, which represents most parking enforcement companies, said it welcomed regulation.
"It's something we've been looking for," spokesman Keith Gavin said.