Varadkar publishes Clamping Bill to protect motorists from rogue clampers

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Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar has published the Vehicle Clamping Bill 2014 to ensure that all clamping activities are carried out in a fair and transparent manner, and to protect motorists and legitimate clamping companies, in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government.

The Bill introduces consistency to clamping for the first time, whether it’s on public or private land. Legislation is already in place governing clamping on the public road and on land occupied by certain statutory bodies, but the new Bill will now also regulate clamping on private property.

It sets up a new regulatory regime, a simple two-step appeals process, a default maximum clamping release fee of €100 for private property, a code of practice for operators, and a new requirement that signs must always be displayed where clamping is in operation.

The Vehicle Clamping Bill 2014 is available on the Houses of the Oireachtas here.

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Speaking at the announcement, Minister Varadkar said: “Laws are already in place to oversee clamping in public places, which allow local authorities or their agents to clamp vehicles. However, the clamping of vehicles on private property is not governed by any specific laws. This new Bill protects motorists and legitimate clamping operators, but will penalise bad behaviour by rogue operators. There will also be a simple appeals mechanism for all types of clamping for the first time.”

“There have been a number of cases where private clampers are reported to have behaved unfairly or inappropriately, so we are now regulating the entire clamping industry for the first time. I don’t favour an outright ban on clamping on private property, as business owners and apartment complex management companies need to be able to deal with nuisance parking. However, the practice must be regulated.

“This Bill strikes the right balance between the competing rights of individual motorists who want fair play, the rights of people and businesses to deal with parking issues on their own land, and the responsibility of local councils to manage the finite resource of parking on the public road. Our goal is to ensure transparency for all forms of clamping at all times, and that due process is always followed.”

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The main provisions of the Bill are:

Regulation
The National Transport Authority (NTA) will regulate clamping activities, and set up and administer an appeals process (Sections 6, 9 and 18 to 21);

Appeals
A two-tier appeals process will be set up. A person whose car has been clamped or relocated may make a first-stage appeal to the landowner, local authority or body responsible for enforcing parking in a particular place. Where a person is not satisfied with the determination of this appeal, they may lodge a second-stage appeal to an independent clamping appeals officer designated by the NTA (Sections 18 to 21);

Maximum clamp release charge
This Bill provides for the setting of maximum clamp release and vehicle relocation charges in places where clamping is not carried out under existing legislation. Where no charges stand prescribed under law for such places the maximum clamp release charge will be €100, while the maximum vehicle relocation charge will be €50.

Signage
This Bill obliges landowners or persons responsible for places in which clamping is operated to provide prominent signs indicating that clamping is in operation, and indicating the clamp release and vehicle relocation charges (if any) applying. The NTA may regulate for where such signage is located, its informational content, dimensions, design, symbols displayed, and the number of signs to be displayed (Section 10).

Fixing of a clamp to a vehicle
Amongst other activities, Section 9 provides for the:
(1) time period that that shall elapse before clamping a vehicle;
(2) clamp release time after payment of the appropriate charge;
(3) means of identification of clamping operators and their vehicles;
(4) form of clamping notice to be affixed to clamped vehicles; and
(5) manner in which payment of clamp release charges may be made.

Codes of practice
The NTA may establish codes of practice establishing standards and provide practical guidance for clamping operators in carrying out their duties, as well as for those persons contracting their services (Section 11).

Complaints procedure
The NTA will establish a procedure to consider complaints from the public regarding the discharge of landowners’ and State bodies’ responsibilities, as well as in relation to the conduct and identification of clamping operators (Section 17).

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