How to deal with parking fines / clamped cars (part 2)

24 July 2009

As a followup to part 1 of our recent post on how to deal with private parking tickets, we shall discuss cars that have been unfortunate enough to have been clamped or towed.

If this misfortune ever happens to you, the first thing is to never try removing the clamp yourself. Yes, it's your car, but you are parked on private property, and tampering with the clamp is actually illegal and could escalate to a criminal charge.

The only real options with clamped cars boil down unfortunately to either using your ninja skills to negotiate your way out of it, or paying the fine up front to get the clamp removed then trying to reclaim the money. The latter is the more likely scenario, and this is obviously more complex than parking tickets, since you're trying to recover both your car and any unjustly imposed fees. However, there are certain things you should definitely consider doing before just handing your credit/debit card over to the bastards:

1. Check their credentials. Clampers/towers must be registered with the Security Industry Authority (SIA). A friend of mine recently paid a hefty fine of £130 only to realise in hindsight that the 'security' company was never registered. This means that they actually broke the law to clamp his car. Landowners who use unlicensed clampers/towers are breaking the law, too. Therefore, when the clamp remover arrives, or you get to the impound lot, ask to see the SIA license. If they do not show you the 16-digit SIA license number they are committing an offence, and ask them to remove the clamp immediately. You can check the validity of the number on the SIA website or you can call 0151 243 3701. If they do not have an SIA license, you are within your rights to demand that they release your vehicle without charge right then. If they do not comply, call the police and report it.

2. Jot down key evidence. Take photos of your car with the clamp, signs, and stickers on the windshield. Take pics of the road leading you to the parking spot. Signs are required to not only be visible, but clearly shown en-route to parking. If you paid them, make sure to get a receipt of some kind that contains: the location of the alleged infraction; the person's printed name and signature; the SIA number; the date. (and just to piss them off, you might as well take a pic of the clamper. In fact, I might start a website where car clampers across the UK get their pics posted on the internet).

3. Negotiate. If they have a license, you can try to negotiate. However, it is unlikely that they will budge. If they are licensed and have clamped your car, they will simply have your car towed to be crushed if you don't pay.

4. Pay under protest. If you take away any point in this guide, take this one; on anything you sign, include a note saying that you are paying "under protest". That way there is at least some record of your disputing the validity of the charge. Otherwise, your signature in court would probably mean that you admit guilt.

Disputing the charges once you've paid to get your car out of impound or un-clamped would be more likely to be successful if you feel any of the following apply to your case:

-The signage was inadequate or unclear. Parking restrictions have to be visible from every parking spot or there is no contract between you and the parking company. Signs only at the entrance are not sufficient. Again, if you can get photographic evidence, do so.

-The offence simply didn't happen. For example, if you were clearly not blocking an entrance, or taking up two spaces, or whatever. If your car is clamped and this is obvious, take pictures with your camera or phone as evidence.

-You weren't actually on private land when you were ticketed. Photos of your car and the surrounding area can prove helpful here, too.

-You have legitimate mitigating circumstances. Check this list against your circumstances.

-Clamping/towing was too harsh a penalty. You can try to bargain with the landowner instead of the clamper by sending a letter, saying you made an honest mistake. Suggesting that you could have this published in newspapers could also increase the likelihood in them looking to resolve it with you. No harm in trying.

-The release fee is unreasonably high. There's no real definition here of "reasonable," but if it's over £150 you may have some standing. Again, it can't hurt to try. Put it in writing. Address your protest to the address on the release form or the ticket itself, and do it as soon as you can. Enclose copies of whatever evidence you have. Some people suggest sending registered mail, and it's something you might consider if it looks like they want to play hardball.

If they don't budge, you have to make the decision whether it's worth the time and expense to take them to court. If you take them to court and win, they'll have to pay the filing fees, which can run £25 to £100.

Finally, if only to make yourself feel vindicated, you should read this excerpt from the RAC Foundation press release from July 9 as a way of girding yourself with righteousness when faced with a car clamped by a private parking company.

Have you had any experiences with clampers or tows? Please share them with us in the comments below. We would also love to know any tips or tricks you have used to successfully claim your money back!


  • acecatcher3
    nice one vince, ive found this and the other car fine article interesting, ill hopefully never be clamped but if i am ill think of this cheers.
  • Pure-Klenz
    Good article - some important things to remember
  • Kim S.
    My Daughter's car was put on a tow truck last year after leaving her car with one wheel on a grassy area next ot some derelict shops for no more than 5 minutes. The chap was sitting in his tow truck waiting for her to come back. We have since seen a little chap that works with him sitting in a white van. As soon as someone parks and leaves their car he telephones the man with the tow truck who is waiting round the corner. When he saw her approaching he said are you looking for your car love? laughed and said it's up there and pointed to the truck. He told her if she didn't get £400 it was going to be crushed that day. She was just 21 and believed him. He waited for her to walk to the building Society where she draw out all her birthday money, paid him and then he gave her, her car back. I called the council and they said the land was owned by a Dentist who had applied for planning permission but couldn't give me any other details of who the clampers were employed by. There was a small sign in the middle of teh grassy area saying you might be clamped for £120 or towed away for £400. My daughter asked him why he didn't clamp me as he obviously had no intention of towing her car away and he said it is up to me what I do!
  • BeerRunner
    Tampering with the clamp is not illegal. If you have been unfairly or illegally clamped you are allowed to use force to remove it. Check out
  • LTQ
    If you can get the clamp off without damaging it, no offence is committed. Easiest way is normally just to let your tyre down, slip the clamp off then pump it back up or swap for your spare. Since the outrageous fee they charge you for removal cannot legally be called a fine (as private companies cannot fine you), they always frame it as a 'removal fee'. As you didn't get them to remove it, you don't need to pay. Hurrah!
  • Andrew
    @ LTQ. I love little technicalities like that!
  • hulldj
    as part of the rules governing clamping decided by the SIA, clampers may only clamp the driver side front wheel of a vehicle. clamping of any other wheel is illegal, and must be removed immediately without release charge. So if you every have to leave your car in a clamping area, make sure the drivers wheel is parked directly against the kerb or against a wall so the clamp cannot be applied.... not that i'd ever advise parking illegally :)
  • Matt
    or just clamp your driver's side wheel yourself
  • Sal
    I got clamped on Tuesday in a private car park at 12h30pm. I was then subsequently issued with 3 penalty charges at 14h30, at 16h30 and at 19h00. The reason? I had overstayed the 2 hour minimum in a visitor bay - even though there was no visitor bay signage. Is there a case here? I had to pay £120 removal fee and then another £240 for the parking fines - £80 each!
  • Laura
    Same happened to me...paid 700£ today to the company called securak!!!!! animals what can I say.Loking for any laws now to make them pay!!!! my car was damaged also.
  • Emma
    My boyfriend car was clamped the other day, the sign only stated unatended cars wil be taken away, he got out of the car and went to the shop while i was in the passenger seat, the clamping comany came round the corner and he clamped the car, i then noticed the sign about 8/9 foot up the wall stating in small writing what would happen if you parked here? he also didnt show an sia number or license? and were also charged 257 to get the clamp taken off there and then? is there anything we could do? plase get back to me thanks
  • Complaints B.
    [...] Up in Scotland, wheel-clamping on private land is illegal. It was banned by the case of Black v Carmichael 1992 SCCR 709, when wheel-clamping was found to constitute extortion and theft. Get that! All this sorry business generates millions of pounds for idiots and hopefully, something will be done to sort it out. Remember, we’ve got a couple of handy cut-out and keep guides to dealing with clampers and fines here and here. [...]
  • sanita
    hi my car have been tow away with in4 minutes i have to pay £440 to rlease my car. I was devestated i could not believe what happened with in 4 minutes. when i came back i was looking wheres my car gone a man came on his bike he told me. your car tow away he pointed out where was car keep. think same man was watching me going to the next door shop he must have phone to take car away is ther any way where i can claim my money back thank you
  • brain_fallen_out
    dvla & NSL took my car away which is a reletivly rare and decent mercedes be it 9 years old, because it was imobilised by a fault, it was parked on the road right next to the entrance to our residential parking, I couldnt afford to tax & renew the insurance at that time, niether could I afford to toe it to private land which I have access to at that time, where I could of SWORN it, they clamped me and toed my car away to be crushed/auctioned and informed me I was commiting a offence even though it was not my fault the car had a fault with its ignition, since oct my car has been there.. and they slamed me with 1200+ of pound fees .. DVLA told me that the pound could be asked to lower the fee at there discretion but then NSL said it was up to DVLA when I told them DVLA said its up to them, they strung me along for a week telling me that the manager will decided, only to tell me nothing can be done about the fees in the end, and all the time I cant get back to working so and Im just being made to go under by them. This is why people snap these days What amazes me is the way other motorists and officials automatically look at us like some tax doging criminals who dont normally keep there vechile in line with the law. I hope they choke on there wages - its filthy dirty money and you know it.
  • Andy M.
    I found a clamp on my car this morning in my car parking space outside my flat. I had to pay £90 to have the clamp removed even though I've never been told that I needed a permit. I contacted my letting agent who confirmed that they didn't know you needed a permit. From where the car is parked you cannot see any signage stating that permits are required. I beleive I have a strong case to claim my money back and will be chasing this up as much as I can.
  • Mark
    I was working for a local pizza company delivering pizza's to a customer , I parked at the rear of the apartments, went to front of building and called customer who came out and when i returned to my car i was clamped. I called the company to remove the clamp which they did for £125 +£5 for using credit card. When I asked where I am supposed to park to make legitimate deliveries, response was anywhere but here Very helpful. Mark
  • thom
    My car has been clamped on private property in scotland, back passengers wheel. Is this legal on private property. vehicle is not taxed or sorned.
  • a
    Probably legal because the car is not sorned. If the car was declared off road, they would not have the right to clamp it. Only police or council would be allowed to clamp you here
  • Jon
    Anyone been successful in obtaining a refund from those scumbags known as Securak? My scooter was towed and impounded recently by Securak, who then demanded a jaw dropping release fee of £455. To add insult to injury, recovery involved a trip to some vile backwater of Essex. I am determined to get some or all of this outragaeous ransom money back.
  • Jack
    Jon - Did you get anything back? Mine and five other bikes were taken by Securak today.
  • Tom
    Hi, my one was also taken by securak yesterday (21/9) from the city (next to the Banker pub). I will do anything I can to get the money back. I guess we need to pay to get the bike back and then fight for the money back. My suggestion after last night reading, is to pay by credit card and then get a chargeback. At least you make them chase you if they want to get the money from you again. Alternative option is to keep sending letters to them and the company who had a contract with them in the area you bike was taken from (freeholder or leaseholder). But this would not take you anywhere! Have you paid yet? Have you been given the address where you can get you bike from?
  • jack
    Went over there yesterday and picked up my bike - I did pay, there was no option in the matter if I wanted my bike. Address is Schivers Road Stondon Massey Essex CM15 0LH Really good luck with finding it - its in the middle of nowhere. I got a Taxi from Brentwood that cost £15. You need to pay chip and pin, or cash, and it has to be the owner of the card who is paying. All they will do is pop the chip and pin machine through the hole in the fence and not let you in until it has gone through. Very big blokes with a very big dog (though not intimidating - but I didn't fancy taking the p!ss). I don't think your idea of cancelling the transaction will work - but worth a try I suppose. I got done by the Nuffield health centre - of which I am a member - so I'm going in to see the manager at lunchtime and cry, see if it does any good. Good luck mate.
  • Tom
    Thanks Jack, They are a nightmare. They refused to give me the address as i said i am not sure if i come today or tomorrow. Dodgy people. I will call police too but first need to get my bike back. Good luck with your boss.
  • Jack
    I've just spoken to my bank and they said that they couldn't cancel the payment unless they had a fax from the company. They suggested that I try other methods to get my money back (Office of Fair Trading, Citizens Advice Bureau) and if I didn't get any joy out of that, to get back to them and they could start a Visa challenge against Securak if needs be. I would also be unsure as to the consequences of cancelling a payment would be - I mean - they know where I live and they didn't look like guys to mess with! I also spoke to Nuffield (my gym) as it was their parking spaces that my bike was taken from, and they told me they get a lot of complaints but said that there was nothing they could do, but that they are going to stop using Securak. So, I'll be appealing at the weekend when I have a bit more time. Found this website quite a useful resource. If I get any joy I'll let you know - would appreciate it if anyone else could do the same. J.
  • Tom
    I went there (Securak) to pay yesterday. They have no respect to people! They feel strong cos there is about 5 of them there with dogs and behind the fence. If that was back home I could at least take my boys with me and challenge them pu***es… Unbelievable how they can run such a business these days. They basically still your bike from the road (cos in my opinion I parked legally so they had no right to take it), and force you to pay whatever they think (no regulations here at all). Otherwise you never get your motorbike back. Obviously they charge you a storage fee for every day if you wait for few days trying to challenge the decision about removing your bike from the road/parking. I am going to report it to police at lunch time. Will let you know what they say about it. I have also spoken to Trading Standards people yesterday and was told to speak to Security Industry Authority… Unbelievable!
  • Jon
    Securak / Nuffield - the story continues: For all you guys who have been lifted by Securak my advice would be to collect your bikes ASAP. They will charge you additional "storage" fees per day. This is the reason they refuse to give you the address if you call after office hours - just to make the whole process of recovery more difficult. See posting by Jack above for the address. Having recovered my scooter I discovered the steering was screwed due to a twisted front fork - thanks Securak. Another few hundred quid to add to this sorry tale. I am quite prepared to take these guys to court as I was parked on the river side of the passageway which is legit according to Nuffield. The OFT were very helpful is advising how to do this.
  • Tom
    Good idea with the court. Let us know if you do so, and if we can be of any help. Do you guys think that maybe BBC would be interested in story about Securac?
  • Jon
    Apparently they've been featured on BBC Watchdog a few times. More history here
  • DVLA C.
    It looks like this will soon be illegal, so it will only be DVLA who can clamp you for not taxing or insuring your car.
  • SHN
    SECURAK BIGGEST B****** EVER clamped me while i was in the car and my engine was on blocked me in and apparently within 60 seconds of the clamp being put on a tow truck had been called so £475 of my hard earned wage gone, is there anything i can do?
  • Dean H.
    I had my car clamped this morning...£200 to get it taken off! Can anyone help me on the following... ...a Clamp Removal Ticket was printed at 05:20, and a Penalty Charge Notice at 05:21. Is there anything in the law etc that states this cannot be done? I'd have thought a PCN would be issued first, then a clamp if I don't pay within a given time. I'm contemplating disputing it - I'll hold my hands up to the PCN, that was £75, but really hacked off with the Clamping fee of £125, PLUS £15 to pay by debit card, PLUS the £1.50/minute phone call I had to make to pay it (an 0906 number, which on the first four occasions I got a recorded message asking me to call back in 5 minutes - it remains to be seen exactly how much the phone calls cost me!) Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.
  • ken
    i get remove charge 468 pound at peabody visitor parking bay. PLC parking solution tow car and charge:tow truck : 250, clamp removal 105; storge charge: 35, VAT: 78. VAT is not apply to Penalty charge? anyone have advice? thanks
  • bicicleta e.
    Una buena opción es utilizar una bicicleta eléctrica
  • tax
    Terrific paintings! That is the type of info that are supposed to be shared around the internet. Disgrace on the search engines for now not positioning this put up higher! Come on over and talk over with my web site . Thank you =)
  • Wei W.
    I parked my scooter outside of my flat and found it gone next day, I initially thought it was stolen as I got nothing indicated otherwise and called the police, who found out that it was clamped and removed by a clamping company for not displaying parking permit, which I have but couldn't figure out how to display it on my little scooter. I rang up and was rudely told to pay £450 cash for the return of the scooter. I bought the scooter for barely £200 and just don't think it is worth to spend twice as much to get it back. Vince stated in your article that "If they are licensed and have clamped your car, they will simply have your car towed to be crushed if you don’t pay". Really, is that the end of it?
  • Cari
    We've just been clamped. Scouring the internet to try to find some way of relief. We ended up paying 'In Duress' and contacted our bank to cancel the transaction but they couldn't (no surprise). We will be pursuing this as they clamped us whilst we were trying to purchase a parking ticket. The car was there for, no exaggeration, less than 2 minutes and we returned WITH THE PARKING TICKET and a clamp. My husband sat for 4 hours in the car disputing it but got nowhere. If anyone knows of anybody that has been awarded money back from courts or otherwise, can you please post some details of that as it would be really useful to the rest of us. Thanks and hope anybody has had some joy.

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