With the media spotlight focused on the controversial issue of wheel-clamping, consumer editor Sophie Hazan has taken a closer look at the activities of a vehicle immobilising firm.
HAVING had her car clamped, university student Dalya Cramer was horrified when she was told that she must pay £385 in cash to a man she had never met in a deserted police station car park.
The 20-year-old from Shadwell, Leeds, was asked to hand over the money and then follow the van to a compound where her car had been locked up 12 hours after it had been clamped by JD Parking back in January.
If she was unable to sort out her own transport then she would have to travel in the van to a mystery parking lot, she was told by the Pudsey-based firm.
Luckily with her dad’s support Dalya did get her car back, but the experience has left her shaken.
She told the YEP: “I was very upset about it, and I still am.
“I felt like I was doing some kind of drug deal. I was stood in an empty car park with a wad of cash waiting to meet a man who claimed to have my car.
“It felt so dodgy. I was to hand over the cash, with no receipt and follow an unmarked white van to a compound.
“I didn’t even know if they had the car.”
Unfortunately this kind of complaint is not unusual for JD Parking that operates 30 sites across West Yorkshire.
Telecoms engineer Marc Roberts, 20, from Shipley, found himself in the same situation after he parked on the same patch of land outside apartments at Riverside Court on Saturday night.
His car was clamped and towed within an hour. He was told to pay £430 cash to a man at Millgarth Police Station car park.
Marc said: “It is intimidating. It is also ridiculous. They seem to be able to do what they like while the motorist is left at their mercy.”
The YEP spoke to director Richard Goc, who said that if motorists were to stop and read one of the six signs at Riverside Court warning them not to park there he would not be clamping anyone.
“We don’t invite people to park there,” he said. “We don’t lull them in.
“There are six 2ft by 1.5ft signs on the walls, double yellow lines and CCTV.”
He explained that the firm had to take cash to avoid the possibility of customers cancelling a payment, but they were in the process of getting a card machine capable of taking instant payment.
The release fees have to be high to deter motorists from parking there again, he added.
And police car parks are used to meet motorists for the safety of staff, and the customers’ peace of mind.
He added: “Type in JD Parking into the internet and you’ll read plenty of horror stories, but the people who use us are very happy and very very worried about what’s going to happen next year when clamping is banned.”
The government plans to ban wheel-clamping on private land under the Protection of Freedoms Bill.
But for now wheel-clamping on private land in England is legal and regulated by The British Parking Association. Members are encouraged to charge no more than £125 for clamping, £250 for vehicle removal and £35 per day for vehicle storage. Cars are not to be towed within three hours – unless necessary.