Clamping down on the clampers

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Motorists are often forced to pay pounds 100 or more to have their wheelclamped cars released by unscrupulous private operators, the Automobile Association said yesterday.

These sums far exceed the pounds 40 defined as a "reasonable fee" by the Court of Appeal in 1995, the AA added. Mike Watkins of AA legal services said the "massive hike in the release fees have underlined government failure to curb wheelclamp extortion".

Payments of pounds 70 were the norm and demands of pounds 100 or more were growing since the courts ruled, in November 1995, that clamping on private land was legal in England and Wales, he added. "The police are very reluctant to deal with aggressive and threatening wheelclampers and the Government has failed to build on the Court of Appeal ruling to regulate against excessive charges," he said. "The law offers no protection and the Government won't control wheelclamping, so motorists, including the disabled and elderly, continue to suffer intimidation and extortion."