Thursday, 22 January 2015
Vehicle Clamping Bill 2014 [Seanad]: Second Stage
This Bill addresses the commitment in the programme for Government to legislate for the regulation of clamping. The impetus for this commitment stems principally from public concern about the activity of some clamping operators, and the extent to which clamping may be carried out in a less than fair manner, with no obvious consistent or transparent recourse to appeal against perceived abuses. The areas of greatest public concern relate to the level and variation in clamp release charges currently applied, the lack of a clearly identifiable and accessible clamping appeals process, and the frequent absence of appropriate information signage for motorists. There are also issues with the of clamping practices on private land, which needed to be examined and legislated for, and it is only right that the Oireachtas considers these matters, and legislates accordingly.
In December 2011, the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications, of which I am a member, met to discuss the issue of clamping. The committee discussed a number of options that proposed to address public concerns about clamping. These options included banning clamping, whether proposed legislation should be confined to clamping activities on private property only, or to both private and public property or allowing clamping operators to self-regulate. The committee discussed the regulation of clamping activities and how this might be done. For instance, in introducing legislation, should the primary focus be on those individuals or companies undertaking the clamping activity or, alternatively, should the circumstances and requirements for the application of a clamp to a vehicle be regulated instead? The issue of whether the related activity of towing should be regulated was also considered.
The result of these deliberations was the recommendation that the NTA should be designated as regulator of clamping activities and that there should be a maximum permissible clamp release charges on private lands. In addition, it was agreed that there should be a two tier appeals process and an obligation to provide clear and prominent signage in areas where clamping is operated, as well as the establishment of codes of practice to provide practical guidance regarding compliance with regulatory requirements. It was further decided that there should be regulations concerning how clamping operators identify themselves and there should be appropriate penalties for breaching provisions of the Bill or regulations made under it. Most of the core suggestions arising from the main areas of concern identified by the committee have been provided for in this Bill, which I commend to the House.