Clampers facing full regulation
A pet hate of motorists is to be fully regulated with all clampers forced to abide by a cap on fines and penalties.
Under new rules operators targeting private car parks and property will be forced for the first time to follow the same restrictions and guidelines as companies policing public roads.
Among the fees for illegal parking will be a maximum 100 euro charge for releasing a clamp and a 50 euro charge for releasing a car that has been towed away.
But there is also a provision for clampers to be fined if they are in breach of regulations.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said the new regime was designed to weed out bogus clampers.
"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," he said.
"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."
Up until now the clamping of vehicles on private property has not been restricted by any laws. The Vehicle Clamping Bill 2014 will create an appeals process and a regulator will be appointed under the auspices of the National Transport Authority (NTA) to bring overall consistency to parking enforcement.
Further rules to be determined by the NTA include the time period that must elapse before a vehicle can be clamped or towed away and the length of time a motorist will have to wait to be released after a fine has been paid.
The new code of practice will require prominently positioned, clearly marked warning signs - including the penalties and fees - on every site where clampers police parking.
Appeals will be dealt with on a two-tier system - first by going to the landowner, council or parking enforcement company to challenge a clamp, and secondly, if the complaint is not satisfactorily resolved, by going to an independent clamping appeals officer designated by the NTA.
Further rules to be determined by the NTA include the time period that must elapse before a vehicle can be clamped or towed away and the length of time a motorist will have to be released after a fine has been paid.
The initiative to regulate private operators was undertaken following pressure from AA Ireland and the public.
A survey of 20,000 motorists found complaints about the practice of clamping on supermarket grounds, church car parks, railway stations and the most contentious, hospitals.
Conor Faughnan, AA spokesman, said: "This is a good day and we welcome this law as we lobbied for it.
"It means private clampers cease to exist in a legal vacuum and become properly regulated. The issue was the private clampers on private land and the issue was that they had no basis in law. This legislation gives people clear rules."
Mr Faughnan said the new regulations will act as a pre-emptive strike to prevent the practice of private clamping get out of hand similar to the experience of some towns and cities in the UK.
In a survey of 19,000 Irish motorists conducted by AA Ireland in February 2012, 6.8% of respondents said they had been clamped within the last 12 months.