The WA Government has begun drafting legislation to make the practice illegal after a series of wheel clamping cases across Perth suburbs including Scarborough.
But the new legislation does not mean motorists would get off without incurring penalties, as towing could still occur as a last resort.
Those costs would be capped and include a requirement for WA Police to be notified.
The Government said prominent signage with the penalties and consequences for breaching parking conditions would be required at carparks and every effort needed to be made to locate the owner of the vehicle before it could be removed.
Premier Mark McGowan said his Government was also working on amendments to regulations that would lift standards in the towing industry, with the changes to come into effect later this year.
“Wheel clamping is a disgraceful scam, it’s un-Australian and it has to stop,” he said.
“The WA community have made their voice heard on this issue … and we are acting immediately to stamp out this infuriating practice.”
Even parking inspectors get clamped
The debate about wheel clamping in parts of Perth hit a new level two months ago when a photo emerged of a parking inspector car that was clamped in Scarborough.
The City of Stirling was forced to look into banning the practice amid reports of overzealous contractors policing private car parks.
But the managing director of Auto Clamp in Perth, Sue Chapman, denied claims at the time that people clamping cars were intimidating or threatening.
She defended the practice and said the owners of private property had a right and a purpose for keeping parking available for their employees or customers.
Ms Chapman also raised concerns that a move to outlaw wheel clamping in WA would cause at least 20 people to lose their jobs.
Perth Security Services director Neville Mader said he supported changes to industry regulation but warned the entire workforce should not be punished for the actions of a few.
“The only people that will really suffer are property owners, building owners, facilities mangers, people like that who are going to be left without a resort for people who park illegally on their property,” he said.
“People like us who responsibly enforce the rules won’t have a tool to be able to enforce those rules.”
Mr Mader said he had already heard from a number of his customers who were worried about how to manage illegally parked cars if the legislation was passed.
Cracking down on ‘predatory behaviour’
Transport Minister Rita Saffioti told ABC Radio Perth banning the practice would tackle intimidating behaviour towards motorists.
“We’ve seen I think the advent of predatory behaviour over recent years and it seems to be becoming more common,” she said.
“But what we’ve seen is wheel clamping being an easy way to make money and we just don’t want that to happen in WA.
“There will be some instances, with small business in particular, blocking access and so forth, there’ll be infringements and access to towing, but there’ll be a whole framework around that so people don’t just jump from clamping to towing.”
Ms Saffioti said the Government had looked at wheel clamping legislations other states had enforced in designing its approach to the new laws.
“We’ve learned from what’s happened in other states, making sure our legislation bans clamping but then making sure small businesses have access to deal with cars blocking off driveways and so forth,” she said.
Shadow police minister Peter Katsambanis said it was about time the Government recognised the public anger over the practice and put a stop to it.
“Nobody wants to come out of a store, find their car clamped, unable to pick up their children from school, unable to get to their job, unable to get to medical appointments,” he said.
Mr Katsambanis said he wanted to see more details of the proposal before giving it his full support but expected it to be widely supported across the community.
Damage done, Scarborough businesses say
Business owners in Scarborough welcomed the move towards a clamping ban.
Owner of the Surf Boardroom surf shop, Wayne Bowen, said he had seen the practice drive out many customers from the area.
“Some people are saying, ‘I’ll never come back to Scarborough again’ or, ‘I can’t afford this’, or are just totally awestruck by the fact they’ve parked there, left their car no longer than five or 10 minutes [and been clamped],” he said.
“The impact on tourism and businesses down here is quite serious, and all the work that’s been done on the beachfront to get tourism and people down to the beachfront, it gets negatively impacted.”
Mr Bowen said he had even been forced to erect signs warning people about the potential of their car being clamped.
“We’ve had instances where [someone] has come in and put in a deposit on a surfboard, for example … and they’ve gone back to their car and they’ve got a $170 fine,” he said.
“They’ve come back and said, ‘Look can I delay that, can I have my $100 back, I can’t afford that’.
“So that was when it really first impacted on us as to how serious it was.”
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